Tips for Storing Your Negatives

Although the some have abandoned film photograph for digital, many simply now use both. Each type has its advantages. One great advantage of film is longevity. When film is developed you will receive negatives with your prints. These negatives, if properly stored and cared for, can be used for print for years to come.

Negatives are often the best way to get reprints of your photos. While there are digital techniques that can be used to reproduce a ripped or tattered photo, nothing beats the quality of a reprint from the negative.


When you open your newly printed photos, the negatives are usually contained in a small pocket within the same envelope. The packaging will depend on where your film was processed. Many today come in a plastic sleeve so there is no chance of you accidentally touching the negative.

If a finger touches the negative, chances are the negative will be compromised. Oils from your finger will linger on the material and may appear as a smudge or blurry spot on a reprint. Dust and other debris can scratch the negative, leaving a permanent mark on your photo. It’s always in your best interest to leave the negatives in this plastic sleeve provided by your film processor.

If your negatives do not come in a plastic cover, you can purchase covers to hold your negatives. Inquire at any photo shop about negative protection. In most cases, they will have sleeves that come with holes along the side so your negatives can be stored together in a binder. This not only saves space, it keeps everything together for future access.

Long Term Storage

Use a system to organize your negatives. Many people prefer to store them by date so each negative is easily found when needed. Heat, humidity, and light can damage your negatives in the long run, so you want to store them securely and safely.

Find materials for storage that are labeled “acid free” or products that are made for archiving purposes. Store your negatives away in a dark, cool and dry place.


When it comes time to get your negatives out for reprints, remember to use the same care you used when storing them. If you must remove them from the plastic sleeve, remember to handle them with clean, dry hands and to hold them by the edges only.

If for any reason you find dirt, dust or other debris on your negatives, there are things you can do to clean them up. Your photo supply stores should carry these materials. You should use extreme caution when cleaning them however; you don’t want to ruin the negative. If you don’t trust yourself, inquire about having someone clean them for you.

Storing Digital Photos

While digital photos have no negative, these images can be stored for long-term use. All you need is a CD burner on your computer. Simply burn the pictures onto high quality CDs and store in the same manner you would a negative. A good plastic or acid-free cover will protect the CD from scratching and accumulating dust.

If you are developing film, you can ask for a CD copy of your pictures from most photo developers. They won’t cost you too much extra and you will have both your negatives and a CD backup of your favorite pictures.

Final Thoughts

Though some photos may not seem special to you, you may want to save them anyway. Keep them safe for future generations. A roll of film shot on a lazy afternoon in the backyard may never be something you want to reprint, but it may give your descendants a glimpse into your life they might not have otherwise seen. A little time spent now storing your images properly may spread smiles for generations to come.

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