Digitizing Prints: Can You Toss the Originals Now?

Scanning Your Print Photos

So you’re thinking about digitizing your prints. Can you toss the originals now?

After digitizing your prints, assuming that you can simply toss them isn’t the best approach for preserving your legacy and collection. Let’s talk about why.

Holding on to the originals (prints, slides, negatives) comes with perks. These formats can help date images. An original cabinet card can provide hints about when and where a photo was taken, for example. Digitizing, if not done professionally, can lose details crucial for dating, such as clothing, text and backgrounds.

Remember, your original analog media is first generation. It preserves the most information. Subsequent iterations  (i.e. texted JPEGs, compressed downloads etc) lose details when shared over and over. Restoring a photo from a poor third-generation digital copy is more challenging than re-scanning the original. And we don’t know what future scanning technology has in store.

Keeping your original print photos – and especially the slides and negatives – serves as a backup in case of data loss. Keep in mind that computers, drives, and cloud services can (and do) fail. Digital is actually more delicate than print (which is why we recommend the 3-2-1 method for preservation).

Properly archived analog materials take up much less room than storing your printed materials in random shoe boxes, slide carousels or old bulky print albums. Once rehoused, your scanned print photos can live safely in a cool, dry place safely for many decades.

So before discarding print originals, consider their enduring value. Your smartphone vacation snaps may not rival those in your parents’ black-and-white wedding album prints, but imagine losing them forever.

Keep this in mind as you organize your print photos and create a legacy plan for preserving and passing down your precious memories.

If you need help with your print photos, let’s talk!