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This is a question that is often asked to me when I explain that I’m doing silver photography. Actually, I’m not asked how to keep them, I’m often asked:
What the heck are you doing with all those negatives ?
To that, I simply answer that I keep them, in a binder, they are arranged by type of film: 135 or 120, then classified by date and type of emulsion: slide, color negative and black & white. following the surprise of the uninitiated, they tell me:
Why taking so much time taking care of those while, when you process your films you directly get your scans? The negatives themselves are useless, you can’t do anything with them.
When I hear that, and I’ve heard it dozens of times, I try to keep a calm even if it’s inside I boil like water inside a kettle.
About the importance of keeping your negative
As I try to stay calm, the first thing I explain is that your negative IS your photograph, not the scan. The scan is just a digitalized version, a translation of your negative. The negative is what you load inside of your camera, you choose it for many personal reasons. The latter is the soul of your photograph and the essence of film photography.
Beyond this aspect, keeping your negatives can be very useful. Our society now relies on technology for every aspect of our life. A computer failure? A hard drive that dies? Lost access to your Google Drive / Dropbox? You can say goodbye to your beloved photos. Compared to negatives, modern digital technologies have a much shorter life span and they’re still being built!
Take an old printed photograph, take the negative from the same photograph, scan it. You will realize that the image from the negative is of a much higher quality, despite the age of the negative. Negatives carry much more information than scanners are able to digitize.
If you shoot black & white or slide films (Kodak Ektachrome, Fuji Velvia, etc. ), it is even more interesting to keep your negatives. For black & white, you can directly print your negative onto silver paper and get amazing results without the help of any computer or technology. You create your own piece of art from a to z. Although you can do the same with slides and color negatives, the process is much more technical. (We will talk about that in an other article soon)
A processed slide might be the most beautiful thing in film photography. There’s nothing better than the feeling of getting your slides mounted on a frame, turn them to the sky and look at them for hours.
How to store your negatives and slides
Usually when you get back your films from the lab there are three options:
- The lab rolls back the film inside of the canister.
- You get your negative cut and put inside of envelops.
- The negatives are cut and put in archival sleeves.
In the two first cases the only thing you have to do is to buy archival sleeves (I recommend PrinFile sleeves) and a binder. On the other hand, for the slides, I would recommend to mount them and keep them in a box free from any kind of dust.
The rest is a question of taste. Personally, I note the date and place related to the negative, and the number of the negative (if I shoot several at the same time). I also add the camera used as well as chemistry (for black and white).
So now, please, take care of your negatives. You can’t go to the lab everyday to get your negatives back ? I’m sure you’ll shoot other rolls, just take them back when you come to get other rolls processed !