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Scanning Photos: Negatives or Prints?

When scanning photographs, should you scan the negatives or the prints that came from the negatives?

Negatives vs printed photos

It's not completely cut-and-dry and opinions vary, but most photographers I've spoken to agree that you should usually use the negatives as they are the highest quality source. However you'll need a high quality negative scanner to do this well—if you don't have access to one then you may be better off scanning the printed photos.

Of course it will also depend on the state of your negatives and/or prints. If your negatives are scratched or degraded, it makes sense to see if you have any prints that are in better condition.

In the end it can't hurt to try both. See what works best for you with the equipment you have.

Whatever you do, scan in the highest possible resolution. Negatives and prints are all analog so the higher your scanning resolution the more detail you'll capture. This makes for a bigger file, but use this as your high-quality master and make lower-resolution copies if necessary for distribution etc.