Are digital photos better than B/W photos?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Iconoclast, Dec 11, 2003.

  1. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Guest

    Since I had to explain to my wife the large expenditure for a new digital
    camera, I tried to allay her objections by pointing out that now we will be
    able to preserve digital copies of her genealogical photographs.

    But, she pointed out that her old black and white photographs would not fade
    anyway because the silver in B/W photos cannot change, although the dies in
    color photos would.

    Do B/W photos fade with age if they are properly fixated?
    Iconoclast, Dec 11, 2003
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  2. Iconoclast

    Charlie Self Guest

    Iconoclast asks:
    Don't know where she got the idea that old b&w photos don't fade. I've got one
    of me that has faded badly (over 60 years old) and a couple of my parents that
    are even worse...those are close to 70 years old. I've also found that the b&w
    junior prom photo I have has faded just about as badly as my color senior prom

    All of these are just about the type of time line that might begin to be of
    interest to genealogical tracers. Of course, anything that is correctly stored
    lasts much longer. I ran across a 30+ year old 2-1/4 Ektachrome transparency of
    me that is only lightly faded (and, if memory serves, it was almost that way
    when it was first developed): it wasn't correctly stored, really, but it was in
    a temperature controlled environment and out of the light, which seems to me to
    be the biggest reason any photo fades.

    Charlie Self

    "In the final choice a soldier's pack is not so heavy as a prisoner's chains."
    Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Charlie Self, Dec 11, 2003
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  3. Iconoclast

    Jeremy Guest

    x-no-archive: yes
    B&W negs and prints certainly have better archival qualities than do color
    prints. That is not to say that digital copies aren's "as good." Digital
    copies are "different."

    1: DON'T even think of not preserving your original prints & negs. The
    Kodak web site offers tips for proper storage for long-term use.

    2: The value of digital copies is in the fact that they can be DUPLICATED
    and stored in MULTIPLE LOCATIONS, for example: copies can be distributed to
    family members or stored in safe deposit boxes.

    This strategy minimizes the risk of loss due to fire, flood or theft. You
    have only one set of original negatives, but you can clone your disks
    multiple times. There is safety in that.

    3: Another advantage of digital is that you can edit the images and correct
    fading, brightness, contrast, remove scratches and other repairs, without
    risking damaging the originals. There are numerous tutorials on the web
    that offer tips and techniques.

    4: Yet another advantage of digital: you can make reprints of some of those
    priceless photos--after you've edited them and corrected them--and you can
    make as many prints as you want, to be distributed among family members.
    Where there was previously only a single album of original prints, there can
    now be many copies of the family album out there!

    I have gotten excellent results from OFOTO.COM. They make real photos, not
    inkjet prints, from your digital files (they are owned by Kodak). The
    beauty of scanning your originals and making corrected prints is that you
    will end up with a better album than the one that held the originals, and
    you can leave it out in the open for viewing, without worrying about harming
    the originals.

    I use digital cameras and digitally-edited prints extensively in my own
    genealogy work. The advantages are overwhelming. Just remember that
    digital archiving is not a substitute for preservation of the original
    documents/photos. It is, rather an additional layer of conservation and
    duplication. You store the originals and you work with--not the
    originals--but the digital copies.

    You will find your digital equipment to be much more versatile than a
    film-based system would have been. You'll have loads of opportunities to
    use it to its full advantage. Go ahead and exploit it to the max!
    Jeremy, Dec 11, 2003
  4. B/W photos will last quite a long time IF...

    1. They are printed on fiber-based paper

    2. They are properly fixed, AND

    3. The fixer (and all other chemicals) are very thoroughly washed from the

    (and 4. The prints are stored at proper temperature/humidity and protected
    from U/V light)

    How long is quite a long time? 100 years or more.

    Now if these black and white prints are done at your local
    1-hr/send-away-and-pray photo lab, there's certainly no guarantee that any
    of these conditions will be met, and I'll lay 10:1 odds that they don't
    follow the first 3, since most print on RC paper, which doesn't really allow
    all the chemicals to be washed out of the prints, even if you really tried.

    Color prints and prints from inkjets do not have this sort of longevity,
    although new advances in inkjet pigments and dyes are taking place all the
    time. Marketing hype aside, we won't know what the true durability of
    inkjet prints will be for decades or more.

    As a side note, if you're trying to preserve digital copies of her
    genealogical photographs, why are you buying a digital camera instead of a
    digital scanner? A $100 (or less) scanner will provide much better digital
    archives of prints than a camera on a copy stand would.

    Good luck!

    - jz
    Jeff Zawrotny, Dec 11, 2003
  5. Iconoclast

    Pood Guest

    Glancing back through over 50 year's worth of photos, both B&W and
    color, it's clear that fading due to various causes is very much a
    problem for film as it is often claimed to be for dye-based printers.
    A better concern to have is what this all means in terms of your own
    usage. Kept in an album, photos should last indefinitely unless
    chemical reaction sets in (such as for inadequate washing of
    conventional prints).

    If you want absolutely permanent B&W prints, then consider a
    pigment-based inkjet printer in conjunction with archival paper. The
    black pigment used is generally of carbon composition, so should be
    around for milleniums to come, or at least until the paper wears out.
    Pood, Dec 11, 2003
  6. Iconoclast

    stacey Guest

    She saw though your lame excuse. You'll have to come up with something
    better and IMHO looks like she's smarter than you so it might be tough...
    stacey, Dec 12, 2003
  7. Iconoclast

    Harvey Guest

    While digital is theoretically able to be preserved forever, in 100 years
    the prints will still be there in some condition but alas there is unlikely
    to be any easy way to decode or extract the data from the digital storage
    media. Even 15 years later how many computers are equipped to extract the
    images stored on 5 1/4 floppy discs, the predominant digital storage media
    of its time? Also consider that it is likely that the dyes in the CD-Rs
    presumably used to store the images will have long turned to mush before the
    prints fade out.
    Harvey, Dec 12, 2003
  8. Iconoclast

    Guest Guest

    You have a point, but these changes don't happen overnight. When your
    storage medium if getting obsolete, you can move your archives to a new
    media, and you will still have retained 100% of the quality of the original.
    It may take a bit of archiving work every 5 or 10 years though.
    Guest, Dec 12, 2003
  9. Iconoclast

    stacey Guest

    Unless the media has -any- type of failure then you have 100% loss!
    stacey, Dec 13, 2003
  10. Or your negatives are cought in a fire.

    It is much easier to make backup copies of digital storage.
    If it is important to you - make backups - several - in several

    Roland Karlsson, Dec 14, 2003
  11. Iconoclast

    stan Guest

    All photos fade with age.
    stan, Dec 15, 2003
  12. Iconoclast

    Steve House Guest

    Gelatin-silver prints need to be properly fixed, and even more
    importantly, washed after fixing to remove all traces of the fixer from
    the paper base. Very light treatment with gold toner protects the
    silver from attack by atmospheric contaminants. Given proper treatment
    and storage away from contact with non-archivally processed photographs,
    a silver print should last as long as the base it's printed on. That's
    the good news. The bad news is very few photographs prior to the 1960's
    were archivally processed except those by the pioneer fine-arts
    photographers like Ansel Adams and it's not very likely your wife's
    genealogical photos were among them.

    The archival permanence of digital photography is more problematical,
    not because of the impermanence of the process itself but more the
    impermanence of the technology. You can easily find all the materials
    necessary today to create a dauguerreotype, or print a negative as a
    platinum, or albumen print or to view a stereoscope slide. But try to
    find a 5 1/4 inch disk drive to read those digital tax files you put
    away in the safe-deposit box back in 1988 (assuming the glues holding
    the oxide to the substrate on the disk haven't deteriorated, which is
    iffy). Or an 8-inch floppy drive for the novel you wrote on a Wang back
    in the late 70's. Or a reel-to-reel drive to read a 9-track tape of
    telemetry data from the Mariner Mars lander!
    Steve House, Jan 24, 2004
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