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Commercial Photo Digitization: 3 Factors to Consider

September 12, 2022

At scale, photo digitization presents significant challenges — even for experienced photographers. 

When you’re digitizing thousands of photos, you’re undertaking a major project. Establishing clear goals can help you plan effectively, limiting the overall cost of your project while improving the results.

Planning for Commercial Photo Digitization

Below, we’ll discuss several factors that can affect the outcome of professional photo digitization. 

If you’re planning a commercial photo digitization project, can help. Our services can be customized with options including media organization databases and lossless output — and by prioritizing photo fidelity, we provide dependable resources for at-scale digitization. 

To get started, call 1-800-237-4200 or click here to set up a case online

1. Fidelity

The goal of digitization is to obtain the most accurate reproduction of each image. As a professional, you want high resolution copies that can be used for commercial purposes. 

You don’t want your original photos changed in any way — whether you’re working with 35mm, 126 film, or another format, you chose that film for a reason. Unnecessary “enhancements” can be counterintuitive.

Of course, many photo digitization services are geared towards consumers, who have different goals: They may want photos retouched, brightened, or optimized. Many commercial services perform these enhancements automatically by using artificial intelligence (AI) tools. While optimization is potentially useful for some consumer-grade photo formats, AI isn’t great at understanding the nuances of artistic or commercial photography. 

If you work with a digitization partner, make sure that their services focus on fidelity — and make sure that their process doesn’t include automatic restoration or optimization. 

Likewise, if you handle your own digitization project, understand how your scanner functions. Check whether your software optimizes images (and if so, disable those features if possible). 

2. Photo Quality and Format 

Most professional photographers use digitization services for a simple reason: High-quality scanners are expensive, and if you’re working with thousands of photographs, you may not have the equipment to complete the project on a reasonable timeline.

Most professional digitization services have dozens (if not hundreds) of high-quality scanners. However, the output format is important: If a high-quality image is compressed into a JPEG, you’ve lost fidelity. 

If you’re unfamiliar with digital photography file formats, here’s a quick primer: 

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) 

While JPEG is the most common image format, it is a lossy format: The photo is compressed during digitization, and fidelity is lost during compression.

The advantage of JPEG is its small file size. However, professional photo digitization is about archiving the highest quality version of your images, and JPEG isn’t an appropriate option. Even at high-quality settings, JPEG means a compromised image.

PNG (Portable Network Graphics) 

Created by the PNG Working Group, PNG is intended as a replacement for GIF files (though GIFs, of course, are still common). PNG uses lossless compression, but with some drawbacks: It can only hold full-color, non-pallete-based RGB or RGBA.

PNG may be acceptable for some commercial digitization projects. However, PNG isn’t designed for scanning — it’s intended as an internet standard. Most scanning software does not support direct PNG output, and the process of converting an image to PNG can be time-consuming.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) 

TIFF is a lossless format and the near-universal standard for desktop scanners. It’s capable of holding all color and color depths. The major drawback: TIFF also supports compression, and some software may output images as TIFFs without informing the user that the photo has been compressed. 

Even so, TIFF is an excellent format for photo digitization and archiving. When you’ve correctly configured your scanner and software, TIFF is truly lossless.

RAW (Raw Image File) 

RAW is created directly from the optical scan of the images. It uses a 14-bit color channel. RAW files are extremely large, but present the highest possible image quality. 

For professional digitization, TIFF and RAW are the best options. The major advantage of RAW is its file size: While RAW files are enormous, they’re about half the size of uncompressed TIFFs.

Common RAW file extensions include:

  • ARW
  • SRF
  • SR2
  • NEF
  • DNG
  • DCS
  • DCR
  • DRF
  • K25
  • KDC
  • RAW

This is not a complete list. Your digitization partner should be capable of outputting RAW images with an appropriate file extension that works with your photo editing software.

3. Organization

When you’re digitizing thousands of photographs, you need a way to keep them organized. 

If you’re handling the project on your own, you can do this fairly easily, but make sure you have a consistent process in place. Whether you’re organizing photos by date, subject, film type, or any other criteria, use a consistent naming convention (trust us, you’ll thank yourself in the future). 

As part of our digitization services, provides custom file organization based on client criteria. Because we scan every photo by hand and input data during digitization, we can deliver your photos in a structure that makes sense for the intended use. 

For extremely large projects, we also offer custom-built media organization databases. Read about our custom media organization tools here.

Start Planning Your Commercial Photo Digitization Project

By working with digitization experts, you can maintain the quality of every photograph — while limiting the time spent on scanning, naming files, and reviewing output. 

Call us at 1-800-237-4200 to speak with an expert or submit a case online for a free quote.