Over the holidays I spent considerable amount of time working on my “analog photographs”, i.e., slides and negatives. I made some interesting discoveries, both in the form of how to deal with the old medium and in the form of photos I had forgotten I had taken. I guess my most important finding is that I should not wait any longer to get things organized and scanned. Waiting for another few years might mean that some of the supplies (like slide mounts) are no longer that easy to find.
Here are some of my observations and findings, in no particular order:
- The “teenage me” some 40 or so years ago had an uncanny understanding of photography, photo metadata, and how to organize and preserve photographs (really). All my photos (in the form of slides, negatives, and prints I made in a darkroom in my parents’ basement) are all in good shape and well preserved. The “teenage me” did make one unfortunate mistake, however: many of the slides taken before 1981 were mounted in thick glass mounts, and now need to be re-mounted for scanning.
- Slide mounts are not so easy to buy anymore. All this technology seems to be disappearing. I already went through a 500-pack of thin, glassless mounts in the last two weeks (as well as a 100-pack of 20-slides-per-page transparent holders). Luckily only some slides needed to be re-mounted, because I had lots of Kodachromes which came in thin cardboard mounts from the processing lab.
- If you did not write down when (and where) particular pictures were taken, finding that information out 40 years later is not particularly easy. So far I have only found two rolls of film about which I had not made any proper notes. Luckily in both cases “the Internet knew”: the rolls were from two separate air shows in Finland in the early 1980s, so posing the question on a Facebook group dedicated to serious enthusiasts of Finnish aviation history yielded answers in mere hours.
As for organizing things, ever since I started having digital images (either from a digital camera or scanned versions of analog photos) I have used a simple way to identify photos:
- Each photo gets a unique file name, generated from the time stamp (for originally digital photos) or from the date the analog photo was taken.
- Each “batch” of photos gets a unique identifier. A “batch” can either be all the photos “dumped” from my digital camera at one time, or a single film roll (or possibly multiple film rolls all taken at the same time). In case of the former, the identifier is the date when the photos were “dumped” (most often the same day I took them), and in case of the latter, the date of the first photo in the batch. Obviously the identifier becomes the name of the folder where the photos are stored on my computer. And in case you are wondering which time format I use, the answer is simple: there is only one format that makes any sense, the one spelled out by the ISO 8601 standard. If you use that, the normal file name collation order also gives you the photos ordered by time. I wrote a short blog post about this earlier.
When I store slides in plastic pages I print the “batch identifier” on a label printer and affix it on the page. The pages go in a three-ring binder (obviously I have many, many of those now). I no longer keep slides in slide projector cartridges. I do still own a Kodak Carousel projector, but have not used it for a long time.
The actual process of re-mounting slides requires some care. I use a light-table for sorting slides, lint-free cotton gloves for handling actual film material, and have both tweezers and an X-Acto knife handy (for cutting the old mount open and “extracting” the actual slide). It is also a good idea to have an ultra fine point Sharpie pen available for writing on the mounts; I had many slides with stuff written on the old mounts, and I wanted to copy that onto the new mounts.