Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Technique: things nobody told you about...

Today I dropped by WHSmith to see if they could help me out with the archival process. I mean, when you shoot and shoot and shoot you end up with lots of negatives. These negatives accumulate in negative preservers (Printfile is pretty cheap and it has a useful tagging system). The negatives preservers accumulate then into ring binders, and ring binders go inside cardboard boxes. So you end up with a big mess. Well, that was a reason to go to WHSmith... they had sales as well. 75% off two ring binders, three big cardboard boxes to store them for £1 and a ring binder with a zipper to carry prints for almost nothing (£2.49). But my most amazing discovery were the tags. Damn, I hoped there was something like this. Small white sticker tags for a quid and the most amazing of all... coloured spot stickers for a quid as well! Finally I can mark all the keepers in each roll by placing a tag of the adequate colour (yellow for stuff you shouldn't forget, green for keepers, red for things that already go inside an edit). Happy times.

Next I'll post something about editing. But editing is impossible without lots of ringbinders, stickers and small prints, so it's good we go through here.

And how do you make sense of your mess?

8 comments:

jamie stoker said...

My new and improved workflow for film (coming into effect after two years of shoving negs in a box under my bed):

- develop film, dry film, cut and place in 6strip printfile sleeves
- using my flatbed and pigment printer, scan in and print a high res A4 contact sheet
- file negatives in their sleeve opposite the corresponding contact sheet, in either a black folder (if bw film) or a green folder (if color).
- use a film scanner for high res scans/prints of the keepers

No matter how tiresome film and its workflow can be, i much prefer it and its results to thousands of raw files and digital nonsense clogging up my computer and my mind.
J

P.s I enjoy your blow by the way.

K. Praslowicz said...

Pretty much the same way as Jamie's comment. Only with traditional contact prints for B&W work instead of printed scans.

Andrew said...

Oh man, I never thought of marking my negs with coloured dots! Thanks for the great idea. I don't have access to a dark room or a flatbed scanner that can scan a whole sheet of negs, so I'm stuck with a window and loupe to see my shots. Marking possible keepers is definitely a great idea!

Arcady Genkin said...

Printfile protectors and ring binders is what I use, too. I print contact sheets and store them opposite to the negative protectors, just like jamie and k.praslowicz above. I also batch-scan all of my negatives on a flatbed (low-res, on autopilot) to evaluate them before printing. I'm looking for the digital incarnation of the PrintFile protector + binder + box set-up.

@andrew: sorry if I'm stating the obvious, but for B&W you don't need a proper darkroom to print contact sheets on silver paper.

Jeff Ladd said...

J.

This is a long winded explanation of the simple system I have adopted to keep my work in order.

I use these archival paper envelopes from Light Impressions called InfoFlap neg holders to store one roll of film instead of the printfile sleeves. 150 rolls worth of these envelopes fits neatly into an 8X10 drop front archival box. For each box I have a three ring binder of the contacts (150 fits perfectly into a 2" binder). All are numbered with corresponding ID numbers which are on-going consecutive numbers from the time I started photographing.

I keep the negs away from my contact sheets because I go back through my contacts much more than I want to handle my negs. If you are using printfile type three ring sleeves and keep them with the contacts, with enough handling, you may eventually bend some of your negs as those things in a bunch get heavy and they are very flexible.

I edit the contacts with a red grease pencil and make 8X10 workprints. I then go back and put a color dot on the contact next to the image to remind me that I made the workprint. All of my workprints are marked on the back with an organization number starting with the year, then the roll number then the frame number.

I then scan all of those workprints on a flatbed scanner for a digital "work" file for layouts, reference, or digital submissions. Those are stored on my computer in folders that hold 150 rolls and are labeled just like the contact sheet three ring binders and the boxes with my negatives. (everything is broken up into 150 rolls...get it)

Workprints are stored in corresponding order in 8X10 drop front boxes the same type as what I use for my negs. My final 16X20 prints are stored in the same type of boxes (or the nicer but more expensive century boxes)and all of the final prints include the year-roll-frame-and additionally, the year printed information in pencil on the back. I store those in polybags with a two-ply matte board stiffener.

For shooting digital, I save everything (do not edit in the camera...bad idea) and download it into folders of 36 images just like as if it were a roll of film. I print a digital contact sheet and store those in binders just like the gelatin silver contacts. I always need hard copy of contacts and workprints as I hang stuff on a large metal wall in my studio with magnets for proper editing.

It is involved to keep to this system but I can find anything in a matter of one minute and haven't lost anything yet...knock on wood. The key is to start early with organizing. Friends of mine who have vast 30 year archives have suffered greatly in trying to organize with several tens of thousands of rolls of films, contacts and prints.

Good luck,

Jeff Ladd

J. Karanka said...

Damn, I thought that I was bringing out the most boring topic ever. Out of this I've learnt a couple of things like... damn, I've checked Jeff's work, which is pretty impressive. I was thinking in making ringbinders with my different projects here in Cardiff and then start to date stuff. That basicly makes personal medium format work, daylight street and nightime. I'm still in time with a few hundred rolls as for numbering them down properly. (A boring weekend approaches.) I usually don't do contact sheets as I scan my stuff in flatbed straight after I finish developing. I do mark with spots the negs on each roll that in any way were interesting. I have no possibility of even approaching a dark room at home (2x1m without running water is ok for developing film but not printing). I'll definitively start numbering the rolls now... stupidly I've given them only dates, so I don't know over how many I'm running either.

BryanF said...

"The key is to start early with organizing."

I've only been shooting film for a year but I learned this early thankfully.

i've observed that the most dedicated photographers seem to be the most compulsive about organization. it's weird, but i'm always on top of it and feel like i'm constantly editing in some form or another....even if it's just going back and making decisions on old crappy digital files. It keeps the brain sharp and works the editing muscles.

BryanF said...

"The key is to start early with organizing."

I've only been shooting film for a year but I learned this early thankfully.

i've observed that the most dedicated photographers seem to be the most compulsive about organization. it's weird, but i'm always on top of it and feel like i'm constantly editing in some form or another....even if it's just going back and making decisions on old crappy digital files. It keeps the brain sharp and works the editing muscles.