Richard Photo Lab

How to Store Your Film Negatives

It's time for another episode of our video series just for film photographers: Richard Photo Lab's Film Snap! Each episode covers a bit of must-know film wisdom in just two minutes or less…

We'll be done in a snap!

In today's episode, let's take a quick look at the best way to preserve your film negatives long term.

Whether it’s color negatives or black and white film, sheet film or slide film, protecting your irreplaceable images should be on the top of everyone’s "To-Do" list after film processing!


Transcript:

Hey there, and welcome to another edition of Richard Photo Lab’s Film Snap! A bit of must-know film photography wisdom in two minutes or less.

We’ll be done in a snap!

Let’s talk about the best way to store your negatives!

It doesn’t matter whether it’s 35mm film or 120, from film or disposable cameras, it’s really important to keep your developed film in great condition, because they serve as a physical archive of your work.

If anything ever happened to your computer or your hard drive or whatever digital copies you have of your images, you’ll still have the negatives to get scanned again.

So, once your film is developed you’ll want to store your negatives in a paper or plastic sleeve. But not just any old sleeve. You want one that is certified as having passed the Photographic Activity Test (or PAT).

PAT is a test that determines if a material will cause fading, staining, or deterioration to a negative. Glues, inks, acids, and other chemical additives can all cause degradation to your film, so watch out!

Typically, PAT-certified paper sleeves and envelopes are made out of acid and lignin-free paper, while plastic sleeves are made from polypropylene or polyester.

And remember, just because something is labeled as “archival” doesn’t mean it's safe for storing negatives. Unlike when it's paper used for photo printing, there is no standard or legal definition for the term when applied to storing negatives. It’s really just a marketing buzzword.

You’ll want to make sure that whatever enclosure you are storing these sleeves in is also a high-quality material like your PAT-certified sleeve. Elements in low-quality materials can become airborne and work their way into your film.

But you definitely DO want to store your sleeves in some sort of box, storage binder made specifically for film, or other sturdy enclosure to prevent scratching, bending, and similar damage.

Lastly, just like film cameras and your rolls of film, make sure your negatives are stored in a cool, dry location. Heat and moisture are some of the most damaging elements to your negatives.

And that’s what you need to know to keep your film negatives safe and sound for years to come.

Wasn’t that a snap?