When a photographer either includes or sells you the negatives from your wedding day, you have now taken on a huge responsibility. Huge responsibility, you ask, how is that? Well, those negatives will not be very safe if they are not kept in an “archival” fashion. What this really means is to keep negatives safe and away from excess moisture, and light to ensure they are safe for a long time to come.
With a renewed interest in family, many people want to keep their family photographs and priceless negatives safe. This will allow future generations the ability to view and print these images.
So what should you do?
Start with gathering all of your negatives and place them in an acid free box. Preferable in archival negative sleeves.
Place a desiccant (you know the little can inside medicine bottles to keep out moisture) inside the box, which prevents mold, mildew and other moisture related problems. This will maintain a safe relative humidity for your negatives.
Label your box to protect and identify the contents.
Use cotton gloves when ever possible to prevent scratching and fingerprints.
Storage and handling of processed negatives. Most of the time negatives seem to be forgotten. They rarely are looked at and get stored in the dark. Negatives require the same attention as any other photographic image.
Keep negatives safe and clean
Try not to touch the negative without cotton gloves on. If you do handle them, handle them only by the edges to avoid fingerprints, dirt and dust. Contaminants on the skin can harm the image.
Control the humidity and temperature. Negatives for long-term storage need special care but for the short term, you can store them at room temperature. Relative humidity should b kept below 60 percent. Using a dehumidifier or silica gel helps control the humidity. Keep the storage containers away from windows, radiators, and war air registers. Try to keep temperature low for long-term storage.
Storage temperatures for true black and white negatives is not as critical as for color negatives, although some new black and white negatives are actually black and white images made from color dyes so check with your photographer as to which type of film it is.
Keep negatives safe and away from light. Light can affect the photographic dyes in color negatives. It is best to place these negatives in metal drawers or file boxes. Metal is superior to wood or plastic because woods and plastics may contain volatile substance that can adversely affect your negatives. Color negatives can be printed many times without noticeable fading.
Choose your storage area carefully. You can avoid future problems from happening by keeping your negatives on a main floor not a hot attic or a damp basement. Try to stay away from areas in which there are great shifts in humidity or temperature. Moisture from condensation can come into contact with photographic materials if they are stored in any of these areas. Ideally, the room where you sore your negatives should be air-conditioned, filtered air to keep dust, dirt and fumes away. Try to use metal file boxes for long-term storage.
If you follow these basic steps your precious wedding negatives will be safe for generations to come.
About JBS Photography: JBS Photography – Jack Saady is a Philadelphia/New Jersey wedding photographer. Jack’s work is simple yet elegant, with a sense of fashion and classic style.