How to Care for Your Wedding Negatives
By JACK SAADY - The Wedding Photojournalist Association
When making a decision about a wedding photography package, couples
often ask, "Will the negatives be included for us to keep?"
The answer varies. Some photographers prefer to keep the negatives
because the photographer or studio is skilled at preserving these
If couples do purchase the negatives or have them included in
their wedding package price, the responsibility for preserving
these important originals falls to the couple. Here are some guidelines
that should be followed for the safest storage.
Negatives should be stored in archival negative sleeves and the
sleeves placed inside an acid-free box. The box should be clearly
Place a desiccant (silica gel pouch) inside the box to prevent
mold and mildew.
Store in a cool and humidity controlled room.
Safe Handling of Negatives:
Negatives are most easily damaged when they are removed from the
archival sleeves. Dust, scratches and fingerprints can result
when negatives are removed from the protective sleeves. Negatives
can be permanently ruined if bent or creased. This can happen
with any negatives but especially larger (medium format) negatives
are prone to creases from improper handling. If you must remove
the negatives from the archival sleeves, handle them only by the
edges with cotton gloves.
You can avoid removing the negatives from the archival sleeves
by simply viewing them while they are in the sleeves. Negatives
do not need to be removed from the archival sleeves until they
are at the lab to be printed.
If you wish to only print a part of the image or 'crop' the image,
follow the instructions of the photography lab that is printing
the negatives. Sometimes, special negative sleeves and cropping
guide tools are used. The lab can provide these, or, if you order
prints over a customer service counter, the customer service person
will assist you.
Storage of Negatives:
Room temperature will work well for short term storage. However,
long term storage of negatives calls for special care. Relative
humidity should be kept below 60 percent. Using a room dehumidifier
and silica gel helps further control the humidity inside the box.
Keep the storage containers away from windows, radiators, and
warm air registers. Coolest possible temperatures are best for
Light can affect the photographic dyes in color negatives. Storage
temperatures for true black and white negatives is not as critical
as for color negatives. Some newer types of black and white negatives
are actually black and white images recorded on film that contains
color dyes. Check with your photographer to get the specific name
and type of film you have.
While humidity and heat control is still important, fading due
to light exposure is a further concern for color negatives. It
is best to place negatives in metal drawers or file boxes. Metal
is superior to wood or plastic because woods and plastics may
contain volatile substance that can adversely affect your negatives.
Properly stored color negatives can be printed many times without
Protection from humidity, heat, and light combined with careful
handling to avoid dust, scratches and bending will ensure that
negatives will last for many years to come.
© 2003-2005 The Wedding Photojournalist Association