Five ways to protect printed photos

Pictures of parent hand and baby hand hanging on the rope

Digital and mobile photography may have taken the world by storm, but print photographs will never lose their appeal. Some still choose to have their electronic images physically reproduced.

Besides being tactile, a physical photo can leave longer-lasting memories and a stronger sense of nostalgia—whether tucked somewhere in the attic or displayed prominently on your living room wall. There’s just one downside to keeping printed images: their sensitivity. Photos can fade and deteriorate over time, exceptionally if they’re not maintained correctly.

Your invaluable memories deserve tender, loving care. Learn how to safeguard your printed photos with the tips below.

Handle Them With Utmost Care

Printed photos are sensitive. As much as possible, avoid touching them with your bare hands or, worse, when your hand is wet. Doing so leaves residues that can damage the copies or shorten their lifespan. Wear cotton gloves while arranging or storing your prints to avoid these from happening.

Additionally, never use staplers, adhesives, or clips to keep them together while waiting to buy a photo album. If you’re planning to display them, use solid timber photo frames for long-lasting protection.

Use Chemical-free Albums And Plastics

As mentioned, adhesives can destroy your precious memories without you knowing it. A better alternative would be magnetic albums devoid of chemicals, especially acid. Avoid plastics made from polyvinyl chloride, too, as they’re known to be acidic.

Purchase frames with chemical-free protective layers to prevent the photos from contacting the glass. When storing printed images in paper boxes, ensure they don’t contain dyes and other chemicals that could destroy the image.

Stack Them In A Metal Or Sturdy Paper Box

If you have yet to purchase an album or are planning to keep a memory box, insert acid-free paper between your photos’ copies as protection. A metal box may be used, or a sturdy cardboard box. Look for high-quality boxes used for archiving purposes. They might cost more than the usual paper boxes, but the extra cost is worth the investment.

Safeguard Them From The Elements

Besides chemicals, natural elements can also take their toll on your precious photos. Your collection must be kept in a safe yet accessible place so you can access them when your mood needs a boost. Never place them in the basement and other sections of your home where they may be exposed to excessive heat, light, humidity, and floodwater.

  • Sunlight: The earth’s most abundant renewable energy source may provide numerous benefits. But it’s one of the main reasons why printed photos fade. Sunlight can dissolve the dyes and other materials used in printing an image. Light and electrical charges can compromise artifacts and artworks, too. That’s why flash photography is prohibited in enclosed places like museums. That’s beside the fact light flashes can be distracting.
  • Humidity and fluctuating temperatures: These two elements significantly contribute to photo deterioration. Exposing your photos to moisture and extreme temperatures will cause oxidation, which causes fading and discoloration.

This reminder may come as self-explanatory, but it bears repeating, as some individuals may only think of one element and not the other. For instance, keeping photos in the garage may be an excellent way to safeguard them from direct sunlight. However, you may expose them to extreme humidity, where mold can grow and destroy them. Keep the copies in a well-ventilated area with protection as much as possible. Frame the photos before putting up a gallery wall.

Avoid Writing On The Back Of Your Photos

Archiving printed photos is a good way of keeping memories. Each photo must show details to record your family history. Writing down information about your stack of images helps give viewers, especially your family members, a sense of nostalgia.

Avoid writing the details, however, on the back of the print. Doing this helps prevent the ink from interacting with the chemicals in printing your photos. You can also tear and damage the photo paper with too much force. Here’s what you can do instead:

  • Write on a separate sheet of paper: Look for chemical or acid-free paper and cut them according to size. Write down the photo’s details but don’t stick them onto the image. Look for a photo album with slots meant for captioning and insert them onto the sleeves.
  • Use a pencil: It may not look like it, but a pencil is better than a ballpoint pen when writing information about the image. Pencils are less likely to fade as compared to ink and can be erased easily without the need to scratch out wrong entries. It’s also legible even with less pressure.

Photos are as precious as the memories attached to them. Treat printed photos as family treasures you can share with the next generation and beyond. To make this possible, follow the abovementioned tips so your printed images can last a lifetime.