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Organizing: Photos and Negatives

We may not always think of them as “scrapbook stuff”, but most of the time photos are the very foundation of our pages. And since I was a serious photographer long before I was a serious scrapper, those foundations take up a large amount of storage space in my scrap area! A while back I decided to tackle the multitude of boxes and come up with a system that worked for me for protecting and also working with my thousands of pictures.

Several concerns had to be addressed in developing my system. Of course, it had to fit into my available storage space. Also, it had to be easily expandable as I take more pictures constantly. It had to be easy to maintain. And lastly, I wanted to protect my negatives, make them easily accessible for reprints and enlargements, and also portable as a collection.

That last criteria, portability as a collection, may seem a bit odd until you realize where I live. Because I live in an area (Florida) that is prone to both hurricanes and wildfires, it is not unusual for homeowners to have to evacuate their homes for safety, unsure of whether the structure will still be there when they return. Seven years ago (before we moved here), virtually this entire neighborhood burned to the ground in a wildfire that was so hot it actually burned the tar on I-95 and jumped the freeway that way. As the fire spread and changed directions, sheriff’s deputies banged on doors, giving families literally minutes to escape their homes ahead of the flames. Anything that couldn’t be grabbed in moments was destroyed. And with the threat of hurricanes in Florida as well, as we saw last year, we may have to evacuate our home not knowing what condition it will be in when we are able to return. Minor roof damage in the wrong place could leave the contents of our home soaking wet even if the home itself is otherwise largely undamaged. In situations such as these it is comforting to know that I can quickly and easily grab all of my negatives and take them with me for safekeeping.

The system that I developed works with just a few components, which are fairly inexpensive and easily obtained. The first element, for the photos themselves, are simple photo boxes. I file photos in them chronologically, except for a separate file for all our Disney trips (we live near the parks and I scrap extensively on that topic) and a file for “Mommy’s Scrapbook Events” pictures. And even those separate boxes are also filed chronologically. When I am done scrapping a page and have good quality prints left over that might be useful on other projects, I file them chronologically in a separate “extra prints” box. The boxes are all labeled on the front of them what time frame or topic they contain (most contain a specific year or years) so I can easily identify the box I need when in search of a photo. I just buy photo boxes I like when I need them.

The negatives are filed in three-ring binders from an office supply store, on a shelf in my scraproom. The binders contain archival negative sheet protectors by PrintFile that will hold an entire 24 exposure role of film in a regular binder page. At about $.20 a sheet (less than a cost of a single print), they are a very affordable way to store negatives. I store my index prints along with the negatives in photo sleeve sheets with three pockets, three index prints and then three negative sheets. I write the dates of the photos on the backs of the index print with a Sakura Identipen and use a Stabilo pencil to write those dates on the top of the negative sheet protector. This way all of my negatives are organized and together, easy to locate quickly and easy to take with me from my home in event of an emergency.

negative-notebook

I have been using a variation on this system on my computer as well for my limited amount of digital photo files. I have a folder for each year with sub-folders for each month. These files are backed up on several computers in our home for safekeeping and one of these is a laptop machine for portability.

It may not be fancy, or 100% archival, but my system is affordable, simple and sufficient for my needs. And that’s about as good as it can get, isn’t it?


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