In this day and age, the number of digital photos being shot is mindboggling – 1.2 trillion in 2017! In the past, creating photo albums and storing prints and slides in shoeboxes were common practices. Today, images are prodigiously posted and shared on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites – and sometimes stored in the cloud. But many people still print and put together scrapbooks or albums featuring their best digital images.
You might assume that photo preservation is not an issue at all, unless you’re dealing with vintage photos and slides. You know – the baby albums of your now 25-year-old daughter and 30-year-old son, old family photos stored away in boxes, and slide carousels in your basement inherited from your parents. Traditional photos can yellow, fade, and turn funky colors if you don’t store them properly. But digital images can disappear into thin air if the devices they were stored on suddenly die and there’s no backup! Here are tips for preserving traditional photos and digital files and prints.
The Best Way to Store Photos
The following tips apply to both traditional and digital prints because the processes used in both are vulnerable to an array of factors. According to experts, photos of all types should be stored in environments with 30–50% humidity, while the recommended temperature varies by the type of photo process used.
- Display photos in museum-quality frames with UV-resistant glass and acid-free mats so the images don’t touch the glass
- Store photos in a dark, cool, and optimally dry place in your house (not your basement, garage, or attic!)
- Keep photos away from sunlight to reduce the effects of UV rays, smoke, and air exposure
- Create high-quality scans of all the photos you wish to preserve, get them printed professionally, display the copies, and store the originals in archival photo boxes
- Store negatives and slides in archival sleeves, preferably in acid-free three-ring binders
How to Preserve Digital Photos and Files
The nice thing about digital photos is that you don’t have to worry about negatives or slides deteriorating. They can be printed multiple times, providing you don’t lose the files. The issue is that digital photos are so easy to take and post to social media sites, many people take them for granted. They don’t know how to organize them and sometimes lose thousands of images when devices die and there’s no back-up. Here are a few additional tips for the files themselves:
- Burn the images to DVDs or USB drives and label them
- Use a cloud-based solution to store them
- Back up images that are stored on your smartphone and/or computer on a standalone hard drive
- Consider creating photo books using a commercial service that creates customized albums from digital images you upload to the site
How to Preserve Old Photos in an Album
Remember those so-called magnetic photo albums that were all the rage and are still available today? The term magnetic doesn’t even make sense because it’s the acidic adhesive in these albums that holds the photos in place. When photos have been in these albums for several years, it can be difficult to remove them from the sticky surface without tearing or curling them. If you cannot remove the photos, send them in the album to a professional scanning service to have them digitized.
For starters, you should never use magnetic photo albums that feature sticky pages with plastic sheet overlays. If you wish to create photo albums, only use acid-free photo pages and albums. These are easy to find at many online and brick and mortar craft and photography stores and come in a wide range of price points.
Preserve Your Precious Photos Today!
Precious photos can fade or go poof into thin air faster than the memories of special times in your life. Consider getting traditional photos digitized by a professional service. If they have already faded or the color has shifted, this can be corrected in the scanning and repair process. Even photos damaged by fire, light, water, mold, pets, or children can be restored to their former glory, in many cases. Remember to back up your digital image files and preserve the prints just like you would traditional vintage photos. Do this today rather than tomorrow to prevent losing your photos to the ravages of time or a dying device!