Last Updated on May 17, 2021
Most of us have a large number of old photos lying around the house. They’re usually in shoeboxes, in albums, or even stuffed at the back of a drawer. A lot of us will even go years without thinking about them – only to find them while cleaning up. By then, they’re probably already ripped or faded.
After a while, we start to ask ourselves “Is this how I should be storing these?” Well in short, no. Today, we’re going to see how you should store photos so they don’t get ruined. After today, you should never lose another important picture again.
1. Store photos away from direct sunlight and acidic elements.
When it comes to storing old memorabilia, most of us will put them in a box, and put that box in the attic or basement. For most things, this is fine – but NOT for your photos. Photos need a cool, dry, and dark environment in order to keep their color and not curl.
Attics get too hot in the summer, and basements get too humid with a chance of flooding. An environment that is too dry will cause photos to quickly grow brittle. Meanwhile, an area that is too humid will cause photos to grow moldy, stick to each other, and even cause insect infestations.
Ideally, you should store your photos in a box on a bookshelf, or in a cabinet on the main floor of your home. If you have any photos hanging on the walls, you will want to get frames with UV-blocking glass.
Direct sunlight can harm your photos, but house lights can also cause damage. So even though your photos are framed and are hung inside, they can still fade and be damaged due to strong lighting in the home.
To prevent this, get UV-blocking glass. If a picture is good enough to frame, it’s good enough to spend a little extra to make sure it lasts. For photos that aren’t so fancy and don’t need to be framed, the main thing you have to look out for while storing them is acid.
Acid will show up in a lot of unlikely places and can seriously damage your precious photos. As photographs are made from chemicals, it makes sense that something acidic in value would alter their chemical properties, causing distortion, fading, and many other side effects.
Acid can be found in cheap photo albums, cardboard boxes, envelopes, adhesives, newspaper clippings, and pen ink. Specialty stores will carry acid-free albums that you can store your photos in to make them last much longer. If you want to write on the back of a photo, use pencil to avoid damage caused by acid from pen ink.
2. Avoid over-filling albums or photo boxes.
Once your photos are in an album, make sure you haven’t crowded them in an effort to save space. An over-filled album can cause photos to get bent or have curled edges. The album should be somewhat full, but not quite.
The same goes for using photo boxes that are made from photo-safe plastic. If the box is too full, your photos will get bent and smushed together. But if it’s not filled enough, the photos will slide around and may get damaged.
Find the balance in storing and you should be all set!
3. Handle photos with care.
Never touch photos with wet hands, whether it’s water or you just put on lotion, as both can cause serious damage. Always grab the photo by the edges, making sure your fingers don’t touch the actual image.
We all have oils and other chemicals on our skin and in our fingerprints. These get transferred to everything we touch, which is fine in most cases. But they can eat away at fragile organic materials over time, like photos.
It would be best to only handle photos while wearing gloves. But that isn’t realistic, so just be sure that your hands are dry and you hold the photo by the edges.
4. Digitize your photos to store them on your computer or on the cloud.
Even perfect storage won’t make photos last forever. The older a photo, the greater impact the elements will have on it, causing even well-kept photos to fade and become brittle.
The best thing you can do to truly make your photos last forever is to have them scanned and digitized so they can be stored on your computer or in the cloud. Digital files have a life span far greater than any physical media that exists today.
The files can also be copied with a click of the mouse or stroke of a key. This enables you to quickly send a copy to all your friends and family. That way, even if your computer fails, you know there are back-up copies you can easily retrieve.
To digitize photos, you can either scan them yourself OR have a reputable photo scanning service company do it for you. Keep in mind that digitizing photos is a very laborious process, even if you have the proper equipment and software.
If you only have a handful of prints, you can do it at home. If you have hundreds or thousands, you’ll probably end up saving time and money by using a photo scanning service. Either way, put your mind at ease by going digital – you’ll be glad you did.