In the last few years, digital technology took photography by storm. Most every lab today processes digital photographs from CDs, DVDs, flash cards, etc. Only a few years back most of us only had one choice of getting prints of our photographs: Negatives, and Slides. Things changed quite a bit today. Most non-professional photographers today shoot digitally, because of many advantages digital photography offers. However, most of us still have a legacy left from the days of film. I am referring to the many thousands of strips or developed negative and slide film. It is time to get them available digitally.
Whenever I talk to people about this subject, the first thing I hear is the question: Why? Well, there are several reasons. I am going to break down this part of the article by individual reasons.
Because technology is getting better we should take advantage of it, whenever we can. Photography is a good example of improving technology. Some of the higher-end digital cameras today are producing photographs better in detail, contrast, and sharpness than does film. The whole world is moving in the direction of digital because of several advantages, which it has established over film. Remember those times when you were looking for just one frame of that special photograph which you wanted to duplicate for your relatives and friends, and how difficult it was for you sort through all your not so well organized strips of developed film? We all do. This must have been the most frustrating thing to do. No more, if you are shooting digitally. Now, we can organize our digital images by date, name, description, category, and a myriad other criteria. We no longer have to spend hours looking over dozens of strips of film trying to figure out which one we actually need. If we could only do the same with our film.
Lucky for us, film is amazing in terms of storage. Images captured on film will last a lifetime, or longer. However, optical technology is giving way to digital, and who knows, twenty years down the road getting our film printed may be much more difficult, and perhaps more expensive than it is today. Technology changes with people, and with the demand which we as consumers generate. We are certainly adopting digital photography very quickly, and as such film is becoming more restricted to semi-professional and professional photographers. This trend will no doubt affect the many labs, both professional and consumer-driven, such as the thousands of convenience and 1-hour labs at supermakets, and specialized photography stores. A great example of this is relative difficulty of getting medium format film, or slides developed. Only about 20 or so years ago this format was as common as 35mm is today.
What to Do With All That Film
Ok, it is clear that we are entering the digital age, and it is time to make the move with our old film. What now? This article is meant for a typical consumer, and as such it assumes that a typical consumer will not have access to a quality, high-end film scanner at home. Not everybody has a scanner at home. Some have digital cameras, and no computer at all. Most typical consumer scanners today do not produce a quality enough scan of 35mm film to be worth it. Most consumers will find that it is most economical, and easiest to obtain services of a dedicated lab, which will gladly scan all your film for you, and will store it on a CD, DVD, or other media. Today, more and more such services are becoming available to address the obviously increasing need. I would recommend staying away from mail order service, which will be much more difficult to deal with, in the case you are not satisfied with the quality of results. Look for services which scan in bulk, and offer discounts on large amounts of film to be scanned. Inquire ahead of time about the final size of the digital image. Make sure that each scan is large enough to produce a quality 13x19 print. This is another reason for using a local versus mail order services. Take your time, and ask all the important questions. If the answers you are receiving are uncertain, and the tech is not willing to take his time with you, consider a different service. Most urban areas today have several options for you to consider. Always shop around. You may find that a cheaper service offers more options, like index prints of scanned film, than does a more expensive service. Consider sorting your film, and ask to have it scanned in the sorted order, which will allow for more logical organization on digital media. Once you have your film digitized, you will be able to transfer and share images with others, as well as get them printed simply by using one of the more popular online services, such as SnapFish, Kodak Gallery, Mpix, etc. Make a copy of the media which you receive from the scanning service, and store it away safely.