archival colour processing : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

There is a lot of dope out there about getting archival quality b&w negatives. Does anyone know how to get archival colour negatives and transparencies?

-- Dileep Prakash (, February 20, 2001


Archival, meaning how long? 25 to 30 years - maybe. 100 years - no way.
Firstly. Make sure everything is processed by a careful lab that doesn't skimp on chemicals, especially on the final stabiliser bath.
Secondly. Keep all your slides and negs under proper conditions in acid-free glassine envelopes (not plastic), in the dark, and in a dry atmosphere.
Thirdly, inspect them all regularly for signs of degradation, fading, fungal attack etc. and take appropriate action. (duplication, anti-fungal bath, or whatever) That's about all you can do.

-- Pete Andrews (, February 20, 2001.

If an image really matters to you, you could think of making silver based separation negatives, I guess. DJ

-- N Dhananjay (, February 20, 2001.

If the image REALLY matters to you separation negatives (for reproduction from then on) and duplicates (for dissemination)are the way to go and then seal the original neg/chrome in a special freezer bag (from Light Impressions or others)and put it in the freezer until you need it again. Everlast prints are supposed to be archival. Who knows? B&W archival isn't even really. The best I have seen claimed is an estimated 500 years and then...?

-- Rob Tucher (, February 20, 2001.

The current "bible" on this is Henry Wilhelm's "Permanence and Care of Color Photographs". There's just too much information here in this book to relay in a message. I will give you a few pointers aside from processing. First, avoid color neg. materials. If you do use c.n.'s, and are concerned about their life, look into cold storage, or at least a cool, controlled environment. For transparencies, you might want to use polyester (or ESTAR base, as Kodak calls it) sheet film. Acetate based films (almost all roll film) have a shorter life than polyester. I would also suggest avoiding all glasseine products for long term storage. This book will provide you with alot of guidelines. Some online sources include: Conservation OnLine, and the Image Permanence Institute. IPI has a great downloadable software called the Preservation Calculator. This used to be offered for sale along with their "Guide to Acetate Based Film Storage", but now that's all free online. It's really handy, taking into account your relative humidity/temp. for storage, and giving you an estimate for how long your film will last. They have some other good publications including a guidebook on storing color materials. If you were in a controlled, cold storage archive environment, you could achieve a very long life for color, even nitrate based B&W materials. You have to factor in all sorts of things when you talk about "archival", it's not just about the base material. Environment is very important, as well as enclosure materials. There are quite a few products on the market that are sold as "archival" when this is not necessarily so. My suggestion, if you are serious about this, is to study the conservation sites, and do your homework, then decide just what "archival" means to you.

-- DK Thompson (, February 20, 2001.

If you'd like to archive beyond the film's lifetime, you could scan at high resolution. The materials which hold the scans are not archival, but the digital files can be duplicated easily and without loss, unlike the film itself.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, February 20, 2001.

Here's another good site for general FAQ's on storage, it's the National Archives (NARA) page: There is also an article about their guidelines for cold storage. I won't get into all the details about all this, but it's not so easy as just using any old freezer. Cold storage is the "hot" topic in archives today, along with scanning images for access uses. I don't want to turn this into an anti-digital thread, but digital is not considered a replacement for the original media. You can find all sorts of answers to your questions if you peruse these sites, I'm a staff photographer for a history museum, and we use color transp. and b&w negs. for our artifact files (long term records). There's a whole profession that studies these issues outside of photography, so all I can say is do your homework.

-- DK Thompson (, February 20, 2001.

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