I have a massive amount of Polaroids and over the years I’ve discovered a few ways for organizing and storing them so I thought I’d share. As the film is no longer common these days there is not a lot products available for storing the film and in fact almost all of my organizers were not intended to be used for Polaroid film. A big distinction I want to mention is when I say Polaroids I am referring to pack film whether it’s Polaroid pack film or the Fujifilm FP-3000B or FP-100C variety (which is still made) and not the other types of Polaroid film. I’ll also be giving tips on how to store your negatives for pack film, if like me you like to keep them instead of throwing them away.
Organize Your Polaroid Film
I use every one of these to store and organize my film and negatives at home and when I am out shooting with my vintage Polaroid cameras. Below I break them down in seperate categories of what they are best for and where to find them.
Practical & On the Go
To be honest this is 90% of what I use for my storage, it’s not the best looking solution but it functions perfectly and for someone who takes a lot of instant photographs it’s very easy to manage and affordable. These are Print File Archival Negative Pages ($10 for 25 pages) which I just put inside a normal 3 ring binder. If you are just storing the film you can put several in each 4×5 pocket because the pack film is actually smaller than the pockets, which also makes for easy removal. If you want use the pages for display you can fit 8 pieces of film on one page using the front and back side. The clear plastic makes it easy to see and no PVC means its great long term storage. I also use these pages, minus the binder when I am outside shooting. I simply bring along as many pages as I need and slip into my bag. The pages fold up easily so you can get it down to the size of just 1 pocket making it easy to bring along. After I’m done taking a photo on my camera I’ll wait for the film to dry and slip it inside one of the pockets. This makes sure my film stays free of dirt, does not touch anything else, and if it isn’t completely dry the worst it will do is stick to the plastic which in my case has never wrecked the film as you can effortlessly peel them apart. Two things to note when using these pages while on the go is that they will collect dirt over time so you will need to replace them after a while and the pages will not prevent the film bending so you want to make sure you are putting these somewhere flat. In my camera bag I put the pages in between the cushion and the outside part of my bag, folded up together, haven’t had a issue with bent photos yet.
The classic way or decorative way for storage is a photo album. You can use modern albums or vintage like I have here in the above shot. Vintage Polaroid photo albums are easy to find online and thrift shopping. I picked up this cute 70s album on Etsy for $10 (examples here) and two plain leather ones for a few dollars locally. They provide affordable storage and very charming at the same time. Keep in mind though that Polaroid film comes in many different sizes, for pack film the perfect album has pockets sized 3 ½ x 4 ¼. Most vintage albums will be this size or large on average so if you don’t mind a bit of extra room there isn’t many that will not work, just avoid square shaped pockets as they are not for pack film and likely too small. You can see in the photo above these vintage albums are great as well for holding smaller vintage photography! Modern albums are made for 4×6 film so technically pack film will fit but I prefer the two above options more. For photography portfolios however I like using Portfolio Nobel albums which come in all different sizes, the smallest being 4×6 or 5×7, I simply use photo corners to keep the Polaroids centered.
When I am out taking photos with my Polaroid I always like to keep the negative side whether I am shooting in black and white or color. So to make sure I can carefully carry back all negatives home I use a simple plastic sheet protector that you can get cheap from any office supplies store, or Dollar store. It can be folded up neatly in any bag before use and doesn’t take up any space at all. Once it has negatives in it what it does is protect my bag and camera equipment from getting any of emulsions and developing goo on them, and only takes up as much room as the negatives. The sheet protector is also long enough to fit the whole back side of the Polaroid including the negative and the paper tab without trimming. This is really important especially if you are shooting and don’t have the time, or the ability to let the negatives dry completely. I normally don’t putting them in completely wet but I have, even with two negatives at once facing away from each other and not had an issue. They will stick to the plastic and stay a little moist but if you must…it’s a great way to get them home. The plastic protector will get dirty with the chemicals after several uses but you can wash it or throw away if it’s too far gone.
Once I am home I like to store the pre-negatives in a plastic container until I have a chance to clean and turn them into proper negatives (only with color pack film – black and white you can scan right away). I picked up this plastic storage container made for 4×6 photography from an art store for a few dollars, it fits the negatives perfectly without me needing to trim the sides or tab. It can sometimes take a few months for me to process them so it’s nice to have a large container to store them in the meantime. You can also use this for storing the film while out shooting but it takes up a larger area, however it’s great for a long vacation when you want to store film in your suitcase. For storing the negatives after processing them, I use the same Print File pages again and store in a binder. I’ve actually wanted to do a tutorial on how to make the back side of pack film into negatives for over a year and never get around to putting all my thoughts together but if you interested and don’t currently do this with yours here one video and another as a guide.
I hope this was helpful! I know when I first started shooting with vintage Polaroid cameras I had no idea how to organize them or store them safely when I was shooting. One time I put my film in-between the pages of my camera manual thinking the film was completely dried and ended up ripping out two pages of the manual as the pages got stuck to the emulsion. Wrecking my vintage manual for the camera and the photo almost entirely, since then I have never trusted pack film to ever be dry no matter how dry it feels. With these organizers I’m really happy with my the safety of my film when I’m shooting and know it’ll get home fine, not to metion how easy it is to find a photo I need in my big binder. If you have any questions about this ask below and please share any tips or suggestions you have!