Digital archive for printed photographs

We will be moving home soon and I am in the process of clearing the loft. We have a lot of printed photographs that that came from 35mm film and we rarely look at them. I haven’t sorted them yet but it could be up to 1000 photos.

I am considering weeding out the photos we don’t want to keep and sending the others off to a commercial service to have them bulk digitally scanned which should make it easier to store and access them.

Has anyone used, and can recommend, such a service? Any thoughts about the preferred resolution to have them scanned in? 300 and 600 dpi seem to be the main options, at differing costs. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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I had a good Canon scanner and a 35mm negative scanner that I used to archive all the old pre millennium pics. Just sat and worked through them in the evenings while watching TV. Whether your time costs you more or not only you can decide.

As for storage, my pics take up about 3TiB on my NAS and I do cold backups to a removable disk rather than the cloud. I think that is really down to your comfort level. My wife is big believer in multiple redundancy so she has pics stored on NAS, cold backup, in the cloud, and has boxes and boxes of catalogued prints (the very thing you want to avoid).

As for resolution, 300dpi will give you a normal photographic look when printed to normal size. But it won’t blow up well if you want to do a large print and frame something special. For that you need 600dpi or higher. The only problem is, old analogue 35mm doesn’t really have 600dpi of detail. You’re saving at 600dpi to allow better blow up quality, not preserve more detail. If storge space isn’t a concern (and it almost never is these days), 600dpi is a good default in my opinion. In a previous career, I was a graphic designer and always worked with 600 or even 1200dpi source data just for the flexibility.

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These are the scan options offered by analogue wonderland:

I think this means premium = scan at 4800dpi.

2. Standard → Best for personal websites/zines / projects!

Standard scans will be absolutely fine for posting on social media, personal websites, emailing to friends/family, and for making prints up to size A4

3. Premium → Best for exhibits / large prints!

Premium scans are bigger and can also be used for posting on websites that can accept larger files (and won’t simply compress that back down like Instagram or Facebook) - and they can make prints up to size A3

4. Premium TIFF → Best for home editors and professional display!

Premium TIFF scans are much bigger file sizes, so prepare for a longer download time and more computer memory needed! The bonus of this is that they contain much more information within the same number of pixels as the Premium JPEG scans, so you can edit them yourself (in Photoshop or similar) and get much better results with strong edits.

TIFF is a ‘lossless’ format, so hasn’t had any compression applied by software before arriving in your inbox. It also means that even though the pixel resolution is the same as the Premium scan, you should be able to print slightly larger without loss of meaningful detail - up to size A2

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Another way to look at this, is purely based on file size.

When have prints done commercially from digital, the files I uploaded were around 1 to 2Mb. I was printing at 10 by 15 inches, which is hardly small.

Looking at the file sizes that my DSLR generates (a Nikon D7000), they are around 5 to 6Mb jpgs, about 4900 by 3200 px. I do not use raw.

I would say that Low or Standard as listed would be fine.

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Thanks to @feeling_zen , @robert_h and @IanRobertM for your thoughts. All very helpful.

A company called Digitize Media seem to offer a comprehensive service so I may start by looking at them once I have sorted the photos and know how many I want to have scanned.

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Or… if not so many, scan them yourself…? You would then have full control… :thinking:

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You could select 4 or 5 photos.

Get them scanned at different resolutions.

View the scans on tablet, PC, television or whatever you intend to view them on.

Determine if there is any visible difference in resolutions.

If there are differences, does it matter?

I bought an Epson V400 to scan my old family photos, results were very good. Been sat on my PC for about six years, nobody is really interesting in looking at them.


Just checking - are you thinking of scanning the prints, or (finding and) scanning the 35mm negatives?


I’ve pretty much stopped taking photos for much the same reason…


I have the physical prints and I am thinking of scanning them to digital storage. I have an elderly Epson scanner / printer but don’t really want to sit and manually scan them as I suspect I will have about a 1000 to do, hence looking for a company who scan from prints in bulk.

I realise that only my wife and I will look at them for nostalgia reasons! As we are moving, I can’t bring myself to just throw them away. I have just cleared out my father’s home so I don’t want to create problems for future generations by putting our photos in the new loft.

Some of the posts above about dpi are more relevant to slide or negative scans, but I see the Digitize Media website is pretty clear. I’ve usually scanned prints at 600dpi - gives a bit of wiggle room if you ever want to crop or enlarge, or even zoom in to read something!

Edit - you could scan a few prints at different dpi using your existing printer/scanner; it should help you decide the best option for professional scanning.


Perhaps a new printer might be worth getting…?

Without an automatic feeder - and confidence in the scanning software - I don’t think I’d want to scan 1000 prints either… with or without a new machine!

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Interested in doing this as well - got several thousand pics to scan. so a scanner with an auto feeder would be a must

A quick scan of the internet reveals the Epson FastFoto FF-680W as being well thought of. A bit pricy at £500 (from a well known Electrical Goods “Shed”), but probably similar to the company quoted above for the number of photos concerned.

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Clearly some people don’t understand about dpi, scanning, 35mm film or all 3.

BTW, if you have the negs/trans, scan these, not the prints.

And get a Nikon Coolscan off ebay to do it!

I did get some decent results through an Epson 600 some years back. Time consuming though.

I suppose I should have said that the negs are well gone!

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The quality of the scan you will get depends fundamentally on the quality of the prints you plan to scan. If they are relatively cheap, low-res, small prints (6 x 4 inch or 7 x 5 inch) as typically produced by many commercial labs then the scans will be of similar quality and there would be little merit in hi-res digital scanning. However if they are high quality prints you might consider scanning worthwhile, although doing this yourself, and doing it well, would likely require considerable in time and money. Testing out a couple of commercial labs with a few prints would seem to me to be a better option. Personally I wouldn’t scan old prints, rather I would select those to keep and put them in a few albums with appropriate labelling (date, place, name, etc).

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