My father was once a photographer in the Department of National Defense (DND) in the time of President Ramon Magsaysay. He usually documents the former president and other high-level officials’ visits in different parts of the country. Upon his passing, he left with us piles of negative films and prints of old family photos as well as of his journeys with the former heads of state.

collection of old negative films and old photos
Collection of old negative films and old photos

Sadly, I was only able to save a few. I remember those negative films and prints used to occupy one small luggage…but now, only a few remain and I can just fit all of them in one plastic bag.

As a personal project, I thought of preserving these negatives and prints by converting it to digital files. Some of them are badly damaged and stained. Others are folded already. My only problem would be the scanning of the negatives. My flatbed scanner only allows me to scan a 35mm film strips. Most of the old negatives are in 120 format and some are in medium format (4” x 5”).

photo of a 4in x 5in negative film
4 x 5 black and white negative film
120 format negative
120 format black and white negative

I tried improvising by placing a lamp on top of the negative film and in between the lamp and the negative film I placed a white translucent plastic.

Scanner with lamp on top
Here’s my crude set up… I just tried it to see if it works.

Here are my initial scans… promising, but not ideal.

I believe this is President Ramon Magsaysay
– this is the scanned image of the sample negative above, scanned in full color and converted to grayscale.
vintage photo of president carlos p. garcia
President Carlos P. Garcia – notice how the stains in the negative shows here.
This one is scanned in full color, stains from the negatives produces color casts.

Learning from that experiment, I think I’ll make myself a DIY lamp that I can put on top of my flatbed scanner covering the entire surface (will post that in the future). Can anyone suggest anything in how I can preserve these negatives and prints?

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