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Fun Facts About Negatives

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By Katy Sommerfeld

These days, we don’t see a lot of negatives anymore. Typically, we take pictures on our phones or on digital cameras, and if we need prints of these, we can use a service or simply print them at home to hang them up in frames around the house.

The developing process has gone out the window with digital photography, and with it, some meaning has been lost. There’s something magical about taking film negatives and processing them in a dark room to curate a beautiful photograph.
Photographers did this for decades and decades before digital photography was invented, and since film photography has had such a huge impact on the art form, we think it’s important to highlight all the coolest and most interesting things about negatives!

Negatives and Positives

Negatives are photographic images in which the darkest parts of the image are the lightest and vice versa. This happens because of light-sensitive chemicals in the film. When exposed to light, they darken, producing the reverse of what the subject of the image looks like to the naked eye. Did you know that color negatives work in a similar way? Instead of using only black and white contrasting colors to capture dark and light, color negatives capture the colors opposite to the colors in the subject. 


Beginnings of Negative Photography

Negative photography has been around for centuries. The first evidence of negatives dates back to the medieval period with the Turin Shroud. The Shroud is an imprint of a man that appears on a piece of eight-hundred-year-old burial cloth. There are a few theories as to how this man’s image came to be preserved on the cloth. One theory is that the image is a negative, as the dark parts of the image should be light and vice versa. Isn’t it cool to think that negative photography may have begun hundreds of years ago?


The First Photograph

The first intentionally taken photograph was a negative. The image was captured on a metal plate, using a camera obscura through which light was channeled onto the plate for several days. The image captured was of the view outside Nicephore Niepce’s estate in France. The original negative on the metal plate has survived to this day!


Color Negatives

Color negatives weren’t invented until 1935. Kodachrome was the first-ever color negative brand produced for the public, and it took the world by storm. For the first time in history, your photographs could reflect real life in all it’s colors. 


How it’s Made

Photographic film, which captures negatives, is made of different types of plastic - typically cellulose, polyester, acetate, or nitrocellulose. The rolls of plastic film are coated with light-sensitive chemicals, one example being silver halide salts. 


Cool Perspectives

Some of the most popular photographs of all time were taken as negatives with film! Among these are “Earthrise” by William Anders, the iconic photograph of the Earth taken while Anders was standing on the moon.


Negatives Today

Negative photography has such a rich history. The discovery of negative photography was foundational to modern photography as we know it today. If you’re a photographer, do you still use film when working, and do you process negatives? If so, we think that’s pretty cool. Remember, though - negatives and print photographs will fade and become damaged over time. In order to keep a record of your photo negatives, make sure you get them digitized with Legacybox. We can take your negatives and turn them into beautiful digital copies that will last forever, and can’t be damaged by time, weather, or wear. 

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