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Things You Might Not Know About Photo Negatives

Have you recently encountered an opaque cylinder with a roll of orange photo negatives in it? If you’re curious how family photos worked before digital cameras and phones, you’re not alone. While a digital camera allows you to access a photo immediately after taking it, color photography in the past required you to take the film canister to a store to develop it.

Film cameras dominated the average household to capture precious memories that looked about as good as seeing the moment in person. However, these things you might not know about photo negatives will give you some insight into how the process worked.

Things You Might Not Know About Photo Negatives

The Darker the Area, the Brighter the Color

Colors on a negative film appear as their complementary color rather than their original color. This also applies to the brightness of the photo. When the camera captures the light in the image, the film darkens rather than scorches. Even though a negative may make the memory look dark and dingy, it might be exactly the opposite!

Photo Negatives Use Chemical Reactions

The art of photography has always used a little bit of chemistry to perfectly capture an image. Originally, exposure times for photographs were hours long; once Louis Daguerre worked on finding the perfect chemical solution and development technique, he decreased the exposure time to mere minutes.

Daguerre used iodine vapor on a silver-surfaced plate, similar to a mirror, to create a surface coated in silver iodide. When he exposed it to his targeted photographic area, the sun created a latent image—just like a negative—and he developed it with mercury fumes. Innovators toyed with this process, eventually creating a plastic film that could capture a negative image within seconds.

You Can Still Use Photo Negatives

If you’ve found an old photo negative, you can still use it; you don’t need to just throw it out! That photo negative can still hold a precious memory—especially if the printed photo is in poor condition due to old age or damage. Photo negatives in good condition can replicate an image again and again, and might help you put together a creative gift for your parents or family members. If your family never felt the need to tell you the things you might not know about photo negatives, consider digitizing or reprinting the negatives for a pleasant surprise!

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