Organizing/Saving Digital Negatives

Hello All-

I am really glad I stumbled onto this place and this program! I recently found a TON of old negatives. I have no idea what is on most of them so it’s going to be like opening up a time capsule.

I recently purchased a PlusTek 8300 just for the project. I have played with it a little bit, it seems to work pretty well.

My original idea was just to get the negatives scanned and saved as pictures but after stumbling here I REALLY REALLY love the idea of creating digital negatives. Especially since I am already using Lightroom.

My questiion and dilemma is, what is the best way to organize these negatives as they are scanned? As I stated previously, I really have no idea what I am going to find on all these negatives

Naming the sequentially (I.e. - IMAGE_001, IMAGE_002) doesn’t seem like a very good way to go about this.

So if any of you have suggestions before I start this project I would be really grateful! I don’t want to get through 2,000 negatives only to find out there was a better way

Thanks to all!

There is nothing wrong in storing files called IMG_0001 etc. Cameras do that too.

The important step will be to add initial keywords, eg. “person”, “group”, “landscape” etc. You can then rearrange - within Lightroom - the images into subfolders as needed. e.g. one folder per initial keyword. If you later come across names or locations, you’ll add these as (additional) keywords to the respective images.

Keywords help to find images. Add keywords while the scanner is scanning the next batch of images. Do not skip keywording, specially if you deal with lots of images!

Just a note based on my recent negative scanning efforts. I decided to have the file names tie to the physical storage and organization of the negs.

My B&W rolls were already in sleeves in a binder, and in order by date for the most part. Old B&W darkroom days.

So I scanned these to files: Roll_nn_Img_mm.jpg and wrote the roll number on the page. Easy to locate the negative when I want to redo the good ones.

Color negatives were not as well organized. In their own sleeves (or not) in envelopes. I reorganized and put them in new binder sleeves. Changed the naming to Mex_nn_Img_mm.jpg, Eur_nn_Img_mm.jpg, which will make it a bit more difficult to find the negative again but it still gets me there.

All other organizational info goes into metadata. Keywords included.

Also, tools can make it easy to rename in bunches. I renamed several rolls when I changed schemes a bit or found a later roll that belonged in the middle.

If your negatives have no order in the first place, you’ve got more work to do.

Yes, it’s probably crucial to know if there is any obvious organisation already existing with your negatives. Hopefully they might be in sheets, they could be different formats, from different sources, black & white or colour negative, whatever you feel to be relevant. This information can all be added as keywords and Lightroom makes this very straightforward but the aim should be that the metadata you add should exist outside of Lightroom so make sure it is written to the file, or to xmp in the case of RAW.

If you are scanning every negative on a film then it might be sensible to put the film reference number (once it has one) as part of the filename I suppose. Adding the frame number to the filename would add a significant amount of work that, though nice to have, probably isn’t strictly necessary in terms of matching them to the roll. Have you considered making contact sheets first? This can be done with certain flatbed scanners, those with a transparency hood and a sufficiently large scanning area, the negatives can be in clear view sleeves under glass. Not easy to get good colour with colour negative admittedly, though not particularly necessary either.

Museums and archivists in general will have to adhere to stricter rules but as an example here is the Beaford Archive of the photographer James Ravilious, over 10,000 negatives DSLR scanned, and in his case he had already made contact sheets and marked up his selections. All scanned images and contact sheets are searchable, basic keywords have been added also. The cinematographer Roger Deakins preceded Ravilious in Beaford so his negatives are kept also.

Image ref: RAV/01/477/38

Contact sheet: 477

How they were scanned (by Dave Green)

IMHO, after keywording, which is essential, it’s better to sort the images in Lr by creating intelligent collections based on the different keywords. Doing so, you keep the ability to find the photos on any keyword or any combination of kw. and not only on the first one. Hoping it helps !

Intelligent collections can be understood as saved searches and I find them to be useful for a limited time. I’d not consider them for long term use, but I’ve seen others use them that way.

Folder structures can be limiting if we want them for easy access to images based on content. Example: if we have an image of a person in a landscape, where will we place that image? In a landscape folder or a person folder or both? Collections can build weblike structures without duplicating images, so yes, intelligent collections can be a good way to go…unless keywords have been entered with different misspellings, which is why it is a good idea to add keywords using the keyword list instead of typing them in one by one.