More Thoughts on Choosing to Scan “Duplicate” or Nearly Identical Photos

by | Last updated Aug 27, 2018 | Scanning Photos | 5 comments

featured-collage-1-resize

This is a guest post by Art Taylor

Curtis raised some interesting points in his post about scanning “duplicate” prints and slides called “Should You Bother Scanning Your Duplicate Photos?

How literally do you define the word ‘duplicate’? Do you interpret it as being a true, identical image, or more broadly as a third, fourth, or higher number copy of the same image? Or do you perhaps include very similar photos, such as slightly different studio portrait shot poses?

 

Additional questions may arise though, if there is or was an avid photographer in the family. Are you trying to preserve only strictly ‘family photos’, that is, photos only of family members, close friends, special occasions and events, vacations; or are you trying to preserve a family photographer’s photographs as part of that individual’s life and character?

If the latter, are you concerned about only his/her photos of family people and events or with all his/her photos? Some people may devote the great majority of their photographic effort to documenting some subject of special interest, such as architecture, flowers, vehicles (cars, trucks, buses, planes or trains) taking very few ‘family’ photos in the usual context of that term.

“Nearly Identical” Examples of ‘Duplicates'

Having known several avid photographers whose main photographic interest was trains, I’ve personally seen them using two cameras, mounted on a bracket, to take nearly identical photos simultaneously, using two shutter release cords to fire both cameras at once.

Sometimes, one of two identical cameras had black-and-white film, while the other had color slide film. Other times, one camera had 35 mm film and one had medium- or large-format film.

Since the cameras were mounted either side by side, or one above the other, so long as the equivalent focal length lens was used on each camera, the photos would be nearly identical in composition, although shot on different kinds and/or sizes of films.

Take a look at the three images below. Would you define these as ‘duplicate’ images?

4 x 5" b&w negative, CPR 8557 and train at Locust Hill, Ontario

Note the 2 triangular notches at the top right and the “Kodak Safety Film” label along the edge of this 4″ x 5″ negative. The notches told the darkroom tech who was developing the film its identity so the proper chemicals could be used.

4 x 5" contact print of CPR 8557 and train departing Locust Hill, Ontario, on a summer evening

This is a print made from the previous negative. If you have the option of scanning either the negative or a print from it, you’ll usually get better quality from the first generation negative than from a second generation print. Experience has shown that unless a print is custom-made by hand, a certain percentage of the image will be cropped around the edges. By scanning the original negative, it’s possible to include everything in the image.

35 mm color slide of CPR 8557 and train departing Locust Hill, Ontario, on a summer evening

A 35 mm color slide of the same train, made a few seconds later than the black-and-white negative above. The difference in the composition is a result of the photographer switching from one camera to another and the train continuing to move during that interval.

On other occasions, a rail photographer might very well have been active in trading slides of locomotives (known as ‘roster shots’) from his locality with railfans across Canada and the US. At least one photographer I know of is reputed to have routinely shot several rolls of 36-exposures per roll on one locomotive to get that number of identical shots to sell or trade. He could easily expose a dozen or more rolls of film in a single photo ‘shoot’.

This individual, who ran a business selling roster shot slides to others, is also reported to have had his own film pickup and delivery from Kodak to get his films processed. If anyone were to inherit his collection of images, there would clearly be no need to scan every slide of every locomotive.

When virtually identical images are shot on two different sizes of film, both black-and-white or both color, do you scan both images or just one? If you decide to scan only one, which do you scan? If both images are equally sharp and exposed correctly, the larger one will likely give the better scan results.

Photographers of any particular subject matter, such as trains or planes in particular, would likely have one or more favorite photo locations. In this case, there are likely to be many photos taken at any one location, differing mainly in the particular locomotive or plane shown.

If the paint scheme is different from one shot to another, the photographer would be very unlikely to have considered two or more such shots ‘duplicates’, even though the train might have been in exactly the same location in each photo. On the other hand, if the paint scheme was always the same, but the road number, by which each locomotive is identified by its owner for maintenance purposes, was different in two or more otherwise identical shots, non-railfans might consider two such shots to be ‘duplicates’.

04 CP Rail 4015, 8454, 4407 wb on bridge over Grand River, Galt

Westbound CP freight crossing the Grand River at Galt, Easter Weekend 1975.

Two different trains, likely on different days, possibly different months and years, but at the same location, a favorite of the photographer’s. There may well be many similar shots in a collection, with different details but at the same location. Which you choose to scan depends on your objective.

13 res grandpa with kids A, B 2013-08-01_Scan-130809-0002

Photos ‘A’ and ‘B’ show a grandfather with his grandchildren. They were clearly taken in the same photo session but note the different facial expressions and slightly different positions.

11 res bridal party A, B, C 2013-08-01_Scan-130809-0003

These 3 prints were found in the same envelope of prints. They all show the same bridal party, but there are sufficient differences among them to perhaps justify scanning them all.

Photo ‘A’ (top), cuts off the feet of the 4 main people but includes a bit of the doorway and wall of the church as well as the bride’s parents on the right and another person behind the bride’s right shoulder. This photo could help establish a location and help identify people who attended the wedding, although the extra people might be considered distractions.

Photo ‘B’ (center) is similar to ‘A’ but the facial expressions are different, all the feet are included, and some more figures are visible on the right. Here, the matron of honor, on the left, is looking away from the bridal couple and possibly not paying quite as much attention as she could be. This could be considered a negative factor and a reason not to scan this version.

In Photo ‘C’ (bottom), we see the bride’s parents behind the bride and groom, more of the church steps, and no extra people. This is a nice shot with the bride's parents but no other extra people.

Which of these photos would you choose to scan or would you scan them all?

12 res bridal party proof print 2013-08-11_Scan-130811-0001

On double-weight print paper, this appears to be the photo the couple chose to keep. It’s most like Photo ‘C’ above but without the parents in the background.

These 2 photos were taken by a student photographer for possible use in the college yearbook. Photo ‘A’ shows a little more of the school building but has some trees obstructing the view. Photo ‘B’ cuts a bit off the left side of the structure but has fewer obstructing trees in the shot. Factors such as this should be considered when deciding which image to scan for your archives.

These 2 photos were taken by a student photographer for possible use in the college yearbook. Photo ‘A’ shows a little more of the school building but has some trees obstructing the view. Photo ‘B’ cuts a bit off the left side of the structure but has fewer obstructing trees in the shot. Factors such as this should be considered when deciding which image to scan for your archives.

18 res twin albums 2013-08-01_Scan-130809-0006

These appear to be identical albums from Kodak’s processing lab. One of them seems to have more photos included than the other so it’s likely some have become detached at some time since 1951 when the shots were taken. The other difference is that one album has a hand-written label identifying the subject location and date on the back of each print. For those prints that do appear in both albums, it would be easy and possible to scan them side by side, with one album showing the print and the other album the corresponding label.

My Thoughts on Which “Nearly Identical” Images to Scan

If you are trying to preserve such a photographer’s work as historical documentation of the railroad scene, such as might be the case if the photos are to be donated to a museum or historical society, then every slide or negative should be scanned and preserved. If you’re trying to preserve only representative samples of the photographer’s efforts, then maybe scanning only some examples would be sufficient. It really comes down to “What do you want to preserve and why do you want to do so?”

Where strictly ‘family photos’ are concerned, again one’s definition of ‘duplicate’ comes into consideration. Before the prevalence of digital photography, many photographers did their own black-and-white and color film developing and printing in home darkrooms. While obvious test prints would most likely have been discarded before they made it out of the darkroom, favorite negatives may have been printed at various sizes, such as 4″ x 5″, 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, or larger.

As the photographer’s darkroom printing skills improved with experience, those same negatives may have been reprinted at the same or additional sizes at a later date. If you’ve found or inherited a collection of prints from somebody, how will you decide which ‘duplicate’ to scan and which to discard? Do you scan one print of each size, assuming the same negative created all the prints? Do you scan the smallest, the largest, the oldest, the newest?

If the images are all equally sharp, equally exposed, with equal contrast, and equal color balance (for color prints), then it’s probably safe to scan only the largest size print you can fit onto your scanner, likely an 8″ x 10″ print. Scan it at 300 or so dpi, at the highest quality settings available, and archive the digital file. If the prints are not of identical quality, then scan the best-quality ones.

Cropped Examples of ‘Duplicates'

06 res family, home, field Scan-2013-01-11-027

This family group shot shows what is likely the family home and some surrounding property to help in establishing a location and possibly a date if that information is not already known.

07 res crop family, home, field Scan-2013-01-11-027

This image was scanned by cropping in on the people in the previous shot, so their faces could be more easily seen and identified. It takes only a short amount of additional time to do a second scan like this but it can be time well spent if you’re trying to preserve family history and genealogy.

 

08 res 2 generations and house Scan-2013-01-11-012 VS restore fading

grandparents and grandchildren

Another example of cropping a photo in scanning to enlarge the people.

grandparents and grandchildren

Later in the same scanning session, this cropped version of the previous photo showed up in a photo album. The black border here is the album page.

 

4 similar images of a man sitting but of various croppings

These 4 photos were taken during the same photo ‘shoot’. How would you choose which to scan for your digital archive or would you scan them all? (The date and time appearing at the lower left corner are incorrect since the camera’s clock and calendar were not set correctly.)

“Color-Toned” Examples of ‘Duplicates'

If the photographer was keen on darkroom work, there might be selenium- or gold-toned prints from the same negative. There might also be cyan-toned or sepia-toned prints to simulate older photographic techniques. There might be ‘litho' (pure black-and-white, with no grays) prints, solarized prints (with the image exposed to light during development, giving a somewhat negative appearance), and/or posterized prints with areas of flat color (or grays).

How do you decide which of these to scan, or do you go ahead and scan them all? My preference would be to scan them all since they are visually distinctively different, even though they were all possibly made from the same negative.

19 res ghost train 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0003

Entitled ‘Ghost Train’, this print was made by exposing a color slide in the enlarger and printing on regular black-and-white printing paper. A 16″ x 20″ print of this image won the photographer an award in a camera club print competition. For this image, both the original color slide and the print (since there is no negative) should be scanned. Information about how the print was made should be included in the EXIF data so future viewers can understand the technique.

20 res CP 8716 Galt 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0001

Here’s a straight black-and-white print from a regular negative.

21 res red toned 8716 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0002

This print was ‘toned’ red digitally but photographers used to use various chemicals in traditional ‘wet’ darkrooms to achieve a variety of color effects on black-and-white paper. Each black-and- white developer had its own characteristic color tone and different kinds of printing paper also had distinctly ‘warm’ or ‘cold’ tones. These characteristics were carefully considered by enthusiastic print makers when making their purchases in the store.

22 res green toned 8716 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0002

The print maker may have decided to use a green tone for this print to emphasize the color of the foliage, rather than the red of the diesel locomotive. While this image was toned digitally, traditionally, smelly, and potentially toxic chemicals would have been used to achieve a similar effect.

res blue toned 8716 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0002

A ‘cold’-toned paper and developer would have helped achieve this blue tone in a traditional ‘wet’ darkroom. While not particularly effective for this specific photo, a blue tone could enhance a cold snow scene.

res brown toned 8716 2013-08-09_Scan-130809-0002

This brown toned print would have used a warm-toned developer and paper. Special toners were available in camera stores that carried darkroom supplies.

Sepia (a lighter variation of the brown shown here, and other colors provided an easy and relatively inexpensive way to add a color element to black-and-white prints. They were often used by darkroom enthusiasts before color films and printing papers became widely available.

There were also transparent inks available for skilled individuals to use with fine-tipped artist paint brushes to add more-or-less realistic colors to hand- colored prints. Sometimes an entire print would be so colored but other times, only a person would be colored and the background would be left in its various values of gray, black, or white. You’ve likely seen modern versions of such images, especially in magazine ads or TV commercials, where only the product is colored against a gray background. Today, such images are created digitally instead of laboriously by hand.

 

Portrait Examples of ‘Duplicates'

Other situations you might find in a photo collection would also involve a decision as to which print or prints to scan. Photo booths used to be common in malls and amusement parks. If you deposited a sum of money in the machine, you could get, usually four, different photos in a matter of minutes. The idea was to take a number of different poses in the booth and those poses sometimes were markedly different but sometimes they’d be nearly identical.

Do you scan one or more of such photos, usually received from the machine on one strip of paper but maybe they were later cut apart?

 

At least in the 1960s, when I was in high school, a photo studio sent photographers out to shoot school portraits of pupils. Each class would have its turn going to the gym, library, or maybe cafeteria, where the photographer would have lights, a stool for the students to sit on, a background cloth, and the camera set up.

Each student would be posed for two to four different shots, and a week or so later, would receive a package of prints to take home to the parents. The parents would make a selection from the prints, which usually included at least one sheet of wallet-size prints (1.0″ x 2.5″), a sheet of 2.5″ x 3.5″ prints, some 3.5″ x 5.0″ prints, and a 5″ x 7″. In the package with the prints was a price list and the idea was that the parents would choose to keep all the prints and return the money to the school to pass on to the photographer. Often, the largest size print was kept by the parents, but some of the smaller prints would be shared with family and friends, but not all of the smaller prints always found new homes.

Printed contact sheet of wallet sized school photos

How do you decide which of these prints to scan or do you scan them all?

 

I’ve tried to show some examples of when you might want to scan more than one copy of a photo from your family photo collection. It’s not necessarily going to be easy to make a decision in some instances but hopefully, you’ll now be better equipped to make such decisions about your own collection.

These questions might face anyone trying to preserve family photo collections. Be sure to consider them carefully if they apply to your situation. If in doubt, scan them all to be sure you don’t miss something important, thinking you’ve already scanned a particular image. The extra storage space and time involved are minimal when you consider the long-term importance and value of your family photo archives.

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Are You Ready to Get Serious With Your Photo Collection?

Join 10,280+ people enjoying the exclusive newsletter, tutorials, occasional blog updates, and tips and tricks you won't find anywhere else on this website sent right to your inbox.

Popular Posts

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?
Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy
Epson V800 vs V850 — The 5 Differences and Which You Should Buy

So you’re ready to buy a very high-quality flatbed scanner to digitize your analog prints and film, but now you’re having a hard time deciding between the Epson Perfection V800 Photo and the Epson Perfection V850 Pro Photo Scanners.

Whether you or an avid hobby photographer, a true professional, or just want to get all the quality you can out of your prints and film, either one of these models is going to give you exceptional results. But, I want to help you feel confident you’re going to make the right choice.

Below, in plain English that will make it very easy to understand, I’ve written out and explained in detail, the 5 differences between the two models.

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?
Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you actually feel relief … or utter panic?

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later
If You Don’t Add This to the Filename of Your Scanned Photos, You’ll Probably Hate Yourself Later

Whether you keep all of your scanned master (original) image files in folders on a hard drive, or you allow an image manager like Picasa, iPhoto or Aperture to manage them inside a library file, you will still be required to give each photo a filename.

It could be as simple and non-descriptive as “photo-1.jpg” or maybe even simple yet somewhat descriptive like “mom at the beach 1984.tif”.

But, it’s actually a very important part of the process of scanning photos, that if done with a little bit of forethought, can save you a lot of time and headache later.

My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012
My Inspiring Photo Scanning Progress Report for April 2012

Welcome to my third monthly progress report!

Last month I covered two complete months of scanning, but I learned that was just too much to talk about!

So this time is only one month and it’ll be a lot shorter.

What This Progress Report Is Really About:

Every month, I am posting a detailed report — just like this one — sharing with you how far I have come with my goal to scan and restore my entire 10,000+ family photo collection.

By doing so, I hope to inspire you to do the same!

In my first progress report, I set a goal for myself to do a little bit of work on my collection every single day. I shoot for about an hour a day which turns out to be about 30 scans a day. And I am going to record and detail each one of them so that you can learn from my transparency.

I don’t want to be “that guy” — a guy that tells you how you should scan your own photos but then sends all of my own to a scanning service to do the work for me.

How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning
How Quickly You Could Scan Your Entire Photo Collection — What I Discovered From My First Week of Scanning

So you have a closet with boxes full of old prints and slides that you are dying to have scanned and neatly organized on your computer.

The problem is, you’re worried about it either costing you way too much money to send it to a scanning service, or taking too much of your precious free time to scan them yourself on a flatbed scanner.

Does this sound EXACTLY like your dilemma?

I’d like to share with you my experience back scanning photos for the first week. If you want to make scanning your own photos fit into your busy and hectic life, I think my experience here might give you an idea how much time will be involved and how many photos you can easily get through.

The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos
The Best Way to Add a Description (Caption) to Your Scanned Photos

Ah, there’s nothing quite like reading a great caption to go along with a special photograph. Sometimes they’re so effective, they just seal the emotional experience of being there—as if you were right there when that photograph was taken—even if you weren’t!

I think it’s so important that you record these “priceless” descriptions as soon as you can. Some of us might think we can remember all of the details. But face it, you probably won’t be able to. They’re fleeting. And even if you could, you and your memory aren’t going to be on this earth forever.

With prints, it was easy to record this information by writing the stories by hand on the back. But, now that we are wishing to move our prints, slides and negatives to a digital form in our computer, how do we easily add this information so that it can live with each master image file?

Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection
Use 1 of These Photo Managers If You Care About Your Photo Collection

It was seriously a life changing day when I discovered the magic of a “non-destructive” photo managing program.

With “non-destructive” editing, all of the edits (enhancements) you make to your photographs are managed by the program itself. Your original photo remains untouched. It’s like having a guardian angel that protects your master images at all costs. It’s brilliant and is 100% absolutely indispensable to me now.

What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1
What Everybody Ought to Know When Naming Your Scanned Photos – Part 1

As my own scanned photo collection grows, it has really become obvious to me how thankful I am for the added attention I have been putting into the filenames I give to all of my scanned images.

When you’re scanning, it’s really easy to get into a “robotic” mindset where you are just trying to scan as many photos as possible in a sitting. So when you get to that blank field each time that asks you to type in a name for the file, it’s tempting to just quickly bang out a few descriptive words with little thought to how useful they will be to anyone later.

The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs
The DPI You Should Be Scanning Your Paper Photographs

One of the most important decisions you face when scanning anything with your scanner is choosing what dpi (“dots per inch”) to scan with. And specifically for this post, what is the best dpi to use when scanning and archiving your 8×10″ and smaller paper photographic prints – which for most people, make up the majority of our pre-digital collection.

Making this decision was very challenging for me and certainly a huge part of my 8 year delay. The reason for this is that dpi is the critical variable in a fairly simple mathematical equation that will determine several important outcomes for your digital images.

Related Posts

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

How I’m Bringing Order to Chaos By Scanning and Organizing My Photo Collection

I have always held onto things that memorialized moments of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, I would make sure to carefully store my grade school class pictures or baseball team pictures. They were important to me then and I knew that I should keep them safe. It took a few years for me to realize what service I had done myself by not letting these precious items get lost or thrown away. They are utterly priceless to me now.

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson Scan 2 — Will It Work With My Scanner?

Epson quietly released a new version of their popular scanning software “Epson Scan” that comes bundled with their document and flatbed photo scanners. But, there’s already been confusion as to which scanners and operating systems it supports. Could it be possible that “Epson Scan 2” won’t even run in the latest versions of Microsoft Windows?

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

Aiming for the Stars to Hit a Cowpie — My Enlightening Scanning Journey

As a Wyoming farm gal, I was raised with the phrase “It’s better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim for a cowpie and hit.” Well, that’s great advice … unless your goal actually is to hit the cowpie.

My scanning goal really was that simple, but for some reason, aiming at the cowpie just wasn’t working. So I changed strategies and aimed for the stars. The result? Read on to find out. And hopefully, by sharing my scanning journey, it will help you on your scanning journey.

Leave a Comment Below

Subscribe by email to new comments without commenting
Notify of
guest
5 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments