Paper Photos and Film Negatives:
Even though most photographers have switched, or are in the process of switching to the digital photography process, there are still a few die-hard film camera users out there. Additionally, many of us still have photos and negatives left over from the days of film that are important to us. My entire wedding photo collection, for example, is film negatives.
The two most important thing to remember when storing and archiving film negatives and paper photos are:
Climate – store your photos and negatives in a cool, dark, and dry place. Humidity is an especially harmful foe, so never store your photos or negatives in a basement or other high-humidity area.
Storage Device – as scrapbookers, we all know this rule, but it is always good to mention it again – use only ACID FREE, archival quality storage containers, albums, sleeves, and other organizational devices. You can order archival photo and negative storage and organization supplies from hundreds of companies online, and also from many local scrapbooking or photography stores.
If your photos and/or negatives are stored in old photo albums, get them out now, and place them in new albums or containers. Many old photo albums (even ones from as recent as ten or so years ago) contain glues and adhesives that are not archival safe. Especially harmful are the old “magnetic” style albums with the clear acetate sheet over the sticky back page. These albums WILL destroy your photos and negatives, so remove them as soon as possible!
If you have the resources, you can also scan in your paper photo collection, and with many modern scanners, your negatives as well! Having a digital backup of your perishable photos and negatives will give you better peace of mind, and leads me to the next section, which covers…
The most important thing you can do for your digital photo collection is BACK IT UP!
There are several different options for making back-ups of your digital photo collection, but here are a few I’ve tried myself:
- CD-R or DVD-R – if you have a CD or DVD burner, you have the perfect resource to make backups of your photos. This is also a great way to organize your digital photos, as you can burn a separate CD for photos from a specific event, or of a specific person. Keep in mind, however, that CDs (unlike what they told us when the technology was invented) are not forever, and must be kept safe as well. CD and DVDs can become scratched, heat warped, and data can be lost, so keep your CD or DVD backups in protective sleeves or cases, and a safe place! I have CD backups of my photos kept in a fire-proof safe located in our home office.
- External Hard Drive or Flash Memory Drive – I have a 160GB external USB hard drive hooked up to my computer that holds nothing but my photos. This drive can be unhooked from my computer in a matter of seconds, and taken with me if needed. Although I have this external drive, I still keep CD backups of my photos in a separate safe location. The only drawback to the external hard drive is price, as they can range from around $80 - $300 US.
Also available now are much smaller flash memory (“thumb”) drives that can hold as much as 10GB of files. These drives hook to your computer via a USB port, and are immediately recognized by most computers with no installation software. These drives have less internal storage space, but come at a much cheaper price, ranging from around $10 - $50 US. The main benefit of these storage devices is their size – most of them are around the size of your thumb – so you can safely store them just about anywhere. Make sure to keep them away from any magnetic source, including stereo speakers, as magnets can erase the data!
- Online Storage – Most folks already use online photo services such as Flickr and Snapfish, but not many people realize that these services also serve as a great source for photo backup! Be sure to check the online photo service you choose to find out if they permanently store the full-resolution versions of your photos. Snapfish is my favorite, and they allow you to order cheap prints of your digital photos, as well as make fun gifts with them, and share them with family and friends.
I hope this article has inspired you to organize and preserve your photos. In just a few easy steps, you can insure that your photos, whether paper, film negative, or digital, will last for generations to come!