Notes and Organization from roll loading to darkroom printing.....

Justin Watson

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Mar 16, 2020
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How do you do it? What information do you record? If I developed one roll at a time this wouldn't be a question but I tend to let rolls pile up and then have a developing day. And to further complicate I usually shoot with the same stuff. A run of Ilford HP5 or whatever so now I'm looking at 5 rolls of the same film type. I'm getting older so I can't operate on memory alone. and, maybe, more importantly, I want to start becoming more focused and make images with more intent. So how do yall label rolls, keep notes on exposure, make notes in the darkroom? what is your start to finish note taking/record keeping process? Is there a "system" out there, or some suggestions most folks follow?
Getting older? You're 37. :rolleyes: ;)

When I was taking class and shooting a roll or two each week, I just put a piece of art tape on the side of the roll when I took it out of the camera, and wrote the date and a number on the tape with a marker. Write the details in a little pocket-sized note book, or a memo app on your phone/tablet. That way, you can try to document the shots as you go - subject, place, exposure settings.
The old fashion way........a notebook and a pencil.

Yup, KISS.

@Justin Watson
Think about the environment.
Do you want to use a computer around a wet darkroom sink? And type on the keyboard with your WET hands?

If for whatever reason the computer shuts down in the middle of your processing, and Murphy will see that it does, you cannot suspend your processing while you get your computer to restart. The film is in the chemicals, and the film is processing and the clock is ticking, no mater that your computer is up or down.
Paper is always readable, and a pencil always writes.

Besides, if you use a REAL darkroom (vs. a changing bag), you cannot have ANY light in the room as you roll your film onto the reel. This means the computer is OFF, and maybe not even plugged in. The light on the power switch/power supply could/will fog your film.
Agree note book &pencil when I did film I was using 5 meters a time when I went out I would write
Location date time subject on a sheet of paper then photograph it so the start of each roll had the info
I have a journal but in winter, I use a mini cassette recorder and journal the content when I get home. I use a sharpie and number the film canister that has a small strip of gray gaffer tape on it. The reason for the gaffer tape is I load my film from a 100ft roll and the gaffer tape is easy to remove and leaves no residue. 120 is simple, just mark the roll. I mark the rolls prior to going out. I also leave enough space under the roll number to log developing and darkroom info. I am at B558 as of today, loaded in a Bronica S2A. B is for B&W and C is for color. My negative sleeves mirror the roll number and the journals are purchased from an etsy seller (LkMichiganBookPress) that hand makes the journals (mini sketchbooks). All entries are made using a mechanical pencil.

It sounds like a lot of work but it really is not. It's also very helpful on the development side to build a style and technique.

With digital, I tag the images and they are automatically put into folders. I don't shoot a lot of digital at this time as it does not really fit into my goals and workflow.
When I load film, I mark info in a little notebook—date, type of film, which camera I'm putting it into, any other notes (shooting at different speed, expired film, what colour filter I'm using if it's B&W, etc.). When I'm done the roll I also mark the date I finished shooting, and if I want to do something in developing (push, pull, etc.), I'll make a note of that too.

It's not so much for developing, as I usually do a roll or two right when they're done, but I have a terrible memory and usually have multiple cameras loaded at a time, and I like to keep track of results.
I shoot cut film and some roll film, and do them in batches. I am with the group that just keeps a log book.

I can track what I shot and how well it came out. But more importantly, I have a record of what is on those negatives that I come across a few months later. :)

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