Tips for Archiving Negatives and Why We Think You Should Do It


Basically, film archiving is a way for you to store all of your film shots in one neat and organized space. You can choose if you want to go fully digital, fully analogue, or mixed according to your lifestyle, storage capabilities, and needs. Before we check out the different paths, let us walk you through the pros and cons of having a film archive. Stick with us and learn more about this often taken-for-granted part of our journey as film photographers.

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You have a file cabinet of sorts for your frames.

Having a film archive is like having a library of your work—you get to see what kind of photos you've been taking, with what film and equipment, and in what year you've taken them. Of course, you may add more details depending on your preference.

You get to see how you've progressed as a photographer.

Want to see how you fare now against your older self? Check your film archive. You can track the phases in your journey and see why you were so enamored with redscale back in the day. Remember that time you tried MX shots for one whole month? Your film archive does.

You have a safe place to store your memories.

Unless you've uploaded all your shots into the internet, there's no way you can guarantee the safety of your frames, especially if you're looking to save all your negatives. Whether we like it or not, things get lost along the way especially in life. Maybe you were moving out one day and forgot you had all these negatives lying around in a box somewhere or you just forgot to store them somewhere safe before taking out the trash, you never know.

You can get your frames reprinted anywhere.

All you need is a good lab or you can reprint the pictures yourself. You already have the negatives so why not, right?

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It can be time-consuming.

Of course, anything worth doing needs a little effort here and there. The same thing goes with film archiving. Having to scan and organize all your frames can be a daunting task at first but hey, we all have to start somewhere!

It will take a little time to get used to.

Archiving is a film project and like with other things in life, you need some practice to get better at it. So start now and get working so you can improve!

Different Ways to Create a Film Archive

Fully Digital

A fully digital film archive gives you everything you need with just a click of a mouse or a tap on your screen. Since you have everything fully digitized (scanned, saved, and filed), then you basically have everything accessible even when on the go. You can choose to save your archive on a dedicated hard drive, on your computer, or upload everything on the internet for hardware-less archiving. Of course, going fully digital may also mean that you're letting go of all your negatives so this may not be the path for you if you're a little attached to objects or if you want a more tangible approach to archiving.

Fully Analogue

Fully analogue, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the first path—you want everything neatly and orderly compiled in plastic sleeves, folders, and all sorts of filing stuff. You firmly believe in the importance of having physical objects in your archiving journey and you want to make sure that you have the original copy of your work. This is a great path if you prioritize printing using negatives rather than scanned files. One great thing about this is you can always rescan your negatives to get the output you're looking for.


The best of both worlds. This approach to film archiving requires a better understanding of both approaches to become effective. You have the accessibility of a digital archive and the tangibility of a physical one. If ever your digital files become corrupted then you still have your negatives and in case your negatives get lost, you still have a backup copy sitting somewhere in the cloud or a hard drive. It's a great way to create redundancies and make sure your files are protected in any scenario.

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Tips for Archiving Negatives

Believe it or not, there are only a handful of things you should know about archiving negatives and they are pretty simple, too. As we said earlier in this tipster, it will require some effort but once you get used to it, everything will come naturally. You'll be surprised at how fun it can also be once you've set it all up.

Physical Archive for Negatives

  • It's always a good idea to use protective film sleeves to store your negatives. These simple (and affordable) items can help you keep your negatives organized and free from dust, moisture, and rough items that can scuff up the films and ruin the images. If you want to go the DIY route and create your own film sleeves, this community submitted tipster can be a great resource.
  • Keep your films away from harmful chemicals like acids as they can cause damage to your negatives.
  • Pick a storage spot that is as cool and dry as possible. Films last longer when they are stored in a room that is dry and away from direct sunlight. In an ideal world, it would be best to keep them in cold storage but let's face it, not everyone has a dedicated fridge or cold storage room to keep their films and negatives.
  • Don't underestimate the power of labels. Scribble on your boxes and file folders to make sure you give them the right info so they're easy to find when the need arises. Being as detailed as possible isn't a bad idea, too.
  • There are many ways to organize your negatives—by film type, date, location, camera or lens used, and so on. Group your shots using this information and you'll have a better filing system.
  • Use folders or binders to categorize your film shots. One route you can take categorizing your shots by the film type you used. You can use different folders or binders for every film stock you've used so you can easily search them up if you're planning to print them or upload them to different photo archiving sites. This is a great way to keep things organized since you can track the shots you would like to use for different film projects. Don't forget to add details like locations, dates, and other details so you have more information to use later on.
  • Another route that you can take is categorizing your shots by the camera and lens you used. This will let you track your progress with a setup and will let you see how much you've gotten better with a specific camera and lens setup. You can start by grouping all of the shots you've taken with your favorite camera. For example, use a specific folder for your Lomogon or Petzval shots and note the aperture you used with each one. The trick here is to be detailed as possible so you don't miss out on factors that have contributed to your wonderful compositions.
  • Here's another idea for a physical archive that can also serve as a display collection for your photographs—print your shots and use photo boxes, folios, or frames. These items will let you check out your shots quickly since you can see the printed result clearly. Choose your best shots and frame them for display so you can decorate your film photography nook or shelves with your prettiest captures. Like always, it's good to stick labels on the back of your display frames, albums, and photo boxes so you can have a detailed log of your photographs. Writing captions below the prints can also give your frames a more personal and poetic touch. Take this chance to decorate your space with your fondest captures.

Digital Archive for Film Shots

  • Since computers have a search function, it'll be easier to view and group your frames according to your desired field. Be as detailed as possible with your labels. Our tip would be to use a specific keyword when you label your photos on your computer. Start with maybe the name of the film and then add the different details like ISO and aperture: Lomo400 ISO 200 f11. Try out different keywords to find a system that works best for your archiving style. One way to do it is via editing the details of the image file itself. If you're on Windows, right-click on the photo and click PROPERTIES, then go to the DETAILS tab. Scroll down and find the field that you want to fill out. You have options like camera maker, camera model, f-stop, aperture, ISO, and so on. Go crazy with the details.
  • Use hard drives to store a "physical copy" of your files. Upload them to the cloud so you have access to them anywhere online. This way, you have a plan to fall back to if anything happens to your files.
  • Keep your files updated. Having a digital archive can be convenient if you keep things up-to-date or it can be bothersome if you don't.
  • Make sure your hard drive is free from viruses or malware. It's easy to lose your files if you're not careful where you use them.
  • While shooting, it helps if you can take down the settings of your shot right after you shoot it. Use your phone or a notebook to take notes. It's these simple details that we usually miss out on and forget entirely later. These notes can greatly help you when working on your film archive. One way we do it is via note apps on our phones. It's easier to work with what you currently have so it's up to you if you want to jot on your little notebook or use an app for this purpose. Again, don't spare any details!

Scanning Your Negatives

  • Make sure your scanner is free from dirt or dust.
  • Use the highest DPI settings if possible. It's better to lower your scan resolution later than try to increase it.
  • Keep your films securely in place using the holder.
  • Use pro settings, if available, so you can have more control over the scanning process.

How about you? What are your tested and proven film archiving tips? Share them with the community in the comments section below!

written by cheeo on 2022-03-09 #tutorials #film #analogue #digital #scanning #tipster #film-archive #digitaliza #film-scanning #archiving #self-scanning

Mentioned Product

DigitaLIZA 35 mm Scanning Mask

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One Comment

  1. trad69
    trad69 ·

    I cut the films I develop into strips of 6, or ask labs to return uncut and do the same, put in print through pages and give each a year and film/page reference. I scan the best ones, either from the neg or from b &w darkroom prints, which end up in a Lightroom catalogue with keywords, otherwise I have to try and remember when I took things to find them, though sometimes it is good just to look through a binder of negs, I rediscovered one of my favourite images that way, when looking in a more creative frame of mind.

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