One of my fondest memories is when I was a child, going with my mom to pick up a few packs of printed pictures from the pharmacy, opening the package, and looking at the cool little brown celluloid thingies with miniature pictures on them. Of course, those thingies are called negatives, and I probably ruined them by getting my grubby paws all over them.
Negatives are pretty cool and important. They’re basically original pictures in tiny form--the developed film that you can use to make printed pictures. While they seem small and pointless, they’re actually the master photo, and you can use them to make extra copies of your pictures, enlarge them to make posters, or even get scanned so that you can have digital backups (hello, Legacybox!).
If my parents were to get their old photos digitized, there’s a decent chance there will be 6-year-old-me fingerprints all over them. They’d be so disappointed.
Which brings us to the first storage tip: never handle your negatives with your bare hands! The oils in your fingers can actually damage the negatives, so you should wear some sort of latex gloves when handling them, if possible.
When you’re storing photos, it’s important to keep dust, debris, and 6-year-old-child fingerprints off of them. That means you should get something to put them in. You can buy negative storage pouches from Amazon here. Basically, put clean in, get clean out.
Something to keep in mind about storing your negatives is that you don’t want them to get folded, creased, or torn. The storage sheets will help make sure your negatives are kept nice and crisp and flat. Make sure that once you neatly sheetize your photos, you don’t just throw them into a box full of Legos or something. Keep them flat. Treat them right.
When you’re looking for an actual storage location for your negatives, it’s best to keep them in a place that’s cool, away from sunlight, and without a ton of moisture. Too much light exposure can damage the photo in the negative, just like dust and oils can break down the celluloid. Too much humidity can also cause issues. Unfortunately, I think everyone in the South is out of luck on the last point.
The main thing to keep in mind about storing your negatives is that they’re fragile. They’re pretty important, because they’re the original photo. You can use your negatives to make high-quality copies of pictures that you like. When you let the negative break down, you’re ruining all of the potential copies you could make with it.
Since they’re fragile, we recommend making digital copies of them. At Legacybox, we have sophisticated machines that are designed to treat your slides gently while we scan them and digitize them. You can digitize slides yourself by buying some extra equipment, but it’s time consuming and you risk damaging your photos.
Shouldn’t you just let the pros do it?