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Re: Scanning negatives question

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  • Steve Knoblock
    The TIFF format preserves the original image information completely (unless you select JPEG compression within a TIFF container, a rare but possible option).
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 14 1:08 PM
      The TIFF format preserves the original image information completely
      (unless you select JPEG compression within a TIFF container, a rare
      but possible option). This format is widely used in graphic arts
      studios, however, most archivists believe the JPEG format will be the
      most future proof format, not because it is the best for preserving
      image information, but because it is so ubiquitous. The software to
      read and display JPEGs is universal, embedded into cameras, cell
      phones and nearly every application, operating system or device can
      read a JPEG image. The sheer numbers of images from digital cameras,
      in the billions already, mostly in JPEG format, will require future
      devices and software to be able to read them. The software for reading
      TIFF is not as widely available, and given a change in the publishing
      industry, could result in the format being orphaned. I think this is
      unlikely, but in the long run, decades or the next hundred years, JPEG
      has a much better probability of survival.

      The JPEG compression is lossy, so some archivists have lamented that
      important works may only be known in relatively poor (or the poorest)
      quality due to being preserved only in JPEG format.

      However, for most practical uses, a high resolution, low compression
      JPEG of very large size (like those generated by digital SLRs at or
      above 10 megapixels, give sufficient quality in JPEG most people would
      not know the difference between a JPEG and a TIFF when viewed, and
      very unlikely to tell the difference when printed out. This is due to
      how pixels are translated into various patterns of dots by printing

      Even a more compressed JPEG image of the quality produced by digital
      cameras, if it is good enough resolution for a 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 image
      ought to be a fairly good enough to preserve what a person looks like
      for posterity. While I would love to preserve every detail of an
      original photograph, if the person can be recognized, the image is
      sufficient for family history.

      I'd prefer to store every family image in the format that stores image
      information without any loss or distortion (of color say), which would
      be the camera raw image (proprietary, very unlikely to be widely
      readable in even a few years) or a non-lossy format like TIFF. But
      when you get into high resolution images, the loss does not matter as
      much, and JPEG is going to be readable by a wider variety of devices
      and software for much longer than any raw format.

      Everyone has to make their own decision.

    • Deb
      I d like to add to this - I scan at a very high resolution for purposes of archiving the photo. The higher the res, the smoother the effects of edits in
      Message 2 of 6 , Jun 20, 2010
        I'd like to add to this - I scan at a very high resolution for purposes of archiving the photo. The higher the res, the smoother the effects of edits in Photoshop, for one thing. It's also a way to "preserve" the photo at its current state, in case of loss/damage and also because the photo may degrade over time. Some of my scans are 400mb and large in size. CDs/DVDs are cheap these days, so backing up these scans is not an expensive proposition.

        I do not let my scanner do any "correction" of the image - I want a "flat" scan, so that I can make the editing decisions in Photoshop. Some scanning software may well be capable of great correction at the time of scan, but scanning without any corrections also yields a "raw" scan for archival purposes. Scanning is best, because it can pick up amazing detail that still lies in the emulsion layers of a photo. I have pulled an incredible amount of detail out of a photo that appeared very faded, in which the people were barely visible.

        There is no way to know what capabilities future versions of editing software will have - it will definitely be possible to edit scans much more easily and automatically than we can today. And, for instance, replace missing portions of a scan - just look at Photoshop CS5's new feature that can do just this.

        Also, always scan the back of the photo if there is any writing on it, as it preserves an ancestor's handwriting and original ID - even if you know it is incorrect. You can always include updated info with the photo.

        I save as TIFF, since JPG experiences some degree of "loss of data" each time a photo is opened and re-saved. I also don't know what algorithms my scanner uses to "create" a JPG file format, and would prefer to do it myself in Photoshop, so I can choose the settings. I think we should stay away from JPEG-2000, as I understand from Adobe that it never really caught on.

        I always work on a COPY of the original scan - I reduce the file size and save as JPG only when I'm ready to post a photo online, or send in an email, or upload to a photo lab's site for printing. I store my CDs/DVDs in a safe place and duplicates of each offsite. Cloud computing / storage areas such as MOZY are another thought.

        Regarding the issues of future format compatibility, if the day comes that the TIFF file format (or for that matter, CDs and DVDs) begins to be replaced by newer technologies, I will have to convert my archives to the newer format/media. I'm confident that when this "change" begins, photo application software will open TIFF images for long enough that we have time to work on this conversion. Software such as GraphicConverter is bound to keep old file format compatibility around for a long time. You can also always punt to an older version of software to handle file formats that a brand-new computer/software may not recognize. Don't think all is lost, and discard a file that may be your only scan of an old image, just because a new program doesn't recognize it. I imagine online services will also pop up over time, to handle file conversions for situations like this.

        And don't forget to always handle an original photo wearing thin cotton gloves - you don't want to get fingerprints and body oils on a photograph. Always store the photos in acid-free materials. I discovered that acid-free postcard sleeves of various sizes are much less expensive (when bought in bulk on eBay) than sleeve protectors, and they allow me to handle the photo more easily and store the photos in a system that makes sense to me, based on my genealogy filing scheme. Large index card boxes are great for storing photos up to 6 x 8 in size. Acid-free boxes are best, I just haven't invested in them yet.

        My 2-cents ~)
        Deb Koons

        --- In genphoto@yahoogroups.com, "mlmoeny" <mlmoenyinnm@...> wrote:
        > Linda,
        > I have understood that photos should be saved in a *tif format, as there are less losses and better detail. The photos are larger, but they do contain detail information. Scan them to the highest setting that is reasonable (I usually use 300 dpi; I'd use larger, but the file size becpmes unwieldy). Some photos I scan as both *tif and *jpg, because *jpg is the accepted format for posting on the internet.
        > Good luck,
        > Mary Lee
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