Print Photo Preservation 

Old photo albums on a table

Print photo preservation is often overlooked. Today, we shoot digital photos, thanks to our sophisticated smart phones. But print photos are still a large part of most people’s personal archives.

Many people are unaware of print photo preservation best practices. As a result, prints tend to languish in shoeboxes, shopping bags, albums, in attics, basements, closets…out of sight and out of mind. Print photos, if properly cared for, can last 100-plus years. They are truly future-proof and do not need updating with the next tech upgrade.

The right storage is crucial to making sure your photo archive is properly cared for. A few general rules: print photos need a stable environment to preserve them. Cool and dry air with low humidity is ideal, along with good circulation. Photos should be kept free from dust and direct light sources.

Strategies To Manage, Organize, and Preserve Your Prints

• Attics and basements are terrible places to store paper of any kind. Temperature fluctuations, as well as dampness and mold, wreak havoc with printed images. The proximity to water – this includes dishwashers, washing machines, air conditioners, sinks, humidifiers – is also not good for prints.  Leaks and floods happen, destroying valuable archives. 

• Direct heating sources can damage photos. Avoid hanging photos above or near radiators, heating pipes and ducts, fireplaces, or heat-producing appliances.

• Light, from both natural and artificial sources, causes fading and damage to original prints. Consider using a duplicate image to be displayed in or near direct sunlight or other bright lights. Darker areas of the home (such as hallways) are best for displaying any original prints.  UV-protective window treatments and glass can help minimize this issue.

• Always choose preservation-quality mats, frames, and UV-protective glass for displaying photos. Indoor pollution is a growing problem and can damage photos that are not protected.

• If using photo albums, avoid the magnetic versions (we call them “chemical sandwiches”) which contain adhesives that will damage your photos. Instead, choose archival quality albums – Gaylord Archival offers good ones. Albums should not be made of vinyl or PVC. They should be acid-free and photo safe.

• Original photos can be stored in museum-quality boxes that are safe environments for long-term storage. Digital copies can be printed and added to photo books, for sharing and displaying.

To recap: while most of us shoot digital photos these days, print photo preservation still plays an important role with your photo legacy. Don’t neglect caring for your printed images!