In 50 million photos, why all the winter?

Photo digitization specialist ScanCafe has shared some statistics from its first 50 million scans. Do its customers come from the high latitudes or something?

ScanCafe, a company that digitizes slides, prints, and negatives , has crossed the threshold of 50 million photos scanned.

That's a lot of photos, though the company likes to point out there are something like 550 billion more, by one estimate, that it views as in danger. "We've got to preserve many more, before they are lost forever," said CEO Sam Allen in a statement.

It's debatable whether digital copies of photos will outlast analog ones, of course. Multiple identical copies of digital images can easily be stored in different locations, protecting against fires, theft, chemical degradation, and other physical problems that have afflicted photos through the ages. But analog photos don't rely on photo formats that may vanish into the oblivion of obsolescent technology, and plenty of people sequester data on disorganized hard drives without backup.

Personally, I'm a fan of the digital approach, opting for JPEG and DNG file formats that I hope have a better shot at longevity, trying to tag photos dutifully with metadata such as names and dates so they can be located with search tools, and backing up my data online as well as on spare hard drives. Decaying DVDs are a problem, to be sure, but the collapsing film-processing business means it's never going to get any easier to make prints off those negatives I have stored in a big box.

As interesting to me as the milestone of just how many photos ScanCafe has scanned by hand are the characteristics of those photos, gauged by a study of 29,000 images from a random selection of 100 different orders.

Some statistics aren't too surprising. Of the shots, 27 percent featured sons and 27 percent featured daughters, while 16 percent featured a mother and 18 percent featured a father. Fair enough.

But seasons were a different matter. Of the orders, 92 percent featured winter shots. Only 79 showed summer, 78 percent spring, and a mere 19 percent fall. (ScanCafe acknowledges some seasons can be tough to distinguish, but snow is a pretty good indicator.)

People also win out over places. Sixty-two percent of photos had multiple people, 19 percent had a single person, and only 19 percent had landscapes.

And it's pretty clear when people get out the camera--at least the film camera. Sixty-five percent of orders had Christmas photos and 58 percent had birthdays; weddings were in 35 percent of orders and Easter in 13 percent.

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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