They say a picture is worth a thousand words, which means your physical and digital photograph collections are worth the entire book of your life. That’s why it’s so important to preserve your photos and the memories they contain.
Capture archivists and preservation teams not only offer glare removal, cropping, and color correction with every photo digitization order, but we also know all about the storage and preservation of your precious photographs. That’s why we compiled this guide to ensure your photographs last forever.
Keep reading to learn about the basics of photo preservation, physical and digital preservation techniques, advanced methods, and how Capture plays a role in photo preservation for over 12 million families.
- Understanding the Basics of Photo Preservation
- Physical Photo Preservation Techniques
- Digital Photo Preservation
- Advanced Preservation Methods
- Capture's Role in Photo Preservation
Understanding the Basics of Photo Preservation
No photos will last forever, but photo preservation can keep old photos in the best condition for as long as possible. To understand how photo preservation works, it’s best to start with the factors that can degrade the quality of your photos.
The main causes of lost, damaged, and degraded photos are light, heat, and humidity. UV light will quickly fade photos, lighten the colors, and cause yellowing in the appearance. Just like with how to store film before development, it is best to store photos inside containers or albums with UV protection.
Heat, too, can cause fading as well as cracking or even darkening. This is because it can break down the chemicals used to create and develop the photograph. When organizing photos, choose a cool place out of sunlight. We recommend storage temperatures between 65-70 °F.
Additionally, make sure it has limited humidity or moisture. That’s because moisture, even if only relative humidity, can damage photos, risking your precious memories. The optimal humidity level for a photographic material is between 30-50%. This often disqualifies basements and attics, so make sure you check.
The oils in your skin can also degrade photos, which is why you should avoid touching the image area of Polaroid pictures or any other photograph. If you need to touch the photos, then use clean nitrile gloves.
In addition to these basic tips, there are some more in-depth photo preservation techniques.
Physical Photo Preservation Techniques
Librarians, archivists, curators, photo conservators, and anyone who works regularly with photos and historical documents will go beyond the basic photo preservation techniques.
Acid-free materials should always be used when storing print photos, film rolls, film reels, Kodachrome, photo slides, negatives, and any other type of old media. The acids in standard storage and non-professional photo albums can damage the coatings, dyes, and film base.
While photo preservation and archival storage professionals will typically use photographic gelatin, a cost-effective acid-free solution is polyethylene, polyester, or polypropylene. Try to find storage materials that pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT), a standard test for evaluating the archival quality of matting, storage, and other photo preservation materials.
As long as the solution has no active chemical compounds, acid, or lignin, then it should work for your family photos. This goes not only for sleeves, but also for storage boxes (which means your shoebox isn’t the best choice).
If your old photos are dusty or dirty and need to be cleaned, then you should avoid using your fingers without nitrile gloves on the image portion of the photos. Be cautious when using brushes to remove dust as well, because they can still scratch photographic prints. If possible, use an air bulb blower instead.
Should you have any specific questions or concerns, there are various resources and organizations dedicated to photo and document preservation including the Library of Congress, National Archives Conservation Laboratory, American Institute for Conservation (AIC), Northeast Document Conservation Center, and the Image Permanence Institute.
While physical photos require optimal photo storage conditions for longevity, digital images also require different forms of reservation.
Digital Photo Preservation
Digital photos will not be affected by light, heat, humidity, acid, and oils, which makes them a long-lasting alternative to physical prints. However, computers break, and data can be lost, which is why we recommend having at least 1 backup for all digital images.
That way, if a hard drive is lost, you still have the memories and photos elsewhere for future generations to enjoy. Additionally, digital storage can get messy, so try to label folders, files, and digital images so you can find what you are looking for in your photo collection.
While digital photos can be lost, they are much more durable and longer-lasting than physical photos. That’s why we strongly recommend that you convert photos to digital. You will still have the physical copies, but now will have digital backups on the cloud or a hard drive. That way, if light, humidity, or heat damage your old photos, you still have the memories stored digitally.
If you’re wondering how to digitize old photos, Capture can do it for you. Our archivists produce high-quality digital copies while using our multi-million-dollar facility to monitor your priceless family photographs every step of the way. Then, you can share your memories as digital prints and formats while keeping your physical color photographs in optimal storage conditions.
Advanced Preservation Methods
In addition to using acid-free enclosures, preventing light and heat, and maintaining a low humidity level, there are some more advanced photographic processes for preservation. This includes professional image restoration services that not only clean photos, but can add color, brighten fading, reduce yellowing, and so much more.
More advanced photographic preservation techniques can even fill in damaged portions of old photos. Additionally, some more advanced physical preservation methods can often remove the thin layer of yellowing to restore the photo to like-new condition.
While these types of advanced processes are best left to a professional photograph conservator, they are valuable options for historical photographs, daguerreotypes, and other documents.
Capture's Role in Photo Preservation
Capture has been preserving photos for over 20 years by turning them into high-quality digital copies. Our photo preservation services include a free 60-day backup to ensure the memories are never lost. Plus, we also perform glare removal, color correction, and cropping as needed so you get the best quality digital copy.
Not only that, but we spent millions of dollars on a state-of-the-art tracking and security system to preserve your original photos as well. This system tracks your priceless photos, negatives, albums, and photo slides every step of the way to ensure the originals are being preserved in the same condition as the digital copies.
More importantly, Capture offers the first-and-only touchless photo album scanning, which means we can digitize your memories without anyone ever having to touch them! No wonder we have over 12 million happy customers.
When storing, handling, and organizing old photos, make sure to follow best practices like moisture control, temperature regulation, and proper photo handling to ensure you do not damage your precious memories. Additionally, it’s a good idea to create a digital backup just in case something happens to your old photos.
If you want the highest-quality digital copies as well as peace of mind knowing your photos are cared for every step of the way, choose Capture. Our state-of-the-art facilities and highly trained photo preservation experts are the best in the business for digitization.
Plus, we can digitize your old photos without anyone ever having to remove them from albums. Click here to get started today!