What to Do With Old Film Negatives?

What to Do With Old Film Negatives?

Finding a box of old film negatives in the attic can be like discovering hidden treasure. These small, transparent images hold the potential to unlock a wealth of forgotten memories and stories from your family’s past. 

But what exactly are film negatives? In the pre-digital photography era, film negatives were the primary format used for capturing images. They are essentially the raw, unprocessed version of a photograph, which when developed, reveal the final image in all its’ vintage glory.

Whether you have shoeboxes filled with these old negatives or just a few envelopes with casual snapshots, you’re probably tired of them occupying precious space in your home! Many people may choose to simply discard these strips of film without thinking twice about the priceless memories they may contain. 

Before you discard them, consider the possibilities for their archival use. Here's what to do with your old photo negatives so you can finally clear out that storage closet while also preserving valuable family photos for future generations to cherish and enjoy.

Convert Film Negatives to Digital Files

Can photo negatives be digitized? Yes! If you’re looking for the best thing to do with your treasure trove of negatives, consider digitizing them. Digitizing photos allows you to easily view and share them without needing a physical print or light source to see what’s on them.

Once you've got digital copies of your old negatives, countless new opportunities become available. You can save these digital pictures to your modern devices and even upload them to a cloud storage system, which makes it easy to share them with friends and family in just a few clicks. That means everyone can check out those memories whenever they feel like it, right from their phone, computer, or tablet. 

If you have the printed photos from your negatives and are trying to decide which is better to scan, opt for the negatives. Scanning the negatives will give you a higher-quality image compared to scanning the printed photos themselves.

Tips for Scanning Film Negatives

When you decide you want to convert negatives to digital, there are 2 ways to get it done: hire a service that specializes in digitizing negatives, photos, and slides, or you can do it yourself. Scanning film negatives yourself can be a time-consuming and delicate process, but with a bit of preparation and patience, you can achieve great results. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Proper handling: Only handle film negatives with clean, dry hands. Hold them at the edges to prevent fingerprints and oils on your hands from damaging the images.
  • Sort and choose: Sort through your collection of negatives and choose the ones that are most important to you to have preserved. This process will make sure you don’t waste time or money scanning those blurry, out-of-focus shots and will make it easier to organize digitally later.
  • Clean your negatives: Dust and dirt on your negatives can lead to spots and blemishes on your scanned images. Use a soft brush or compressed air to gently remove any debris from your negatives before scanning.
  • Choose the right resolution: The resolution you choose will determine the detail and clarity of your scanned images. A higher resolution will result in better image quality, but will also take longer to scan and create larger file sizes. If looking for a dedicated film scanner or flatbed scanner, make sure the scanner specifications allow for at least 2400 - 4000 dpi scans to guarantee quality results.
  • Backup your scans: Once you've scanned your negatives, make sure to backup your digital files. This can be done on an external hard drive, or by using cloud storage services.

Services That Scan Negatives

Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of scanning film negatives yourself? Skip the hassle and let a professional negative scanning service do all the hard work for you. At Nostalgic Media, we're experts in turning your memories into lasting digital treasures with more than 30 years of experience perfecting our craft. 

Our skilled technicians use custom-built scanners that allow us to provide consistently high-quality, detailed scans of both color and black-and-white film negatives, perfect for sharing and viewing on all of your modern devices. Get your memories back in no time and skip the tedious, repetitive task of scanning photos yourself.

Other Ways to Preserve Your Negatives

Having your negatives digitized isn't the only way to preserve them. There are other methods you can use, depending on your specific needs and resources.

Safely store negatives at home

To reduce the chances of damage and deterioration, properly storing and handling your negatives is crucial. It’s best to store negatives in archival-quality film sleeves or binders made specifically to hold film. These sleeves are made from materials that are acid-free and won't degrade over time, protecting your negatives from environmental damage. 

Make sure to store negatives in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. It’s recommended to store negatives in an environment between 35 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit and with low humidity. High heat and humidity can cause your images to warp and become brittle and more prone to breakage, so invest in a dehumidifier if necessary to keep your memories safe!

Print your negatives

If you're dealing with a small number of negatives, you might consider having them professionally printed. This can be a good option if you prefer physical copies of your images, and or don't have the time or desire to have them scanned. Keep in mind that digitizing negatives ensures long-term preservation by safeguarding them from physical deterioration, loss, or damage that can occur with printed copies.

Should You Throw Away Negatives After Digitizing Them?

Ultimately, this decision lies with you and what your specific goals are. On the plus side, keeping negatives offers a physical backup in case the digital copies accidentally get deleted or the data becomes corrupt. They are also the most detailed source for your images. With the ever-evolving advancements in technology, there may be a way in the future to scan your negatives at even higher resolutions.

On the other hand, negatives use up space, require proper storage to prevent deterioration, and are vulnerable to damage or loss because of accidents or environmental factors. Disposing of negatives post-digitization saves space and reduces clutter. If this is the route you choose to go, make sure you are 100% satisfied with their digital scans, and be sure to regularly backup and examine your images to avoid potential data loss.