Monday, 14 April 2008

Film disorganization

Anchor chain, Northumberland, March 2008

I'm just about to embark on the latest round of scanning, finishing off the collection of work from my Northumberland trip. As ever, it's a mixture of 35mm, 120 roll film and 4x5 sheets. Black and white and colour. Negative and positive. A job that will probably occupy me all evening - just as well I don't need to go to work tomorrow.

The problem I've got with all this film is organizing the originals. Once it's scanned it' fine - number it all and drop it right into my regular electronic filing system. Problem is, I'm now swimming in mixed formats of film and have no system for keeping it all in order.

Anyone out there solved this problem? I'm looking for a relatively simple system (otherwise my lazy nature will take over and it won't get done) that will enable me to keep it all organized. Hopefully I can go back and organize all my old stuff, too. right now, it's all stacking up in odd corners which will become a nightmare once I move house.

I need help!


  1. If the issue is simply physical storage of your negatives, I would simply use a date (ISO 8601 - YYYY-MM-DD) format and a unique number for each item. Then use this number to link this physical item to the metadata and scans of originals. Then store the negs sorted by date. In archival plastic in binders, folders, filing cabinets. Use Avery labels with them affixed to end of neg (or some other labelling system).

    If your software could generate the labels after scanning to allow them to physically attach, would be nice.

    Just some ideas.

    Les Richardson
    Open Admin for Schools

  2. That's about as simple as it gets. My electronic archive already uses that labelling method (together with a marker for the source camera) - I'm an avid ISO date advocate. It would be pretty easy to adapt to include the un-scanned items too (I don't scan everything I shoot to film).

  3. What do you use to manage/create metadata about your images?

    I'm an online developer and use SQL databases. I really want to have control over my metadata and would ideally like to be able to use a desktop app as well as a web application (from alternate locations) to be able to do tagging, grouping, etc. Is there anything like that around that doesn't cost $$$ (big bucks).


  4. You're giving me way too much credit.
    I still work in a pre-metadata taxonomical world. Virtually all my key classification data is wrapped up in the filename: I have film type & roll number (35mm), photo type, date shot, camera, sequence number in shoot for all base images and then I use a suffix for format/output types. That with a standard folder list is me done.
    Of course if I knew anything about databases, I'd use all of the that naming stuff to meta-tag everything and cross-reference all the various folders and derivatives.
    My organising software: Windows Explorer - it's free and works with my filing system.

  5. Now that's most interesting! (grin)

    However, you are now moving into a digital world... how are you going to integrate your film archive along with digital capture? Are you going to add metadata (even simple stuff) about your film collection? Do you have a unique number (or key) to identify each image? (so that you can hang all kinds of data onto a particular image).

    How are you going to avoid being drowned in data? (or else just ignoring the rich information you already have embedded in the filenames - which could then be indexed to a unique number, etc.)

    Where do you want to be in 2-4 years with all of your images? (grin).

    Your feelings?


  6. Are you gentlemen aware of Cerious Software's Thumbs Plus? ( It's a thumbnail generating image browsing program which allows keywording to be generated from all sorts of sources automatically, plus annotations to be added, all stored in a SQL compliant database. Its native database is MS Access .mdb, so it can be opened in any Access application, but it can use any SQL database such as MySQL (I think) to give a higher database size limit. It uses SQL to do its searching and complies with the language, so if you know SQL, away you go.

    It's in the same area as ACDSee and Compupic, but better in my opinion. Its batch capabilities are fantastic and it can be extensively customised to your preferences, including colour managed display. It handles most raw file formats and can display .psd images. It has a few bugs but the developers are very approachable. I've been a user for years and I like it a lot.

    Peter Croft
    Perth, Western Australia

  7. Peter,thanks for that. I'll check it out, might be the sort of thing I'm looking for.

  8. You can download a trial. If you do, have a look at Options/Preferences/Metadata. Lots to play with. Its batch renaming facility has been very useful to me, too, as has Image/Print Catalog... I use it to make 12cm square thumbnail pages for CD inserts, or A4 thumbnail pages for ring files. Easy.

    It also generates web pages and slide shows automatically, but everything does that these days!


  9. By coincidence, Microsoft's Photo Info tool was mentioned in the 16 Feb issue of Amateur Photographer. I wasn't aware of it before, but it looks like another answer to your metadata needs. At the price (free) it's worth a try.

    This is as easy a way as any to get it:



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