When you’re first getting into film photography you may notice a lot of people talking about their “negatives”. What are they and why would you need them?

Luckily, the answer is a lot simpler than you may think. 

Simply put: your negatives are your film photographs once they’ve been developed. Most popular film stocks are “color negative” film, which means they produce these negatives. 

Why do they have to be negatives when slide film exists?

Color negative is the most popular type of film because of how forgiving it can be. Got too much or not enough light in your photo? Color negative gives you the best chance of having a photo that is salvageable. I’m not going to get super science-y on you, but due to the process that these film stocks go through, they offer a greater “dynamic range”. This means they are able to capture a larger spectrum of light. 

How do I get a regular picture from these negatives? 

Due to modern technology, we can scan these negatives using a scanner which then inverts the colors. This in turn, turns the negative positive. What’s orange on the negative will be more blue, and what’s magenta will be more green.

Why should I hold onto these? 

Not everyone needs their negatives. Most people don’t want them, either. 

Personally? I’ve held onto every single roll of negatives. I do this so I can go back and re-scan if I need to. This is the only original version of my photos, so once they’re thrown away, they’re gone forever. 

Usually I’d recommend that if you’re on the fence about it, just take them and dispose of them later if you realize you don’t need them. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Happy shooting!

Matt Rygh

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