View Full Version : Marking 4x5 negatives

Calamity Jane
28-Mar-2005, 05:18
Howdy all!

Got a question about keeping track of negatives . . .

I'll be doing a bunch of in-the-field tintypes and POP prints this summer at large gatherings and I'm wondering how to keep track of the 4x5 negatives.

What I have been doing on tintypes is marking the back of each plate with a "serial number" in permanent marker when I make it (may even have a stamp made with "Calamity Jane's Olde Tyme Photography" so I can stamp them to!). I record which serial number goes into each holder, and then I record the details of each image. This has worked good to get the best out of the Rocklands tintype process and it will work to keep customers matched up with their image.

When it comes to doing 4x5 negatives for POP printing, I don't know of any way to number the negatives until they have been processed. Has anybody got any ideas?

When I "take the show on the road" to large gatherings, I expect the photo sessions to be REALLY busy. Although I expect most customers will opt for tintypes, I think POP prints may also sell well because of the superior image quality while still looking "old fashioned".

Up until now, I have handled negatives by marking one side of the rack in my CombiPlan tanks so I can identify "slot #1" in the dark and then unloading the holder sequentially starting at slot #1. I also made a drying bar with numbered clips on it. When the negatives are dry, I write a serial number on the clear edge with a fine tip marker.

The two short-comings of this systems are: #1 - if anything gets out of sequence, the whole process falls apart; and #2 - it will be cumbersome if I have a large volume of negatives to process at one time.

It would be REALLY nice to be able to serial number 4x5 film as it goes into the holders.


Tadge Dryja
28-Mar-2005, 05:25
All Fuji sheet film is sequentially numbered along the left edge (notch code facing up). There have been some posts about it. That might help you out. You would still have to keep track of your holders in order to maintain the sequence of course, but that's easy enough to do.

Good luck!

Neil Miller
28-Mar-2005, 08:20
Hi Calamity!

I'm glad to see that you have got the process working, especially since the fault wasn't yours but Rocklands! I collect old photos (late 1890s onwards mostly) and a large number of them have got numbers on small placards or cards in some part of the photo that were obviously placed in shot by the photographer for just the purpose you mentioned.

On some of the later prints there are numbers that have been made by either drawing on or scratching the negative. Some of these were done with the stylus and window "autographic" backs that Kodak used, but some must have been numbered before putting the plate into (or as it was taken out of) the plate holder. The former would only work if you had a large number of plate holders, I suppose!

The only trouble with all of the above is that the markings intrude into the image area, but it could be used as part of an authentic look, especially in the case of the small numbered cards.

An alternative could be to have the marks/cards along the extreme bottom edge and crop them off once you have made your contact prints.

Good luck!

Paul Fitzgerald
28-Mar-2005, 08:22
Hi there,

You can file notches on the inner tab of the lower film gate that flips out to load the holder; 1 - 9 on one side and a notch for each 10 on the other.

I bought some tabs on lith film that glue on the gate but they intrude into the image.

Have fun with it.

Neal Wydra
28-Mar-2005, 08:25
Dear Jane,

As you really don't need to know what the sheet numbers are until you remove them from the developing tank, why not put the number somewhere in the field of view and crop that part out when you print?

Jan Nieuwenhuysen
28-Mar-2005, 09:40
Fidelity makes a 4x5 holder under the name 'Astra' that let you imprint two digits (from 0-9) on each sheet. It works very simple. Each side of the holder has two small clear plastic wheels with black numbers on them. Before you load your film you can set the combination that gets imprinted on each sheet when you expose.

Jay Wolfe
28-Mar-2005, 09:59
Ralph Lambrecht in his book "Way Beyond Monochrome" sets out a very good notching system for film holders. It's a 'binary' system where you mark holders in a consistent notch spacing system where there are notches representing a 1 ,2 ,4, 8, etc. Then to determine which holder was used for making a given negative, you simply add up the numbers, e.g., holder 3 is 1+2, holder 10 is 2+8, and so on. It sounds complicated, but it works extremely well and you can number a 100 holders quickly and easily. Most importantly, you can decipher which holder made which negative. The book gives a better explanation than I've given here.

Calamity Jane
28-Mar-2005, 13:14
I really LIKE the idea of a small sign in the corner of the picture - good place to advertise "Calamity Jane's Tintype Emporium" and put the customer's name!!!!

(Now that you mention it, I remember dog show photographers doing this!)

Putting the customer's name in the corner of the picture eliminates ALL makring requirements and matches up the plate with the customer's reciept! Since I will be mounting in an oval frame, the sign doesn't have to be visible on the mounted plate but saves the basic information "for posterity".

Thanks gang!

Doug Pollock
30-Mar-2005, 07:44
If you're going to use a board with movable letters, why not use the client's name and the date. This would be useful for the client and less obviously a system for the photographer!

Calamity Jane
30-Mar-2005, 08:32
Thanks Douglas, that's what I am thinking of.

"Calamity Jane's Tintype Emporium

Thresherman's Reunion 2005

John Smith & Family"

The first line would be fixed, the second changed for each event, and the third can be a hand lettered card made up by the customer that matches the name on their reciept.

I get my advertising, the event gets a plug, and the customer gets it personalized - everybody wins!