Production and Services

U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Production and Services

Overview: Then & Now

Thirty years ago, the photographic laboratory which is now known as the Production Services Branch (PSB) employed over 35 technicians. The PSB team produced film copy and photographic paper products from various forms of original source materials such as black and white (B&W) negative and positives as well as a variety of color materials to support farm programs. These imagery collections were used to produce 10”x10” contact prints and a number of photographic enlargements ranging in size from 12”x12” to as large as 38”x38”. Services included film duplicating and rectified printing, which corrects image distortion captured during acquisition. PSB was additionally responsible for photographic chemical quality control, silver recovery, and equipment maintenance and repair. Today, PSB provides film digitization services and continues, on a lesser scale, to produce hard copy prints from both analog and digital photography.

Aerial photographic scans are acquired from our historic film library dating back to 1954 using photogrammetric film scanners which offer geometric precision. Modern practice is typically based on scanning positive or negative roll film ranging from black and white, natural color, and color infrared. Production Services currently operates ten photogrammetric film scanners, with an additional three scanners operational by the end of May 2016, in support of the historical film archive scanning project as well as filling customer orders. UNIX and Windows Operating Systems are used simultaneously to process scanner created images, then transfer and store the image files. Customer imagery orders are subsequently transferred to the appropriate media (e.g. CD, DVD, and portable hard drive) for shipment.


Scanning of the historical film library is necessary to ensure image preservation, the safekeeping of historical imagery, and accessibility to USDA’s collection for ongoing generations of aerial imagery users. Standard scan resolution is currently 12.5 microns (2136 dpi) and saved as a standard tagged image file (.tif) format. APFO is home to more than 70,000 rolls of film. Approximately 6 million black and white and 4 million color images are to be scanned. File sizes average 350 megabytes for a black and white image and 1 gigabyte for a color image. The entire film library is estimated to be somewhere around 6.5 petabytes after it is digitized.


Custom digital aerial photographs are made using traditional RA4 technology through the use of Colex and Noritsu large format print processors. The print process begins by retrieving the image from our local area network and opening it in Adobe Photoshop. Customization of the image is then accomplished to work order specifications such as resizing, scaling, rotation, and isolation detailing for image orientation and enhancement. Upon request, a customized template or border with imagery description is also created during this step. When the image is ready to be printed, the file is sent to the print processor. The processor receives the image data checking for size, color and resolution then develops the print. Once all parameters of the process are met, the aerial photograph is sent to the customer.