Photos, or prints, are typically made out of three layers of materials: chemicals and inks which make up the image on the surface, and the binder which adheres the picture to the paper. The exact chemical make-up of a photo depends on the era and developing process used. Regardless of when a photo was processed, each layer reacts to its environment different and deteriorates over time.
The most common way of storing photos is inside an album; however, there are many ways of storing photos for different formats and sizes. The type of storage you choose will depend on cost, the condition of the print and how frequently the photos will be handled for viewing.
Handle With Care
Newly developed photos should be kept separate from the negatives. The chemicals in the photo and the negatives have been known to react with each other, causing damage to the print if not they’re not stored separately.
Always hold photographs by the edges, while supporting it from underneath with your other hand. This protects the photo from being accidentally bent or torn.
Avoid touching the surface of the picture with your fingers. The oils from your fingertips can leave stains on the print. To remove fingerprints from a picture, gently clean it with either cotton or a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Storing Photos in an Album
Avoid storing photos in materials containing acid or lignin. Prolonged exposure to these chemicals can yellow and destroy your photos. Many albums sold in the past are not archival safe. Black paper pages and magnetic albums, which were once popular during the 1960′s, were extremely acidic and have been known to cause damage photos. You can increase the lifespan of your photos by managing the acid content of storage materials that come in contact with the prints. For example, if you use albums, envelopes or boxes, make sure that they are archival quality.
Avoid using any adhesives in your photo projects or albums. Adhesives, such as tape and glue, are the main cause for deterioration in photos because of a chemical reaction which occurs between the glue and the print. Avoid using albums with adhesive pages unless they are specified as being archival quality. Instead, use photo corners to secure your pictures to the page.
Use a page protector to limit the amount of contact your photos have with the air. Page protectors look a lot like plastic sleeves and come in a wide selection of shapes, sizes and materials. Most page protectors are designed to fit into standard three-ringed binders, post-bound and strap-hinged albums. Page protectors are often designed with built-in slots for slipping in one photo or two back-to-back into the sleeves. These are designed to fit directly into the photo album without any special preparation or mounting.
Polyester or mylar page protectors are considered to be top of the line and can cost anywhere from $10 and upwards for three, 5 inch by 7 inch sleeves. Polypropylene and polyethylene page protectors are more affordable alternatives and can be purchased in bulk for the same cost as one mylar page protector. They are both inexpensive and are safe for storing photos and documents. Avoid magnetic album page protectors. Although they are labeled as “acid-free”, they will destroy your photographs over time. Also, avoid page protectors made out of acetate or vinyl components. Vinyl and acetate can adhere to photos, causing them to premature change color and fade.
Always store albums in an upright or vertical position. Albums, which are left lying on their side, can cause ugly distortions and indentations in the page; as well as damaging the photos.
Be careful not to overfill an album with pages. Too many pages in an album increase the chance of losing a page if the album does not close the entire way.
Take Care of Framed Photos
Display photos away from direct sunlight. Exposure to UV radiation is one of the main causes of photo fading. If possible, find a frame which has glass surface treatment to it which decreases the amount of UV light being transmitted through it. These types of frames are available at most frame shops and photo stores.
Always place an acid-free mat between the photo and the frame. This prevents the photo from adhering to the glass over time.
You can further decrease the amount of UV radiation your photos are exposed to by rotating your pictures.
Store Photos Digitally
Download photos directly onto your computer from your and label them according to month or year.
Remotely store your favorite photos. This can be done by burning a DVD of your photos and storing them in a case, or by uploading them to photo sharing sites on the internet.
Other Forms of Storage
Store photos in a cool, dry and dark place, safe from pet damage and water. A closet or a well-ventilated room is an excellent choice for storing photo boxes. Try to avoid storing photos in an attic or a basement, these areas are prone to fluctuations in temperature and humidity.
Photos which are frequently handled, should be stored separately in its own protective sleeve before being grouped together in a box.
Try not to over-stuff or under-fill a box. An overstuffed box can cause damage to photos whenever they are filed or pulled out. Conversely, a relatively empty box will cause the photos to warp and curl.Read More