Exposing the Truth About Film

Using high quality color, negative film and paper is important to preserve your photographs for decades to come. I know some scrapbookers probably don’t care, but I feel it is important to get this information out to those concerned with the longevity of their photographs.

Unfortunately, what I have learned in my research is, not all films and papers are good. In fact, there seems to be a remarkable difference in the photographic film and paper industry.

In 1992, Henry Wilhelm conducted independent tests for long-term durability, and published his results in The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs (1992).

He recommends using the negative film marketed for the amateur market, such as Fujicolor Super G200, Konica Color Super SR 200, 3M ScotchColor 200 Film or Polaroid One Film Color Print Film (ISO 200), in the medium range (ISO 160-200).

Wilhelm’s more surprising and slightly disappointing finding was that there was great variability in the fading quality of the paper upon which photos were printed. It was a shock to learn that a very popular film company, Kodak, was less than honest in revealing the truth behind their color photographs and paper.

Fujicolor Super FA Type 3 and Fujicolor SFA3 papers could be exposed for fifty years without color fade. Wow!

However, by way of comparison, Kodak’s most popular papers began to fade after slightly more than ten years. Wilhelm is, in fact, critical of Kodak both for the company’s practice of refusing to release data regarding the longevity of the firm’s paper, and for marketing papers to the public through ads that “suggested that the Ektacolor prints of the time would ‘last a lifetime’” while knowing that the papers actually begin to fade noticeably in less than a decade. Wilhelm states other companies routinely release their data findings. Kodak did not, as of that writing.

I recommend inquiring when dropping your film off for development, what types of papers are used, as well as when interviewing a professional photographer for a special event.

For more photography tips, please also visit the Families.com Photography Blog.

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