how to organize negatives
Greetings silver addicts,
I have been shooting b/w for 25 years or so but have never had many printed due to lack of faith in commercial printers. I have recently completed a darkroom and find myself in the position of having thousands of potentially worthy negatives. Where should I start printing? My inclination is to jump in to the latest batch and work backwards, bouncing around to any negative that floats my boat. Any ideas, thoughts? Does it matter?
Also, these negs, although in sleeves and usually next to its contact print in a binder, have no numbering system. No dewey decimal system you know for maybe 300 rolls. How do I catalog years of negs and/or develop a system for the future? Is it worth my time?
I number my negsheets, because I also have a corresponding exposure data sheet. I would start where you are now, and work back. You might find quite a few hidden gems!!!
I use three ring binders, and store a contact sheet and an exposure data sheet with my negs. Sometimes I also store printing data with the Negs.
That is something only you can really answer. Cataloging and doing data entry on that many images can get to be a real drag. As an alternative to cataloging all the images, you could just arrange them in cabinets or binders according to year, or location, or any other criteria that makes sense. Also, you could take the contact prints and put them into binders.
Wassup Dog57! Welcome aboard APUG!!!!!
Do you have your contact sheets in chronilogical order? If so, then how about numbering them from 1 to 300. If frame #27 on contact sheet #185 gets printed, just write 27-185 in pencil on the back of the print before you expose it. This way if you want to re-print an image later you can find it fast, and all the other information (date, location, subject matter, etc) gets written once and can stay with the contact sheet.
As far as how to tackle it? You can expend great amounts of mental energy coming up with the most logical method, then once you start printing and gain confidence in the darkroom your images will probably lead you in a totally unexpected direction...so just dive in!
Don't ask me how I file...it's sad...soooooooooo sad...
I have my negs and slides in numbered sleeves in ring binders, with each neg film filed with a contact sheet. I also have a data base with what is on every picture and saying what page of which binder each film is on. For me, your 300 films is more like 3000 films, but I think I can usually find any neg or slide within 20 seconds. Alternatively the key words on the data base let me find what pictures I have on any particular subject within seconds. It takes a bit of work to maintain, but I have got into the habit of devoting my first working hour per day to it (this is work not hobby for me) and that is usually more than enough. Mine are all archaeological pictures which need things like map refs and "direction taken from" amongst the data, which takes longer. For most people the cataloguing would be much quicker, but it still needs to be done regularly, if only because the more you fall behind, the less you feel like doing it.
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I used to store my negative pages in a 3-ring binder, any old binder that I could find.
What really worked best for me was a rubbermaid or similar document container.
These have ridges in the sides for hanging files. You slide a hanger bar (printfile makes these) through the top of the page and it hangs inside the container.
I'd use hanging folders to organize negatives inside of the container as well.
A packet of sillica gel or two (or three) on the bottom just because i'm paranoid too..
A filing cabinet works great but i've used the buckets when I moved around a lot, it works well (for me)..
As far as organizing and filing, I date, number and write a very brief description on the page. It's crude but works for me.
I too use a database I created in Filemaker Pro. It includes lots of info about the negatives. This is for 35, MF, and 4x5. The Dbase has info like date taken, shooting and developing info, subject type, etc. Also things like what images need printing (sometimes I just do a search for those to decide what to print tomorrow), how many good prints I have (and where they are!)
I did this because I had negatives from 30 - 40 years of shooting, and they were everywhere. I wound up with 6 binders (the kind that Printfile sells that are made for this.) and the great thing about the Dbase is that it no longer matters where the negs are, I find them by book, page and frame number by searching on whatever I can remember about them. It took about 2 years to do this, fitting time into shooting and darkroom work, starting with new stuff and working back. (not a business for me)
If you want to know more about this, hit me with an email and I'll go into more detail. (I am willing to share an empty shell of the Dbase also.)
I store my negatives (in Print File sleeves) along with work prints of any images from that roll in standard file folders in an old metal filing cabinet. I keep my contact sheets in 3 ring binders, separated by year. I use a numbering system of YY-MM-DD-SN, such as 05-09-26-01, with the last number being the serial number of the rolls shot that day. Since I often have a general idea when significant images were made, I can usually get close and work forward or backwards from there. Often I only shoot 1 roll per day which makes this step unnecessary, but staying in the habit of doing the same thing every time keeps things consistent. The roll number is written on file folder and the Print File protector before the contact sheet is made, and therefore appears on the contact sheet, providing the necessary cross reference with the negative file number.
As many have suggested, a good way to catalog negatives is to issue each with a serial number and store the negs. in serial number order. Then you create a database which uses that serial number as the prime key.
For the database, I use a computer program written to help scientists organise their collections of reference papers. This allows me to store quite lengthy descriptions surrounding each neg. and automatically creates from that a keyword index. One can then locate negs. by searching your database for keywords or any number of other criteria.
And as another poster has said, creating that database can be a real drudge. It doesn't matter what serial number you assign to negs. using this system (as long as each is unique) so you can start by deciding that every neg. you create from now on will be cataloged. Then you can start to add negs. from your collection to the catalog - in any order that seems useful to you.
I'd suggest that in the first instance, you only catalog old negs. that attract your interest as you troll through your collection. You may find that there are old negs. that you never feel you want to catalog - I did when I cataloged all my slides.