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How to Archive Your Film Negatives

When shooting analogue, you will face the problem of having developed negatives lying around everywhere and piling up. You can throw them away, or put them somewhere in a dark corner and forget about them, but what if you want to scan them again or need them for any other reason? I do know I am pretty chaotic, but for my negatives I needed a method to keep it organized. So, let me show you how I archive my film negatives after the jump!

What you will need:

  • 17-rings binder (in the Netherlands I bought it at HEMA, for 2,95 euro’s)
  • Clear plastic folders (17 rings – same as the binder)
  • Sewing machine
  • Scissors
  • marker

The advantage of this size binder is that its small (20 × 24 cm) and exactly four rows of 35mm film negatives fit next to each other (and two rows of 120mm film).

1. Stitch a straight line in the plastic folder. This line is around 3.7 cm from the edge, and the next one is again 3.7 cm from the previous line. This is how you can create four rows (often there is a distance indication on a sewing machine) and your 35mm film will fit in perfectly. For 120 mm you can just stitch a line in the middle of the folder.

2. Next step is cutting your negatives. They probably need some recutting and I develop them without cutting (because of the different sizes on for instance my Diana Mini film) so I always cut them myself.

This tipster is also usable for your LomoKino film; just cut very secure and make sure you keep the negatives in the order of the movie, so you can easily find the right negatives back when needed.

3. Write the data on the clear plastic folders. Which camera, film, time and location. When you create a clear system for this you can easily find back your film when you need to re-scan or develop a certain photo.

4. Put the folders in your binder. Create a certain order (for instance one binder for each camera, or for each year – whatever you like. I have them on chronological order).

And there it is! A system for archiving your negatives in a professional and neat way. In the beginning it takes some time and effort, because you probably have a lot of them lying around, but if you keep it up to date it will definitely be rewarding. Need to find a certain photo back? Just search for the right folder, which is easily found if you create a good data-system, and the advantage of the clear folders is that you don’t even have to take them out (no fingerprints!!!) to see if it’s the one you’re looking for.

Good luck and enjoy!

written by merelgroebbe and translated by merelgroebbe


  1. alex34


    This is brilliant.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  2. plasticpopsicle


    Very smart and creative! Must try this!

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  3. caia1

    Not bad, but to keep em good for a couple of decades you will need 'breathing' sleeves to store them in. More like this: http://www.macodirect.de/images/GNHP8P_2-pu.jpg
    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  4. joaomiguelsantoscunha

    @caia1 what you you mean by breathing sleeves? didn't understand

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  5. begutierrez


    sewing machine! you're a genius!! man, my negatives are stacking up like crazy.

    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  6. asharnanae


    Great tipster! For archival storage I personally buy glass paper/translucent paper negative sheets, I have neg's from my school days, around 15 years ago, still safe and sound in these. The plastic ones can stick after awhile, but the clear plastic is great for contact sheet printing though. And I have to say, the tipster method is much cheeper, and I like the crafty element. You could alter the tipster by using something like baking paper or another semi-translucent paper to make the neg holders out off, if you were really hot on archiving.

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  7. neanderthalis


    Very inventive. :)

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  8. merelgroebbe


    Must say; didn't think about the sticky part. But I figure if you put two layers of for instance baking paper or another non-sticky material in the sheets before you stitch them you could use the same method. It will be harder to see what is on the negatives though...

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  9. angelhaken


    nice idea :) but i also would not recomend this for longer storage as there are plasticizer and acid in the plastic sleeves. but i like that u can store longer negatives .. but 100 pcs 35mm glassine negative sleeves cost about 10€. But still its a really nice idea :)

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  10. superkulisap


    I would love to see your face, don't hide from the negatives ;p

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  11. superkulisap


    Nice tipster by the way, keep them coming.

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  12. fcasadei

    like this tipster

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  13. mlwillingham

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

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  14. mlwillingham

    Also I believe you can get acid-free archival plastic sleeves, but I don't know about for that specific binder type.

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  15. mariacordell


    Very creative. There are lots of commercially available options, however, and they're not expensive. Plus, they're made for this purpose. Just search for "negative sleeves" and you should find all kinds of available options, for many film sizes. Here's what comes up at B&H, for example, where I often shop: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=negative+sleeves&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma
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  16. atsilac


    amazing and very creative thank you!
    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  17. ruyatuna


    this is amazing i have film negatives everywhere definetely trying this!

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  18. marissa


    I agree with @mariacordell. Why go through all the trouble if you can just buy them?

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  19. merelgroebbe


    It is very convenient; but I couldn't find them anywhere so decided to do it myself. plus I really like the fact it's a small folder, the pre-made ones seem very big (a4 size)

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  20. marissa


    I bought them at 'Foto van der Graaf' in Rotterdam. They had small ones too! But compliments for you creativity ;)

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  21. marissa



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  22. chichou007


    Good idea!

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  23. poppyprongs


    never thought of that before, although this is very trivial. Nice tipster!

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  24. icuresick


    over 2 years ago · report as spam
  25. boobert


    Nice tipster! and I think @superkulisap might just start a @merelgroebbe Fans Club. @icuresick @grazie @b0rn2b1ush @renenob

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  26. grazie


    hahahaha @superkulisap

    nice tipster by the way

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  27. renenob


    malapit ng kumanta ng Bruno Mars si @superkulisap. @icuresick @grazie @b0rn2b1ush @renenob @boobert

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The original version of this article is written in: Nederlands. It is also available in: Spanish & Deutsch.