How to organize 150 rolls of negatives for scanning?
January 13, 2021 11:30 AM   Subscribe

I have a ton of negatives from the pre-digital era that I'm sending off to be scanned professionally. How do you recommend I organize them?

I have 150 rolls worth (kids, ask your parents) of those little folios you used to get from photo centers containing 36 double prints and the negatives. They are physically in good shape, but I can't send them as-is because of course the service will scan the (double) prints and that's stupid. So I need to separate out the negatives. The service will use an identifying title on the negatives as the album name so I can keep these straight. Unfortunately, the negatives don't have the date on them (or at least many of them don't). So should I repackage the negatives in ordinary paper envelopes with the date written on them? Ziploc bags? Is it worth getting those archival pages for negative strips? The service (ScanCafe, if it matters) will take the negatives out of the sheets and put them back in, so it wouldn't be completely wasted effort. However I doubt I will ever look at the negatives again after they are digitized. I haven't looked at the prints or the negatives in 15 years. These snapshots have only family interest. If anyone has done this and has advice, it would be really appreciated.
posted by wnissen to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always used the archival sheets when sending negatives out for scanning. I know that they cost a bit of money, but they protect the negatives from being scratched. I think it's worth the investment. By the way, I also use ScanCafé, and they do a great job (though it sometimes takes some time to get the scans back from them).
posted by JD Sockinger at 11:45 AM on January 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

Definitely pages like you've linked. Also, pick up two or three archival binders such as these as well to store them in long term for someone else in your family to stumble across a few decades in the future to maybe do something with.
posted by kpraslowicz at 12:22 PM on January 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree that archival pages are excellent for neg storage.
However, for family pics, you'll be wasting precious time, money, shipping costs, resources, etc on archival pages that you've linked.

In fact, and this is kind of minor, but the loading of those strips into the sheets can actually scratch the film if there is any dust, and can introduce fingerprints if not very careful (gloves).

My suggestion is to simply use 35mm print file neg envelopes, which will provide 'good enough' protection for multiple strips.

(I've digitized thousands upon thousands of negatives in my career).
posted by artdrectr at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

The envelopes are good if you know what's in them. Me, I have a box full of everything and matching negatives to prints is a chore in itself. I took the opportunity to put them in the archival pages so that I can still use them for searching. If I ever am able to completely catalog everything, then I'll feel comfortable packing things away in opaque containers.

I also do not view these pictures (much less negatives) often at all, but it'll be important to have the print-negative correlations sorted out if I ever want to make prints of anything. It's probably a pretty low return on a lot of this effort, but family is family and there's a good chance a lot of this will get passed on and I certainly don't want it to be in the form of the tabloid-sized leather and wood albums with 100lb black paper the grandparents left us with.
posted by rhizome at 3:47 PM on January 13, 2021

I just scanned a bunch of stuff in ScanCafe. I didn't quite have your problem of negatives, but I did have a lot of unindentified images and some duplicates.

The big savior here was importing it all in to Google Photos. It takes awhile, but Google Photos can identify faces in all the images. It should also be able to detect duplicates, although I'm not sure it will automatically pair a print with a negative. But the AI image recognition saved me a whole lot of hand classification.
posted by Nelson at 6:48 PM on January 13, 2021

Archival pages in a binder would be the "right" way to do this... but paper envelopes would be the "good enough" solution if you don't want to spend the time putting each strip of negatives into a sleeve.

I have negatives that have been stored for decades in regular #10 office envelopes and they are fine. (I'm slowly moving them to Print File sleeves, but not in any hurry or anything.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:05 PM on January 14, 2021

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