Now Is The Best Time To Scan Old Negatives
Of the three types of old photo media that many of us have stashed away, negatives are the most often overlooked. Prints and slides can be viewed relatively easily but because negatives are reversals and they’re so small, it can be hard to determine what’s on them. When you start organizing, they may be first to go in the trash. But you could be discarding good memories of you and your family from decades passed.
Prints are made from negatives so if you have a ton of old pictures, you also have, or had, a ton of old negatives. So why keep the intermediary when we have the finished product? Because where the prints fade and can be damaged, torn or lost during handling, negatives are usually kept in better shape because,
- If they were originally developed correctly, negatives hold their color better, longer.
- Photofinishers usually returned negatives to us in clear sleeves which, if they’re made of good quality material, are still protecting them today.
- With no reason to handle them, negatives are commonly tucked a little deeper into our photo stashes, preserving them further.
Now is a good time to consider scanning any type of old photo media, but especially negatives. Why? Because the equipment that professionals use to scan them at high volume is becoming less mainstream, and more expensive to maintain. There are only two manufacturers still tooling out a handful of high-quality, high-volume film scanners and, as you can guess, they’re expensive to buy and operate. On the contrary, business owners are finding this niche falling further out of demand so it’s harder to justify the cost. Even established labs that already own the equipment have to weigh the costs of maintenance, space, and salaries to keep up legacy film services rather than directing those resources toward newer, more profitable services.
It’s not a doomsday scenario by any means. Store owners work hard to keep costs downs and we hope the recent renaissance in film shooters bolsters the market for processing equipment. But even in resurgence, the market is a fraction of its former self. The cost to scan each frame is likely to go in one direction only; up. If your local photo professional offers negative scanning, take them up on it. I guarantee your results will be positive!