Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Okay, Everybody Say, "Frown!" - Prevent Photo Disasters By Preserving Pictures

Photo Disasters

Unless you regularly watch episodes of Antiques Roadshow, the concept of "practicing good archival techniques to preserve photographs" is probably foreign to you. Most people store old physical pictures in a box, slide them into plastic sleeves or paste them onto black pages of a photo book (bad bad bad). While it's fortunate that you still have the pictures, they're probably slowly fading and disintegrating. Before too long, the adhesive will eat through the photo, or the humidity in the air will warp them. If they're exposed to any light, they could very easily fade.

Those wondering about the benefits of preserving your photos and keeping everyone smiling will find the answers below:

Natural Disasters

  • Sunlight: a picture's greatest nemesis is the sun, so keep your cherished memories out of it! Proper storage practices would include a facility that has minimal light exposure.
  • Hands: when handling your original photograph or its negative, keep your hands clean and free from any sort of soil, including sweat. If you can, wear 100 percent cotton gloves, suggests the Library of Congress.
  • Moisture: a huge factor to properly storing photos is humidity, according to the LOC. If possible, keep the temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Many storage facilities offer this service. Avoid storing photographs In basements, attics and garages as their temperature varies throughout the year and can cause a separation of an image, curling and warping.
  • Heat and Wind: distance pictures from a heat source, like a radiator. Keep out of the path of wind and air vents.
  • Other Pictures: pictures will bend, scratch  and stick together if they rub against each other.

Ink | Other Office Supply Disasters

  • Don't write on your photographs. Whether a white-bordered Polaroid picture reading "Florida Keys 1989" or a penned "Noelle, kindergarten, Circa '83" on the reverse of the picture, marking photographs with a ball-point or felt-tip marker is a no-no! If you absolutely must write on the actual photo, a soft lead pencil will be the best option.
  • Avoid clips, rubber bands, staples, tape and glue. These items cause scratches and can deteriorate the pictures from the sulfur.
  • If storing in a plastic loose sleeve or a book with plastic enclosures, be sure to use a special type of plastic. Mylar and polypropylene, according to, are the best plastics for long-term photograph storage.

Chemical Disasters

  • Chemicals that are sprayed to kill insects can be more harmful than the little vermin themselves. recommends a polypropylene container or album cover.
  • Think acid-free when considering the type of box and paper you store with your pictures. You want to avoid PVC, which emits hydrochloric acid and often comes in photo albums. Acid is known to eat away at things, your pictures are no different.
  • Avoid lighting. While it makes paper stronger, it also deteriorates and becomes brittle and yellow.

Digital Disasters

  • It's a good idea to save your photos in more than one format. Scanning them into your computer may be tedious but could save your memories in the long run if something were to happen to your physical pictures. When scanning, be very careful with the photos — wear cotton gloves and be sure the machine is free of dust.
  • Once digital, save your collection in a few different locations like an external hard drive and use DVDs. Then, store your images as recommended above.