How to Protect Your Photos from Silvering-Now!

Before and After example of silvering in a b+w photo. 2 profile views of of a woman c. 1930s.

If you have printed photos in your family collection, it’s important to pay attention to their condition because over time, they can suffer from various types of damage, including silvering.

What is silvering? It’s a form of photo damage common in black + white photos with silver-based emulsions. You can identify a silvering print by the metallic mirroring effect on the surface.

When a photo starts to silver, it will not stop. The process happens when the gelatin layer on the photograph’s surface begins to break down, causing the silver particles in the image to rise to the surface.

There are several reasons why this can occur. One of the most common is improper storage of photographs. Exposure to high humidity levels, temperature fluctuations, and exposure to sunlight or UV light can all contribute to silvering.

You can prevent silvering with the proper care and handling of your photographs.

Some tips:

– Store your photographs in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and high humidity levels. An album or storage box specifically designed for photographs is ideal.

– Handle your photographs with clean, dry hands. Using cotton or nitrile gloves is ideal because oil and dirt from your hands can cause damage to the photograph’s surface.

– Keep your photographs away from materials that contain acids, such as wood pulp or cardboard, which can accelerate the aging process and contribute to silvering. Always store photos in archival enclosures. 

If your photograph has already suffered from silvering, don’t panic! While you can’t reverse the damage, a museum-quality digital scan can restore the photo’s original appearance and bring the image back to life.

The image above is a great example of the work we did on a damaged photo. See the difference? 

Remember – silvering is a common type of photo damage that can occur in black and white photos. It’s important to take proper care of your photos to prevent this from happening in the first place. But if your photographs have already suffered from it,  don’t worry – the images can be restored in digital form, and they will look great for years to come.