From about 2012-2017 I predominantly shot 35mm film.
Over this time I had the film developed and scanned, uploaded the digital images to my archive, and tucked the original negatives away in a couple of large shoeboxes.
Two shoeboxes that I haven’t returned to since I shot my last roll of film three and a half years ago.
My process for archiving images digitally back then was much the same as now.
Upload to my computer, sift through and delete all those I don’t want, then back up the keepers to an external HD, and to Flickr.
The latter also gives me excellent organising and search tools like tagging and albums, and when I want to find a picture of a certain subject, or made with a particular camera, lens or film, I head to Flickr search.
Because I was already embedded in this digital workflow when I started shooting film, it was natural to follow it with film images.
The only difference with the film scans is I didn’t delete the ones I didn’t like, I just backed up the best keepers and shared them on Flickr.
I went through a period of scanning my own negatives, with a CanoScan 9000F, but found it tedious to the point of being painful.
Photography for me is about getting out in nature with cameras I love, escaping the day to day.
The last thing I wanted was to have to spend (even more) hours hunched over a computer trying to eke out half decent images when I could pay a lab a few pounds to do the same (in fact better).
And it somehow didn’t make any sense to me to shoot physical film with these beautiful old cameras, to then have only a digital image to show for it at the end of the process.
For me, it takes film photography away from its roots and into some kind of film/digital hybrid.
It’s like buying some lovely paper and a beautiful pen to hand write love letters to your sweetheart, then scanning and emailing them, rather than put them in an envelope and post them, for the recipient to appreciate in their full sensory glory.
It largely neuters the romance and impact of the original form – and the care and time and expense involved in creating something in that slower, more old fashioned medium in the first place.
I’d rather shoot digital from the outset (which of course I now do).
And whilst I’ve made some prints of my photos, they’ve all been from the digital images, not the negatives.
So I long ago reached the conclusion that those perhaps couple of hundred packets of negatives gathering dust in a cupboard have no further use for me.
In addition, there aren’t any pictures I made on film that I would be heartbroken over if I lost all copies of.
I know some say physical negatives are the ultimate back up, and I understand that for certain irreplaceable images.
But my negs aren’t priceless photographs of my children or anything similarly precious.
I can always go out (and often do) to take more pictures of rusting bicycles and decaying buildings.
But before I resign them to the bin, I thought I’d ask a few more experienced film photographers what they do with their negatives, and whether there was any point in keeping them in this digital age.
So, if you shoot film, what do you do with your negatives, and why?
As always, please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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