How to Organize Your Negatives

How to organize your negatives (16)Lomography Wednesday DIY:
Storing Your Negatives

When you start getting into film cameras and lomography one of things you don’t take into account is how much negatives you are going to end up with. They just start to pile up after a while and that’s when you realize you are going to need a way to store them and make sure they are preserved for future printing. This doesn’t matter if you have a few rolls or a filled box – it’s great to have them stored properally. Now that I spend so much of time with film cameras I’ve realized how important this is. I thought I’d create a little tutorial on what I do with my negatives for those of you who have started to get into film photography or even if you want to help a family member sort theirs (keep in mind before the mid-2000s everyone had film cameras).

What You’ll Need:How to organize your negatives (22)

  • Permanent Marker
  • Dust cloth
  • 3 hole punched binder
    *I recommend a binder that has a cloth cover that zips up as it helps with keeping out dust and light.
  • Archival Sheets
  • Stapler/ paperclips, Scissors, Clothespins

Information about archival sheets:

You can get many different kinds of archival sheets for all types of film. I use 120 and 35 film so I have archival sheets for both. Most sheets are a standard sizes and will fit in a 3 holed binder, the most difference you’ll find is some have top loading or areas to add notes. So have a look around until you find what you want. A great thing is that it’s easy to find packages for the right amount for what you need, whether it’s 20 sheets or 100. (I buy my sheets here, my exact sheets 120 and 35). I also started making negatives with my Fuji instant film and the archival sheets for medium format cameras works great for those negatives or even just Polaroid photos you want to protect.


  1. Get a flat service to work on like a desk, make sure to clean it right before you want to start and that it’s comlpetely dry.
  2. Assemble the negatives from 1 roll of film and have your archival sheets, dust cloth and optional tools on hand.
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  3. Wash your hands as well and make sure they are dry to help eliminate grease or dirt from your hands getting on the print.
    *you can use gloves if you’d like
    Now depending on what type of film you have the next step will be different. If you get your film developed at a store they will usually actomatically cut your film for you, however at some stores they will ask if you want it cut or uncut and of course if you develop it yourself you will need to cut it. For precut film skip step 4.
  4. I use clothespins to hang my uncut film from my desk, once it’s hanged if there is a protective sheet I will remove it. I then judge where I should make my cut making sure they are less then 20 cm in length.
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    *for cutting my film I will do it 1 piece at a time as the hanging film is less likely to get dust and dirt on it.
  5. Doing it 1 strip at a time, wipe with dust free cloth to remove any possible dirt or dust on it and insert into achival sheet
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    *handle the film as little as possible and only touch the edges as fingerprints easily get on the film. You can use the dust free cloth as well to hold the film when inserting it into the sheet. 
  6. Continue this until you’ve completed the set of negatives.
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  7. After I finished the full set, using the marker I will note down the month and year the film is from and a brief title of what camera I used and sometimes what is in the photos.
    Example: Vancouver – Holga – June 2013.
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    *if you had to use two archival sheets, I make mine as 1 out of 2 on the corner
    *if you do not know what is on the film, the easiest way to find out is to hold sheet up to a window or a light source.

    You can attach the contact sheet to the first page using a stapler or a paper clip. Most stores will give you a contact sheet but for home developing you can print off your own contact sheet using Photoshop.
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  8. This is only for film that was uncut: if you’ve had the uncut film for awhile or if it didn’t dry straight you may need to then take the archival sheet and lay it underneath some heavy books over night to make sure it’s flat.
  9. Continue until you’ve got all your negatives into sheets and then put into the binder. You can organize them in a way that makes sense and works for you. I do my chronological and separate my 120 film from 35.
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    *You can use binder dividers to create sections as well like year, camera, film type, ecetera to make it easier to find what negatives you want.
  10. Now that your negatives are organized in the binder you want to keep them in area of your house that has moderate to cold tempature and moderate humidity (low and high humidity is bad for the film), and at little possible exposure to light and air pollution.
    *if you want to find out more about the most ideal situation for storing your film and things in your house that will effect negatives this website is an amazing source!

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