Digital Focus: Digital Zoom's Ugly Little Secret

Q&A: Protecting Your Digital Pictures

I have almost a thousand rolls of slides that I've inherited from my father. Many of the pictures are family shots that the grandchildren would like to see of their parents. Which is better--to save them as a slide show, or just save them in JPEG format?

--Mae Watson, Hamilton, Ontario

When it comes to pictures that have some real value as heirlooms or historical keepsakes, Mae, I wouldn't entrust them to some program's slide show format, which is certain to be both low resolution (probably optimized for the computer screen rather than quality prints) and proprietary. By proprietary, I mean that if you ever stop using whatever program created the slide show for you in the first place, you might lose your ability to see the pictures as well.

Instead, you should use an established format like JPEG (with a high quality/low compression setting) or TIFF. Either of these formats will be around for many, many years to come and should be readable on any computer you're using ten or twenty years from now. And if you save those images at a high resolution, they can be printed and shared with anyone who wants to see small details in the pictures, which would be lost of you used a format that was optimized for the computer screen.

That said, there's nothing wrong with sharing slide shows of these pictures with friends and family--as long as you are careful to save the original pictures as JPEGs or TIFFs as well. Good luck scanning all those pictures!

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