Why Scan ...and What Does It All Mean?

Photographs are our number one choice of media for our memories, yet more often than not, they end up relegated to a photograph album or box in a cupboard, attic, basement or garage, where they are prone to severe damage. Amateurs take hundreds, if not, thousands of photographs in their lifetime and given the right care, these photographs can out live us and be passed on to our children, and their children, as one of the best heirlooms available. 


What Are The Benefits Of Digitizing Your Photos?

  • Preservation:    Once scanned, digital images will remain free of blemishes for all time.
  • Restoration:      Damaged photos can be restored and improved.
  • Organization:    Your photographs will be easily accessible.
  • Convenience:    Display your photos on your TV, computer or on a digital frame.
  • Flexibility:         High-resolution scans allow you to print different sizes without losing quality.
  • Economical:      Print your own pictures; each as clean and colorful as the source.

What Are The Benefits Of Using PhotoReplicate?

  • Professional:     Our industry standard scanners produce scans from 35mm slides and negatives at 4000dpi.
  • Quality:              Technical knowledge and years of experience to better preserve your images.
  • Skill:                  We will seamlessly remove scratches and dirt from your photographs.
  • Knowledge:       We will restore color and contrast in pictures that have faded.
  • Experience:       We will remove overall colorcasts.
  • Enhancements:  We will correct for under or over exposed photographs.
  • Artistic:               We can accommodate custom requests and perform difficult restorations.
  • Efficiency:           We save you the time it takes to digitize your complete collection.
  • Local:                  Los Angeles based business with all work done on site; no oversees shipping to other locations.
  • Reliable:             Friendly, personalized customer service.

What does it all mean?

We realize that not everyone is a technician! What does "Resolution" and "Color Bit Depth" really mean? While it's not essential for our customers to understand all the terms used with digital media for us to do a great job, we thought it would be helpful to include a short description of some of the more widely used, but often confusing, concepts.

Our intention here is to help provide you with the ability to make an informed decision regarding you photographs, and therefore, a better understanding of what you will be receiving after your photos are scanned.

Resolution is a term that often confuses, as it has two different meanings depending on whether you're talking about print or display resolution:
  • When talking about printed images, it regards sharpness of the image.
  • With computer displays, it is a measure of the size of the image.

Units Of Resolution (PPI, SPI & DPI)

PPI or Pixels per Inch refers to the image display on a monitor, where a pixel is the smallest unit a monitor can display to represent an image.
SPI or Samples per Inch is the number of samples (scanning points) per inch on the original that the scanner records, where a sample is the smallest spot that the scanner can detect.
DPI or Dots per Inch is the unit used by a printer, and refers to the number of ink dots per inch that the printer is capable of placing on the paper.

We scan with a resolution large enough to give you the best options, once you have the scan. These options include having the ability to make quality enlargements, which maintain maximum sharpness, and therefore all the fine details, which you will not get with a low-resolution scan.

Quality From Prints:
It should be noted that there is a big difference in quality when scanning prints as opposed to negatives or slides. The main reason for this is that negatives and slides have a higher dynamic range* than prints. As a result, it is always better to scan from the original negative or slide, whenever possible.

*Dynamic range should be thought of as the difference between high and low luminance values (highlights and shadows) in a photograph. Prints tend to be biased one way or the other. What this means is that some of the highlight or shadow detail might be left out from the final print, even though those details may have been captured on the original negative or slide. This difference between negatives and prints is quite normal, but one advantage of scanning from the negative or slide is that it is possible to capture more detail.

To illustrate this, here's a photo where the camera is pointing towards the sun. When printed, either:

The city is under exposed without much detail in the shadows, and the clouds are properly exposed, or...

...the city is exposed normally and the sky is over exposed.

With a higher dynamic range (HDR), it's possible to capture all the detail that is on the negative.
(Composite used to illustrate HDR example)

Another thing to consider regarding the difference between slides, negaives and prints is that slides and negatives are first generation photographs (first generation: meaning the film that actually captured the picture in the camera), while prints are second generation, or copies. Every time a generation is made further away from the original in a traditional (meaning analogue, not digital) photographic process, some quality is lost.

Color Depth:
Color depth measures, in effect, how many distinct colors (steps, or luminance values) are possible in a scanned image. A good example of this can be seen in a photograph of a clear blue sky. There is always a subtle gradation from light to dark, which should look smooth (high-resolution) as opposed to showing "banding" (low-resolution), when there are not enough colors to faithfully represent the gradation.
High resolution
(effect enhanced for illustration purposes)

We scan at 16 bits per channel color depth, to give more options, when making color corrections to your scanned images, that will not introduce artifacts. Badly faded,, pictures or photographs with overall colorcasts require a higher level of color correction to restore them, and having the extra color information in the scan allows more room to maneuver.

Output File Format:
We save everything out as an uncompressed (lossless) TIFF file format, which contains the maximum amount of image information that the scanner can produce. Most image editors support a TIFF file, making it the best universal choice available.

Scratch & Dust Removal:
Slides and negatives are easily scratched and even with careful handling, they invariably show some signs of wear. The scratches range from serious to almost invisble to the naked eye, and it's these that become noticeable only when the images are scanned and magnified to display. The main culprit for causing scratches is dust and debris scouring the surface of the film, which probably happens, to some degree, every time a slide or negative is handled. Even cleaning them, if not done correctly, can scratch them more. 

Red-Eye Removal:
We will remove red-eye from the photos we scan, on a picture-by-picture basis. Red-eye happens when using flash while photographing someone's face, and is caused by the light from the flash reflecting off the blood vessels in the subject's retina.

Faded Photographs:
Developing film causes a chemical reaction that creates the various color dyes within the three layers of emulsion that makes up the picture. However, these dyes, or chemical reactions, are inherently unstable, and begin to degrade as soon as the photo is developed. Any kind of visible light hitting a photo simply accelerates this process. An older photograph may show this effect as a loss of contrast (flatter and lighter) and a color shift (see the "Gallery" tab for examples).

Storing Photographs In The Dark:
Slides, negatives and prints are all subject to color changes and fading, even when stored in the dark. Although light accelerates dye color breakdown, it's not the cause. Even if you store your photographs in the dark, they are still likely to suffer from typical household humidity and temperature levels and they will eventually deteriorate.

If They Are Already Faded:
And they are not too far degraded, it is possible to bring contrast and color back into them, using digital image processing software, but the level of detail left in an image will determine how complex the restoration will be. If you photographs are severely affected, then it is in your best interest to get them scanned soon.

Scanning Prevents Further Degradation:
Scanning photographs is a skill and when done correctly can save images forever. However, scanning film merely makes a digital copy of the photograph in it's current state, including any damage, dirt or color degradation that is already there. In order to see the real benefit of digitizing your photographs and returning them to their original condition, they will more than likely need some level of repair work. The majority of scans require removal of small dust hits and scratches and the application of a minor color adjustment - all of which we include in our base scanning price. More severely degraded photographs require a higher level of service from us called restoration, and can only be assessed after scanning. In extreme cases, the damage may be too extensive and not repairable at all, but so far, we have amazed paople when we have shown them just what is achievable, and disappointed none.