HOW TO PRESERVE OLD PHOTOS?

graphic vintage item

PHOTO DETERIORATION IS A FACT, LOOSING MEMORIES A CHOICE.

We all want to keep our precious memories passed dow to the next generation and preserve our family album in a prsitine condition, and although some of us keep these in a safe place, time is our biggest enemy.

Bad news are that he damage that time does to your old photographs is inevitable, (even museums that have controlled environments and expert preservation staff, struggle to conserve their photographic material in the best condition),  eventually the materials involved in the photo-processing will suffer the effects of time, the environment or physical contact.

The challenge is how to minimise the deterioration of your originals?

Truth is that even the slightest touch or exposure to the environment will have some effect in an old photo, it can be microscopic and not noticeable but repetitive interaction will certainly affect the photo in the long run, and thing is, we might want these photos alive for several generations to come.

The materials and techniques used to develop your photos have a certain degree of instability and as a result the UV rays in light will negatively effect the chemicals and compounds on the photo and as part of its life cycle will cause your photos to fade away or obtain some coloured casting.

Ad up, Oil, moisture or other materials on your fingerprints, dust and particles, bugs and in the worst case scenarios serious risk for physical damage caused by fire, water and you realise your printed photos have a lifespan.

Although there are ways to restore the photos or recover them it is important to highlight that best practices for preservation will slow down the pace of deterioration. We have put together a few considerations for you: 

Original photo from the 1900s prior restoration by Yesterdays photo

1. BE AWARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT

The good old shoebox is perhaps the most common way to store our old photos, but is this where your photos belong?

For practical purposes or solve your immediate needs a shoe box will suffice to store your photos, but one thing is for sure and is that your snapshots acquire more emotional value as their age, not only for us but for our family members, so a good environment is crucial for preservation.

In contrast to the shoebox, a good photo album will keep your photos organised, under a protective film and will avoid undesired “bonding” and physical contact between photos. 

At all costs avoid places close to bathrooms, kitchens or garages, as temperature variations in the environment will increment the deteriotation rate of your photos.

 

Magnifier over fingerprint on scanner glass

2. CONTROLLED USE OF (SILICA GEL)HUMIDITY

Silica gel is a good way to keep your photos dry and avoid excessive moisture surrounding your old photos

A “wet” environment not only reduces your photo collection lifespan, together with warm temperatures and biological-traces and fungus on your photos will be a inevitable consequence.

Usually we love to keep our old photos in a “safe place” out of reach, or inside a closet or wardrobe, this certainly helps keeping the photos away from light but also has potential to generate the optimal conditions for humidity, which is also another potential problem for your photo collection.

 

Usually we love to keep our old photos in a “safe place” out of reach, or inside a closet or wardrobe, this certainly helps keeping the photos away from light but also has potential to generate the optimal conditions for humidity, which is also another potential problem for your photo collection.

Moisture in the environment varies geographically and depending on any internal area conditions, as there are places dryer than others but have in mind that even small quantities of water in the environment can condense in the photo’s surface and will certainly damage them gradually.  

Photographic materials are extremely-sensitive to the relative humidity and temperature of the environment, therefore these can speed the rate of deterioration.

We recommend keeping some dessicant packs close to your vintage photos or family album, this can be purchased diretcly or simply look for the ones that will come in your purchases.

Commonly found in your purchases and also known as silica gel packets and , these little sachets can assist in keeping the environment dry, make sure you change them once in a while though as these expire or loose effectivity after some time.

Note: Be careful and advised that plenty of these packets might also cause your photos to eventually crack, so be vigilant and use them carefully.

 

3. MINIMISE THE EXPOSURE TO DIRECT LIGHT

The fading of a photo can be caused by many factors including poor processing, materials and chemical leftovers, but prolonged or direct exposure to sunlight high temperatures or even artificial light can contribute to tonality shifting.

Changes in tonality will occur especially when Ultraviolet rays or temperature are higher than normal, although the the dye in the photos and its material has been designed to have some resistance to the environment , the prolonged exposure to radiation will unavoidably end up in tonal shifting.

The resistance to light and temperature usually vary, newer photos are more resistant to these colour shifting and variations due to the fact the techniques dyes and material resistance improved considerably through the past decades.

If you are displaying photographs is recommended to avoid areas where light is strong, spotlights, or direct sunlight exposure and use frames with some type of UV protection or glazing.

 

Simulation of the deterioration caused by photos exposed to light
Simulation of the fading effects as a consequence of light exposure
Flatbed scanner for photo restoration

4. PROFESSIONALLY SCAN AND RESTORE YOUR PHOTOS

Its simple your photos are irreplaceable and your memories priceless, so make sure you make digital copies of photographs and negative film, you can always use your copies and keep the originals in a safer location.

Our photo restoration services include scanning of these material individually or in bulk, so feel free to contact us, we love preserving memories and hearing new stories, so will be glad to assist you or guide you through the process.

We all love our originals, therefore having a sacrificial copy is not only a good idea but best practice for memories preservation.

IMPORTANT: KEEP DIGITAL DUPLICATES OF YOUR PHOTOS

 

5. KEEP BUGS AWAY FROM YOUR PHOTO-COLLECTION

The stock and materials in which a photo was printed can be a source of food for many insects, it is important to understand that particulary old photos specially those coming from the nineteenth century were usually processed with organic dyes this mean they will be targetted for many different and hungry insects.

As a result your photos will be eaten and gradually deteriorate, specially if these are stored in an environment prone to bugs appeareance. 

Some pratical ways to maintain these under control are:

  • Store the album within a sealed box (plastic boxes work well) 
  • Keep dust and particles controlled (vacuum the box)
  • Inspect your photo collection regularly and check for bugs
Photo paper is a source of food for bugs and insects
Poor framing can damage a photo

6. POOR MOUNTING AND FRAMING?

An inappropriate mounting framing or even storage of your photos could be harmful for them in the long run, and one thing is for sure your photo collection might have been under a poor mounting for a few decades at minimum.

Therefore veryfying the quality of your mounting and framing is something you want to put on your checklist

 

7. HANDLE WITH CARE

Last but not least,  most of the damage an old photo suffers comes from mechanical human interaction, when taking a photo out of its frame or album you are exposing your memories to many different agents in the environment.

It is in this particular scenario where your photos are completely exposed, many photos have been suffered extensive damage out of an inappropriate or amateur human management.

Therefore before intitating any photo restoration works we always recommend to contact one of our professionals to perform a damage assessment and verify the best option available to digitalise your precious photography collection.

Man holding a magnification loupe to assess the damage of a photo prior estimating the photo restoration services

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