Don't let digital technology overshadow your film archive
By William Neill
Sometimes it seems that the world moves too fast. When did all my photographs become an underused reference library? It wasn't that long ago that my 4x5 chromes and 35mm slides, mostly in repro dupe form, were actively being sent out to clients. I've spent hundreds of hours cataloging my images, with captions and keywords and bar coding, to make them easily accessible and ready to submit.
A tremendous change has taken place in the photo stock industry, bringing together the Internet and the digitization of the world's vast resource of images. This change has many advantages, but it also has impacted most professional photographers, sometimes with a negative effect.
The convenience and efficiency of online stock searches and purchases is clear, and photographers are taking advantage of the many online stock sites to sell the usage rights to their images. When I started teaching an online workshop a few years ago, I discovered that some of my students had more of a stock "presence"on the Internet than I did!
In the past, my business hasn't been very dependent on stock agencies, and so the stock industry changes didn't affect me much at first. And when I did sell stock, I was contacted directly from editors and art directors who had seen my work in print. Then recently, when many of my books went out of print, stock researchers who had usually found my work through these books were now searching for images on the web instead of calling me. For those who do contact me for stock licensing, I now submit JPEGs for consideration and often upload larger files to FTP (File Transfer Protocol) sites if an image is selected.
What my ramblings here lead up to is that I've got some scanning to do! I've fallen behind on today's stock trends, and now it's time to catch up. I'm developing my own searchable stock site, so I've been trying to work out the best way to scan the thousands of images sitting in my office untapped.
Currently, I have a few hundred images, mostly 4x5 film, which were scanned on a Tango drum scanner by West Coast Imaging. Besides offering great scans, they're located in my hometown, so no originals have to be shipped to and fro. These were scanned for the purpose of making my fine-art prints, so the highest quality was required. These files are easy to repurpose for a stock website.