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Epson FastFoto FF-680W Photo & Document Scanner Review

Yesterday, I told you why I think it’s a good idea to scan your old photos. Today, I’m going to show you a machine that will help you get that project done, with my review of the Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo and document scanner.

[Disclosure: The Epson FastFoto FF-680W machine featured in this review was loaned to me by Epson for a brief period for review purposes. This article contains Amazon affiliate links.]

Epson advertises that this new addition to their scanner line-up will scan photos as quickly as one per second at 300dpi. But is the Epson FastFoto FF-680W user friendly? Let’s find out!

Epson Fast Foto FF-680W review

The last thing most of us need in our offices is another huge gadget. Considering everything the Epson FastFoto FF-680W can do, it is a surprisingly small package when it is all stowed away between uses. It’s just 11.7″ x 6.7″ x 6.9″ in size.

Epson Fast Foto FF-680W review

To use the Epson FastFoto FF-680W, you fold open the top flap to create the tray for loading your photos or documents on the top of the machine. Then you pull out the tray on the front of the bottom of the machine to catch them after they are scanned.

One very pleasant surprise came right away after I took this scanner out of the box. My previous experience with setting up new WiFi peripheral devices has been similar to a root canal in pain level. But the Epson FastFoto FF-680W was so easy to set up on my WiFi network that it was done in two minutes! It was so fast that I was actually convinced I must have missed a step or something! Epson Fast Foto FF-680W review

The Epson FastFoto FF-680W functions on your network similar to a printer. You communicate with it via your computer’s software and tell it what to do. The resulting files it creates are stored back on your computer.

To scan photos, they are loaded facing forward into the machine. Epson recommends not loading more than 36 at a time. You can scan multiple sizes at once as long as they are loaded into the machine with the largest size on the bottom of the pile, progressing to the smallest on top. Photos are scanned from the bottom of the pile to the top, so if the order your photos are scanned (and file numbered) is important to you, you’ll want to spend time reversing their order before loading them.

Epson FastFoto FF-680W Review

Two different pieces of software are used to run the Epson FastFoto FF-680W depending on whether you are scanning photos or documents.

For scanning photos, the software to use is Epson FastFoto.(The machine can also scan directly into Adobe Photoshop. But in our testing the quality was better using the Epson software, presumably because the proprietary Epson software knows better how to interpret the scanner data.) The interface is clean and quite simple to use. There are global settings that you can set for all of your scanning when you start. These include your file resolution, file format (jpeg or tiff), and an option to scan both sides of items.

Epson FastFoto Software

Then, for each batch (of up to 36 photos or other items) that you want to scan with Epson FastFoto, you have the option to select how you want them to be named when they are saved. You can select the year (including a “1980s” style option for each decade if you aren’t sure the exact year). There’s also an option for the month or season, and an area you can add text to describe the event. I do wish they’d add a day of the month number to these options.  All of this data will be used to create the file name.

You also have the option to create a new subfolder for this batch of pictures you are scanning, which will be named the same as the filename, but without an image number on it. I strongly suggest you select this option if you are doing large amounts of scanning. Otherwise you will end up with thousands of images all dumped into one folder!

Epson FastFoto Software

The Epson FastFoto software does not actually save your scans to file until you hit that you are done. After you finish your batch of 36 images, it will offer you to keep scanning or be done. I suggest saving after every batch. In my experience (at least on my Mac Mini) the software became unstable sometimes when I scanned larger batches and would crash. Then I had to rescan everything since the last save. Although, I did scan 600 photos in one batch successfully!

When you do tell the software to save your items, they will appear as previews in the software’s dashboard. You can navigate to view previous folders, upload them to cloud services (Google Drive or Dropbox) or hit the button in the upper left to scan more items. Epson FastFoto Software

Remember how I mentioned that you can tell the software to scan the front and back of your items? The software will only scan the reverse side if it detects that it isn’t blank. (You can set a slider to set how sensitive the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is at detecting markings on the back of items.)  If the scanner does detect something on the reverse of the photo, it will save a second file for that image. The file name will be the same except that it will end in “b”. This is a great feature for keeping track of names and dates written on photos!

Epson FastFoto FF-680W Review

Epson Fast Foto FF-680W review

While photos can be loaded directly into the machine, items that are odd shaped or torn or fragile can be loaded into a clear carrier. This carrier consists of two clear sheets that items are placed between, before they are put into the machine.

Epson Fast Foto FF-680W review

The clear carrier sheet was perfect for scanning these little memo book pages that I used as a travel journal for a trip to Paris when I was 11 years old. Below is the resulting scan. A few of the pages are a bit clipped – if I wanted to avoid that I could have run the pages through one at a time instead of all at once.

The clear carrier is also perfect for scanning children’s artwork without damaging it or leaving paint and crayon residue on the scanner.

The clear carrier can also be used to protect delicate antique paper items to scan them, like old pictures or family genealogy documents.

Once all of these items are scanned, not only are they able to be preserved in a cloud back-up, but they can also be used in paper or digital scrapbooking, and in other digital ways.

In addition to photos, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is also a powerful (and fast) document scanner. Documents are scanned by placing them facedown on the scanner.

Epson FastFoto FF-680W review

To scan documents, the software to use with the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is called Epson ScanSmart. Like the photo scanning software, the interface is clean and simple. However, the workflow is somewhat reversed from the photo software. When scanning documents, you first scan, and then tell the software what you want it to do with the document. Your options include saving locally, saving to various cloud services, printing, or sending to software like email, Word, or Excel.

Epson ScanSmart software

The final step to scanning documents with the Epson FastFoto FF-680W is to name the file and select the file type you want to save.

Epson ScanSmart software

Once your documents are scanned, the Epson ScanSmart software can use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to make your documents searchable.

Whether you are scanning photos or documents, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W scanner is lightning fast. It really does deliver on one scan per second. The quality of the scans is strong, although results vary of course depending on the quality and size of the original (as with all scanners).

The sheer versatility of this machine may be its biggest strength. The list of things you can scan is endless:

  • photos
  • Polaroids
  • travel memorabilia
  • receipts
  • tax records
  • legal documents (contracts, wills, etc)
  • medical records
  • school records
  • business records
  • genealogy documents
  • collections (postcards, stamps, etc)
  • business cards
  • planner pages

You can get more information on the Epson FastFoto FF-680W photo and document scanner on the Epson website, or buy one today on Amazon.com.

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5 Reasons Why You Should Consider Scanning Your Old Film Photos

Earlier in the week we talked about organizing all of those old print photos from before the digital era.  Now that they are organized, I’m going to tell you 5 reasons why you should consider scanning your old film photos.

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

What do I mean by scanning your old photos? You might be surprised to know I mean literally putting your prints in a scanner and scanning them into a digital file. Here’s why I think you should consider it  – and why it’s been on my personal photo organization project wish list for a long time:

Reason #1: Negatives are useless

Remember how earlier in this series we talked about organizing negatives? The reality is that negatives are obsolete. It is nearly impossible these days to find a photo place that will make reprints from negatives. Unless you are lucky enough to have one of the rare photos lab nearby that will print from them, they are mostly useless.

So why keep them at all? I keep my negatives in the hope that technology, via scanning and other means, will make them really useful again at a future point. They are also a backstop against losing my last copy of a precious photo. It would be some work, but I could get a print if it was really important. But for everyday usage of photos for things like scrapbooking or family history, negatives are really no longer useful.

Reason #2: To Print Copies

Given the first point (that negatives are virtually impossible to print these days) it naturally follows that scanning photos to digital files makes it much easier to print copies of your favorite old pictures. Whether it’s sharing with your family, or for decorating your home…once that photo is available to you in digital form, you can print as many as you would like very easily.

Reason #3: Sharing in a digital age

Most of use love to share memories of our lives with our friends on places like Facebook and Instagram. Anniversaries mean old dating and wedding pictures. Our kids having events like graduations and weddings gives us the urge to show the world that to us it was just yesterday they were an adorable baby. And many of us have lost loved ones we want to share memories of as well. All of this is much easier to do when your photo archive is available in digital form. 

Reason #4: To enhance them

Those decades-old prints from your childhood or your kids’ childhoods? You probably won’t have to look too hard to see that they are showing their age. Color shift and fading especially are big symptoms of deterioration in old photos.

Scanning old photos means that you can create a copy of the photo that will no longer deteriorate. It also means that you can use software (like the Adobe Lightroom that I talked about in my previous article) to enhance and restore the image back to its original look.

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Windsor Castle, Spring 1983

Reason #5: Disaster protection

One of the big benefits of digital photography is that it allows you to back up your photos in multiple locations. I have my photos on my computer as well as backed up to a cloud back-up service called Backblaze that backs up everything on my computer. (To be really safe, I should also have a third local back-up.) If something happens to my home, my digital photos wouldn’t be lost, because they would still be safe in Backblaze in a server farm somewhere.

But paper photos are another story. Except for the rare photos that someone else might have a copy of, all our photos are in one place. If my home was destroyed by fire or another disaster, all of my photo prints – and their negatives – would be gone. There’s no back-up for that.

But if the photo prints are scanned, then I can store those digital files with a back-up in the cloud just like all my digital photos. And they will be much safer from becoming a devastating loss to my family.

(If you click here to subscribe to Backblaze, we both get a month of service free!)

If all of the above has you thinking that maybe you would like to scan your photos, but you have no idea how….stay tuned for my next article!

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Why I Use Adobe Lightroom for Organizing Digital Photos

Since I went fully digital for my photography in 2005, I’ve accumulated a staggering library of almost 70,000 digital images! (Yes, I should take my own advice from the previous article about organizing photos and do some purging.) Obviously, keeping track of that amount of images is a challenging task. But with the help of Adobe Lightroom, it is surprisingly easy to take on organizing digital photos – and I get a powerful editing tool as a bonus!

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Adobe affiliate program. Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

If you aren’t a super tech-oriented person, you might hear the name Adobe and think that Lightroom is much more of a tool than you need or can manage. But I’m here to tell you that if you are, like me, a photography enthusiast and have some basic tech skills, Lightroom can change your photographic life!

(You probably also heard Adobe and thought “expensive” – but Adobe Lightroom is available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography subscription for only $9.99/month!)

There are two versions of Adobe Lightroom – Adobe Lightroom CC and Adobe Lightroom Classic. With CC, you use Adobe’s cloud storage and with Classic you store your photos locally on your own hard drive. I use Classic because I prefer using local storage, but both versions are included with the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan I use.

I started using Adobe Lightroom myself over four years ago. Here’s a look at just a few of the reasons why it has become so essential to my photo workflow:

Easily Organize Digital Photos by Date or Event

The killer app of Adobe Lightroom is its amazing organizational power. When I import my photos I have the ability to select how I want them organized, and how I want my folders named. Some people (such as wedding photographers) choose to name folders by event. I have chosen to use a straight date format. I have year folders and then inside them folders for each month, and then inside the months I have folders for the days I took photos. When I click on one of those folders, it opens up a display in the center of the photos that are in it.

Adobe Lightroom dashboard

Like I mentioned, I have almost 70,000 photos in my Lightroom library. But every single one of them is locatable due to my date organization. My library also has the ability to prioritize my photos, with star ratings and flags that can help me sort photos by their quality. And as I sort photos from an event, I can discard and delete rejected photos from my hard drive with just two clicks.

Find Anything with Tagging

Another tool makes the organization in Adobe Lightroom so powerful: tagging. When you are in the Library tab of Lightroom, the panel on the right displays the keywording box. In that box (similar to hashtagging on social media) you can put any words that you’d like to label an image with. These labels can be applied to large groups of photos at once if you’d like for speed in processing your images.

In the example above, I’ve applied the tags Europe, France, Paris, and Sainte Chapelle to the highlighted photo. I could also have applied tags such as church, or stained glass, or anything else that I think I might want to search for later.

Once the tags are applied, I can conduct searches for them by clicking on the “text” menu option up above the photo panel. Searching for a term will bring up all photos in my catalog with that term applied. (To keep my keywords consistent, Lightroom makes helpful suggestions and will autofill for me when I start typing a word it already knows.)

This is a very powerful tool that lets you label your photos as broadly or as narrowly as you like. Being a data nerd, I like to make my tags hyper specific. I even have my museum painting photos tagged with the painter’s name!

Make Easy Changes to Meta Data

You go on vacation to a different time zone and take your iPhone and your SLR along. Your iPhone automatically changes to the local time zone, but your SLR doesn’t – and you forget to change it. So when you import your photos all together into the library and arrange them by time, they are out of order due to the time snafu. (This is just a hypothetical. I absolutely haven’t had to do this after every one of my recent trips.)

Like so many other things, Lightroom has a magic “fix it” button for human time errors too. In the meta data menu, there is an option to “edit capture time”. (This process can be done for large groups of photos all at once by highlighting them.) One of the options is “time zone fix”. It will let you add or subtract a certain amount of hours to each image’s capture time to correct it. You can also use this feature to adjust by minutes, to get devices whose clocks were set a few minutes off from each other into sync.

Edit meta data is also great for something else – attaching actual dates to old photos that have been scanned. So, for instance, I added some photos that I took in 1983 to my library as scans. Of course, the files said 2018 so that is how Lightroom filed them. But with the “edit meta data” function, I was able to adjust the capture time to the 1983 date, and then move them to the proper year folder in Lightroom. (Decades from now, this is really going to confuse someone looking at my files!)

Create with Non-Destructive Editing

All of the things I am about to list that I can do to my photos in Lightroom? They are non-destructive. This means that the original image file isn’t changed, but rather, Lightroom saves a separate catalog of my changes I make to a photo. Then if I want to use my edited photo, I can export it in whatever size and format I need.

Another feature that goes along with the non-destructive nature of edits to photos in Lightroom is that any edit can be changed at any time. This means that if I make a change, then do two or three other things, and then decide I don’t like the first edit? I can go back and change the first edit without changing anything I did after it!

Fix Perspective with a Click

Because of perspective, the camera warps architecture lines when we take pictures. See how those buildings seem to be leaning into the street in the picture below? It can make you feel a little seasick to look at!

Lightroom transform before

In Adobe Lightroom, it’s easy to fix, though. Near the bottom of the editing menu of the right side of the screen (just scroll down until it pops up) is a menu called “transform”. All I needed to do to fix this wonky photo is click the “auto” button that the red arrow is pointing to.

Lightroom transform button

And here’s the result! Now my buildings are nice and straight, and it no longer feels like they are trying to close in on the street. All of that with one single click!

Lightroom transform after

You can also use that same menu (just click the button that says “vertical”) to level the horizon of an off-kilter photo with a single click, among other things.

Rescuing Photos with Dehaze

Often, on a sunny day, you’ll get burned out skies or just a hazy look to your photos. Colors look washed out, skies fade out. It can almost look like you are shooting through tissue or something.

Lightroom Dehaze before

Adobe Lightroom has a one click fix for that hazy look, and it’s called (appropriately) dehaze. It’s located in the main menu right at the top of that right editing panel.

Lightroom Dehaze

If you slide that slider about halfway to the right, you get this result below! The sky is blue instead of washed out. The colors of the tree and bridge are now crisper. The clouds have actual form instead of being muddy blobs.

Lightroom Dehaze after

Dehaze is one of the most magic tricks in Lightroom. It’s an easy way to rescue a “blah” photo with one click!

Create Two Versions

There are times you might want to create two different versions of a photo you’ve taken. For instance, you might want to have two different shapes (like one cropped square for instagram and a rectangle for scrapbooking). Or maybe you want to make both black & white and color versions of a photo like I did with the highlighted images below.

Virtual Copies in Adobe Lightroom

Creating two versions of an image in Adobe Lightroom is simple, and it doesn’t require taking up space on your hard drive with two duplicate files! Remember how I said that Lightroom saves its changes to a separate Lightroom catalog instead of to the original image?

Create Virtual Copy in Lightroom

With just one click [“Create virtual copy” on the Photo menu] you can create another Lightroom catalog copy of your photo to work on. This feature can be used to easily create as many different versions of a photo as you want! So you can create that black & white, that Facebook header, that instagram photo, that 5×7 and 4×6…and keep them all saved!

Easy Resizing

There’s two different ways that Adobe Lightroom makes resizing easy. First, through the virtual copy function, you can easily create many different crops of an image. And in the crop tool, you can set an exact size that you want the image to be when finished. So you can put in (and save for future use if you want) the dimensions for things like your Facebook cover, or a Pinterest pin, and crop exactly to that.

A second way that Adobe Lightroom makes it easy to resize images is during export. When you are done editing an image and want to use (for instance in a blog entry), you must click export. This brings up a window where you can choose everything from how the file is named to the size. So it is easy to create a square image and then save it as one size for Instagram and another size for a blog thumbnail or other use.

Think Lightroom might be the tool you need? You can try Adobe Lightroom for free for 7 days to find out!

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How To Store & Organize Your Photo Prints

Welcome back to Scrapbook Update’s Photo Organizing Series! Today, we’re going to show you how to take a simple and orderly approach to organizing and preserving your photos.

How To Organize Your Photos

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program. Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

Let’s get started!

Step #1: Gather All Of Your Photos

The first step is pretty straightforward. To organize your photos, you need to locate all of them and gather them all together in one place.

5 Reason to Organize Your Photos

Think you have done a pretty good job at this task already? Take a hard look around your house to be sure. As a long-time photography enthusiast and scrapbooker, I was pretty proud of how organized my photos were in about 20 cardboard photo boxes. And then I started digging them out of the closet to do this reorganization…and what I discovered shocked me. I found something like four boxes of photos (some of which you can see above) that were a complete jumble! I found a stash of enlargements and digital photo prints that I had forgotten I had. I also found some photos stashed in a box with unfinished scrapbook projects. Dig deep to find all those wayward memories!

At this point, just gather them into whatever containers are handy…shoeboxes, extra plastic boxes you have laying around. Later you can find your photos a permanent home.

Step #2: Sort Your Photos Chronologically

Next up, start sorting your photos chronologically. If you have a lot of photos that aren’t in any sort of order, you might want to start by sorting them into large categories (by decade, or by places lived, or periods of your life) and then start organizing within those segments into years, and then months.

Organizing Photos

To make it easier to locate your photos in the chronological file, I recommend using 4×6 card dividers. I have some marked by month and also use blank ones to mark events for which I have a lot of photos (like vacations). Use whatever divisions work for you!

If, like most of us, you haven’t been entirely diligent about labeling your photos in some way with dates, you might have a lot of them that you don’t know for sure when they were taken. I suggest setting those aside until you are done putting all of the ones that you can identify for sure. Then, you can begin to identify the unknown photos using your already identified photos for help.

Here’s a few other tips for ways to help identify at least the year a photo was taken:

  • Coupons: If your photo is still in the processing envelope, look for coupons or offers on it that have an expiration date.
  • Clothing: Match a distinctive clothing item to other photos to determine the period that it was taken.
  • Children: The age of children, especially young ones, can be a big hint to when a photo was taken. (The presence of a spouse or loved ones who are now deceased in a photo can also help date it.)
  • Home: The setting of a photo can provide a time period limited to when your or your loved one lived in that location.
  • Decor: Look closely at the backgrounds of photos. A paint color, piece of furniture, or even a holiday gift that you remember being from a certain year can date a photo. (Cars can help too!)
  • Windows: If there’s a window in the background, peek outside. What season is it?

Figuring out a date for photos without them is like a big detective game. Take your time and hunt down the clues! Not every mystery can be solved, but you might be surprised how many you can figure out!

Step #3: Purge Your Photos

Now that you have all of your photos in one place and organized, you should have all your photos taken at the same time and place together. The next step is the hardest…it’s time to purge!

You’re probably thinking, “wait, did she just suggest I throw away photos?” Why yes, yes, I did! Now, take a few deep breaths and hear me out. I’m an absolute photo hoarder, and if I can do it…you can!

Start going through your photos, starting with the oldest. Ask yourself if you really need three copies of that terrible family picture from Christmas where 2 of the kids had their eyes closed? Or the three blurry pictures before you got the exposure right of the tree in the dark? Throw them out, keep the good ones, and move on to the next batch! Be brutal. Be honest with the answer when you ask yourself if you will ever have a need or desire to see that picture again.

Step #4: Label Your Photos

Once you’ve decided what photos you are going to keep, it’s time to do some of the most tedious work. In case your photos get separated from their nicely organized files, each individual photo should be marked with a date and other important info that may not be obvious from the photo. (Names would be nice for future generations, too!) This sounds like a big task if you have a lot of photos, but you’ll probably be surprised how quickly it goes.

To write on my photos without damaging them, I use an archival safe Sakura Identi-Pen. The fine point end is perfect for marking on the backs of photos. I’ve used them for years and love them!

Step #5: Organize Your Photos In Containers

Now that you know how many photos you need to store, you can decide how to store them! For years, I stored my photos in about two dozen paperboard photo storage boxes on a shelf in my studio. These boxes are easily and affordably available at local craft chain stores.

But a big reason I started this photo organizing project was that I wanted to get my photos stored in something more sturdy, more protective, and easier to move. As I mentioned in the previous installment on organizing negatives, the recent spate of hurricane disasters here in Florida has me thinking about being able to better protect items that are precious to me. I decided I wanted something easier to move if we decide to evacuate, and that offers at least some protection against water infiltration in the house (especially a leaky roof).

Artbin Super Satchel Double Deep

I settled on using Artbin Super Satchel Double Deep containers. These plastic boxes hold two rows of photos, and have a lid that latches shut. They come in a variety of colors, and retail for between $25-$30 each on Amazon, depending on the color.

Storage Cubes for photo boxes

I store my Super Satchels in cubes in my craft studio. The photo boxes are arranged in chronological order from bottom to top. The cubes I’m using are really old, discontinued ones from Cropper Hopper but Artbin actually makes storage cubes that you can do the same thing with.

Step #6: Storing Large Photos

All of the steps above are great for your 4×6 photos. But most of us have other – bigger – photos lying around too. I found a huge stash of 5×7 photos while I was organizing. Some were enlargements I’d had made to scrapbook. Others were Disney Photo Pass prints, or prints from family weddings or other special events.

I also had a bunch of photos that were too small to put safely in my 4×6 photo file, mostly 3×4 prints I had made for scrapbooking. I needed some way to organize all of these photos!

Organizing Photos

Because I like to put things in bins and folders, I decided to put each event in its own envelope. (I used these peel & seal envelopes because they won’t get sticky in the Florida humidity like a lickable envelope.) Then I filed them chronologically in two Linus Pullz Medium Bins (I use those bins for everything in my studio!) and the bins live on the end of my craft table for easy access while I’m scrapbooking.

Photo Storage Boxes

And finally – did you notice those thin boxes stacked on top of each of my cubes of photo boxes?Those are Artbin Super Satchel Slim boxes, and they are the perfect size for holding portraits up to 11×14. This means they can hold all of those precious large sized portraits, like school pictures, that we all have laying around!

Now that we’ve taken care of our old print photos, next up is organizing our digital photos! Check back tomorrow for the next installment in the Scrapbook Update Photo Organizing Series! (And if you haven’t yet, check out 5 Reasons To Organize Your Photos and Organizing Your Negatives.

5

Organizing Your Negatives

Let’s admit it…even a lot of us who are obsessive about organizing our photos can be neglectful about organizing our negatives! And yet, organizing your negatives is a surprisingly simple process that can help protect your negatives and make them easier to use for generations to come. 

[Disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon affiliate program. Some of the links in this article are Amazon affiliate links that pay this site a commission at no cost to the reader when a purchase is made after a click.]

Organizing Your Negatives

Step #1: Using Negative Storage Sheets

Negatives are pretty delicate items. They don’t like to be handled, or pressed against each other, or extreme environmental conditions. Stacked together, floating around loose in that envelope they came home from the processor in? Well, that’s pretty much the worst thing we can do to them! The safest – and easiest – way to take on organizing negatives is to do it the way the pros do and use negative storage pages.

Negative storage pages are sized and punched to be stored in binders. Using them is super simple – just slide your negative strips into the pockets from the long edges of the sheet, and you’re done!

Organizing Negatives

Print File is the most well-known maker of photography storage sheets of all types. I have used Print File 35-7B sheets for years for storing my 35mm film negatives. Each of those sheets holds 7 strips of negatives that are 4-5 frames long. The sheets are made of archival quality polyethelene, which is safe for storing negatives. 

Do you have some of those APS film cartridges, where the film rolls back up into the cartridge after being processed, lying around? I had a couple. I was surprised doing some internet research to learn it is very easy to wind the film out of the cartridges so it can be cut up and put in negative sheets just like regular 35mm film. (Click here for the instructions on how to do it.) Instead of having to store bulky cartridges, now my APS negatives are filed in sheets with the rest of my rolls of 35mm negatives!

Organizing Slides

But storage sheets aren’t just for negatives! They are also an efficient way to store slides that allows easy access to look at them to find what you want. Why devote tons of storage space to storing boxes of huge carousels you never use? Ditch the carousels, and replace them with slide storage pages that are much easier to store.

Stabilo PencilsOf course, the whole point of organizing negatives is to be able to find things. So it’s important to label your negative storage sheets. You can’t just write on a polyethelene sheet with a regular pen, though. I use a Stabilo pencil, which is sort of a grease pencil and writes well on the sheets. (These are really soft, so I recommend using a make-up pencil sharpener to sharpen them.)

Organizing Photo Index Prints

If you have index prints, they can also be very helpful in knowing what is on your negatives! Don’t get rid of them! I have written on the back of mine the relevant dates, locations and other information for the roll of film using a Sakura Identi-Pen. Then I have inserted them in photo storage pages and filed the sheet of index prints in my negatives files, in front of the relevant sheets of negatives.

Step #2: Create Order

This step is super simple! Most rolls of film will have had multiple events or topics on them. (Oh, if someone could have told us in the days when film was so precious that we only took 24 pictures on a week long vacation that someday we’d be snapping pictures in the grocery store…we’d have thought they were crazy!) This means that the only really manageable way to file negatives is by date. So sort all of those sheets into chronological order, if they aren’t already.

Step #3: Storing Negative Storage Sheets

Once you’ve got all those negative sheets loaded and sorted, what do you do with them? There’s lots of ways to store them, depending on how many you have and what your storage concerns are. Mine lived in regular 3 ring binders for a long time, stored in a file drawer. There’s also binder boxes made especially for storing archival photo sheets.

File Cabinet Storage for Negatives

For the last decade or so, one of these file cabinets has been home to my negative sheets. I had them in hanging files, and they took up about one and a half drawers of the cabinet.

Hanging Negative Files

Hanging in the file drawers was quite an efficient way to store them. The negative sheets are firm enough to stand up and not put pressure on the edges of the negatives. Being in the drawers also kept my negatives protected from the light, since light exposure can lead to fading.

But I decided that I wanted to move my negatives for several reasons. First, the file cabinets are getting old and frankly I’d like to put something that looks nicer in what is a very prominent wall in my living/dining area. But second, and more important, is that file cabinet storage is not portable or protected very much from water. Since the hurricane disasters that have hit us here in Florida the past few years, I’ve realized the importance of having precious items in my home be both easily portable and protected from the elements.

Sterilite File Box

If you are also worried about these issues in organizing your negatives, the good news is that I’ve found what I think is the perfect solution: a Sterilite Hanging File Box. Stored in two of these boxes, my negatives are now easily portable. And the plastic container, while not impenetrable, will offer some protection for them against water infiltration. 

Negatives in File Boxes

The sheets of my negatives hang in the file boxes just the same way that they previously hung in my file cabinet. I simply transferred them from one container to the other.

File Boxes

My two boxes of negatives now live on a top shelf in my craft studio. If needed, I can easily move them to a more secure area of the house for protection during a storm, or put them inside yet another container to offer double protection. Or, I can even put them in the car to take along during an evacuation. It gives me great peace of mind to know that!

Now that our negatives are under control, next it will be time to tackle all of those photos! I’m ready if you are! Stay tuned!

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5 Reasons to Organize Your Photos

For the past couple of months, I’ve been working on a very large project to organize my photos. And I mean a very large project. While most scrapbookers take a lot of photos, I have been a photography enthusiast almost my entire life. I got my first camera at age eight. That’s, well, decades of photos – over twenty boxes of them!

5 Reason to Organize Your Photos

As I went through the project, I discovered that I wasn’t as organized as I had thought. And I also discovered some very good reasons for organizing your photos.

Reason #1: So You Can Find Them

Yes, we’re starting out with the most obvious reason to organize your photos. Can you lay hands on any photo in your archive, digital or print, any time you want it? If the answer is “no” or “not without a bunch of digging around”…you need some photo organization! 

I had thought my photos were pretty well organized, until I embarked on this project and discovered otherwise. 

Reason #2: So You Know What You Have

Part of the process of organizing photos is consolidating all of your photo assets together in one system. Through this process you end up taking what is essentially an inventory – and even uncovering things that you had forgotten you had. As I was going through boxes of photos that I was organizing, I discovered all sorts of lost gems: enlargements I’d had made to scrapbook, photos from my school years in Europe, and even a precious photo of my husband as a toddler with his mother!

Reason #3: So You Can Protect Them

Hand in hand with the organizing process goes the process of creating proper storage. When your photos are organized, it is much easier to create storage that will protect them from disasters and environmental damage. This goal was actually the primary reason that I started my photo organization project, but it actually ended up being secondary to other ones once I got started. 

Reason #4: So You Can Share Them

Photos are meant to be shared…but you can’t share them if you can’t find them. Wouldn’t it be great to show your budding ballerina granddaughter a photo of her mother doing ballet at her age? Or to show your kids pictures of what Disneyworld looked like when you were a kid when you are getting ready for your own family trip? Or post a first day of kindergarten picture on Facebook of your new high school graduate? Doing all of that is so much easier when your photos are organized!

Reason #5: So You Can Hand Them Down

Photos are more than personal memories. They are family heirlooms! You may know what year that photo was taken, or who those people are. But do your kids – or your grandkids? Would someone else be able to find what they want in your photo archives, or would it seem like an impenetrable mess? Organizing your photo archive means that you can pass down your knowledge of your photos along with them, so they will mean more to future generations. I’m so glad that I did this project now while my mom was still around to ask questions about photos I found.

So, given how important it is to organize your precious photo memories, I’m going to be sharing a series all this week that is the result of my own photo organizing project. We’ll discuss everything from organizing your negatives to the next generation organizing project of actually scanning your prints. I hope at the end that you’ll be inspired – and empowered – to take on the project yourself.

Come back and join me tomorrow for the first step…organizing your negatives!

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