Should I use negatives or scans to make photo prints?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by jacek_ignaszak, Feb 3, 2017.

  1. Since I cannot make color prints in my dark room, I send out all my color film rolls for development where they get returned as negatives and a CD contained the scanned negatives in JPEG format of 2941 x 1960 resolution. I would like to make prints of some of these photos to have in physical form and my local photo store offers both printing from digital files and printing from negatives. Would printing from the JPEG scans yield worse quality prints than from the negatives? I do know that the scans are corrected by the developer when I send them out if they are too dark for example so I'm afraid that some prints would turn out too dark if printed from the negatives rather than the JPEGs. I also believe that printing from the files would end up being cheaper therefore that is my plan however my question is whether this would mean a decrease in quality of the prints compared to printing straight from the negatives or will it be unnoticeable due to the high quality of the scans?
    Thanks in advance,
  2. david_henderson


    It will depend how good the scans are.
    It will depend what size prints you want to make from what size originals (35mm??)
    It will depend on how good the lab is at making prints from negs and from scans. If you choose negs you better make sure that the lab doesn't scan as a matter of course rather than making traditional analogue prints- particularly for fairly small prints.
    In short there is no universal answer to your question "which is better, scan or neg for prints. Prints from negs are not automatically better than prints from scans . The best prints I've ever seen from my work have been from scans. But they were from slides; they were very large prints; I needed absolute repeatability; and I started from 6x6 originals. I don't think that any of that will apply to you
  3. Hey David,
    Yeah I'm talking about 35mm and with the naked eye the scans look high quality, the grain is sharp on my monitor and the prints would be no larger than A4 size, most likely 5x7" album prints.
  4. Jacek, for that size either the nega or jpg would work fine. When you get up to larger sizes (usually bigger than 8x10) the quality, grain, etc will be far more noticeable. If you have many prints to be made, you may want to establish a "standard", which both you and the printer must abide, in order to have some solid consistency.
  5. david_henderson


    I agree that in good hands either the scan or the neg should be capable of producing a good print of between 7"x 5" and A4. If you have a lab in mind I'd talk to them about what options they offer. As I said, there's no mileage in handing them a neg for them to scan again at your cost in order to make the print.
  6. Note that the default scans are equivalent to 5.7 megapixels. 200-240 dpi is a typical print resolution, with some printers claiming 300+ dpi on high-end, large format, chromogenic equipment. The scans you already have will more than match the 240 dpi standard for 5x7 or A4 prints. However, if substantially larger prints are desired, then you will need to either have the negatives re-scanned at higher resolution, or have prints made directly from the negatives. Beware of assuming what you see on your 90 dpi screen will be representative of the prints from the same file. Issues, problems, and details that get lost at 90 dpi screen resolution can stand out significantly in a 240 dpi print, and your monitor settings can (and usually do) vary immensely from actual printer output.
    You can read an interesting article from the Library of Congress HERE that addresses issues of pixel density, approach to digital archives, scanning, printing, etc.
  7. My question is how expensive it is to try out. It seems one way to find out would be to send in both the negative and the scan of some chosen picture and see what, if any, difference there is.
    Without knowing whether the printing process does its own color correction, or adds another layer of compression, etc. it's hard to guess.
  8. Thanks a lot for the help everyone!
  9. David: Why do you use slides to scan from rather than negatives when making prints? Thanks. Alan.
  10. david_henderson


    Back in my medium format days, slides were the strongly preferred medium amongst the landscape photography community of which I was a part. The projected slide was held to be the epitome of all that we did in terms of spectacle and showing ones work, selecting for books ( if you were one of the chosen), choosing which were to be printed, and so on. And in general it wasn't just slides, it was probably Velvia or if not then Provia, for their saturated colour and making the most of the tonality of "golden hour", and often with plenty of polariser too. And there were some upsides in that you got to see the final "version" as soon as you had your slides processed, and integrity insofar as that all the work was done behind the camera and the slide was in essence unalterable.
    Of course there were downsides that one began to realise. The "palette" was very strong and pretty much uncontrollable- you got some pretty weird colours in low light. The dynamic range wasn't actually enough a lot of the time. The films were slow and wind speed a constant issue especially when using a polariser. Scanning was problematical, whether you did it or you got a lab to do it , and it was almost rare to find an affordable source that could give you scans that would stand scrutiny against the original slide. Analogue lab printing was expensive, became harder to find, and trying to get a match with the slide was a bit of a pastime for all of those involved. Printing Cibas at home was difficult and with varying results. When hybrid (drum scan and print on a LightJet) became available I got some great prints from West Coast Imaging in particular but they were very expensive and took an age- both of these not helped by the need to fedex materials across the Atlantic in my case.
    So with the benefit of hindsight I'm not sure that what I ( and plenty of others) was doing was optimal. I wonder now why I didn't switch to neg film but I didn't have those thoughts in say 1997 . Don't get me wrong, I don't think that getting prints made from colour negs is a bed of roses either because the reference point is less clear. And making prints with the sheer vibrance and intensity that you could get on a good Velvia print wouldn't have been easy.
    So that's how things were. I think they're better now.
  11. amny places now that make prints from negatives, scan them and then print the scan.

    And they might not scan higher resolution than your scans.

    It is common to print scans on photographic paper, so you can't tell that way. But they are available for very reasonable prices compared to the pre-digital days.

    As for slides, printing scans of slides is likely better than the old fashioned way. The usual way in the film days was to print from a copy negative, but that was expensive. Even more expensive if you wanted them to give you the negative. The other choice was reversal paper, also expensive.

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