Film Photography Workflow

I’ve seen a number of blog posts in the past showing a particular photographers’ workflow including this great one from Emulsive for storing, filing and recording negatives, handling digital copies and backups etc. I’m not saying this is the ideal method, it works for, it might not work for you, but it might give you some ideas for you own workflow. I’ve included a template for the Film Log Spreadsheet I use, feel free to use it or modify it for your own use. If you have any ideas for improvements please let me know your thoughts in the comments section at the end.

My Workflow

1. Assign Number to Roll

Every roll of film that I load into one of my cameras gets logged into a spreadsheet and assigned a number 0001, 0002 etc. I have a worksheet per year so the numbering gets reset every year and the full reference for a roll would be for example 20160001. At this point I also log the date the film was loaded, the name of the film, it’s format, ISO, EI, type, number of exposures on the roll and which camera is was loaded in to.In the last couple of columns, not shown here I enter comments and details about any projects the photos might be associated with.

2016 Workflow Worksheet

2016 Worksheet

2. Shoot

[Updated: 2017-05-23] While out shooting I use Shoot Film Co’s Photomemo notebooks and a Lamy Pico pen to record basic details i.e. roll number, camera, film, EI and shooting conditions. I can refer back to this via the roll number if needed.

A sample page from my Photomemo book

3. Develop the Film

Once I’ve shot the film, I eventually get around to developing it, once the development is done I add more information to the worksheet. I add development date, developer, dilution, development time, temperature, agitation method, stop bath used, stop time, fixer used and fixing time. Currently I only develop my own B&W film, colour I send away to be developed, in this case I will just add the date that is was sent away and under developer I would put the company that did the development.

2016 Workflow Worksheet, Developing Data

2016 Worksheet, Developing Data

4. Scan the Negatives

I now scan the negatives into a folder on my local d: drive into a folder called scans and a sub folder for each roll. Use the following naming convention for the sub folder yyyyMMdd – yyyyref, using the scan date an example would be 20160203 – 20160001. The files will be named 20160001-01.tif, 2016001-02.tif etc. With this naming convention I can link the scan back to the spreadsheet easily. I add the scanning details to the spreadsheet.

2016 Workflow Worksheet, Scanning Details

2016 Worksheet, Scanning Details

5. Store the Negatives

I use CXD Timecare ringbinder boxes and Print File negative sleeves to store my negatives. I’d previously used Kenro negative sleeves but found it really difficult to insert the negatives so switched to the Print File ones, which are much, much better. I have one binder per year and the negatives get stored in the order on the spreadsheet and labelled with the spreadsheet reference ie 20160001, 20160002 etc. All types and formats are mixed together, 135, 120, colour, B&W and cameras, I can find the negatives I need using the spreadsheet.

6. Import the Scans into Lightroom

Once the negatives are stored away safely I import the scans into Lightroom, this process copies the scans onto an external drive and are stored in the following folder structure, yyyy\MM based on the date the film was shot. I assign basic keywords on import such as the reference 20160001, 20160002 etc, plus the camera, film and any other useful information that will help me filter my library. The scans are stored along side my digital images. By having the reference as a keyword, I can cross reference the spreadsheet or find the physical negatives if I need to. So, if I later find an image in my Lightroom library that maybe I want to rescan, get wet printed or find more information about how it was developed, I can get the reference from the keyword which I can then look up in the spreadsheet or in the appropriate negative storage folder.

7. Backups

By this stage I already have the original scans on my internal drive and on an external drive where my Lightroom photo library is located. As I am very paranoid about losing my images, I have a second external drive attached to my computer that I use to further backup my data. I use a program called Goodsync that monitors changes to my files and automatically backs them up to the second external drive. This setup hopefully covers me for hard drive failures, but I also worry about something more serious happening that would mean I lost all my local and external hard drives, to guard against this I use Backblaze to backup to the cloud. For $5 a month I get unlimited automated cloud backups, if anything happens to my on site data, I can either download it all from their site or for a fee they will send me a drive with my data on.

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