FAQs and TIPS
Preserving Old Photos
- Feeling overwhelmed with the idea of archiving your family photo history?
- Does the thought of losing all those family memories in a disaster leave you sick to your stomach?
- Feeling lost because you don’t even know where to begin when it comes to organizing and preserving all those old family photos?
Fire, water damage and catastrophes are always a threat but so is procrastination, and carelessness. A little time and knowledge of the best practices plus a little effort can keep your photos in excellent shape for people to enjoy for years to come.
Are you an organized person with patience?
Identify which photos are most important to you or your family, and scan or restore the most important ones.
Hand over the three or four boxes of prints/slides/negatives to us or a professional scanning service and at the LEAST, have them cheaply scanned at 600dpi. You can always go back and restore the bad ones at any date later in the future, as long as they’re digitally copied and not continuing to fade as prints.
Sorting and Editing
Don’t get bogged down. Some photographs are more important to you and your family than others.
Obviously, that beautiful studio portrait of your great grandfather looking handsome in his tux from the 1930s is a heck of a lot more important than the dozen or so out-of-focus photographs of your brother’s convertible from 1968. Take a few hours and edit. Don’t throw anything away but sort through and identify the photographs you know will mean the most to your family.
Start with two boxes to sort with: One for keepers and one for the unusable ones, or duplicates not needed.
Photographs that are poorly composed, out of focus or just simply don’t show anything you care that much about aren’t worth restoring. By prioritizing the photographs into piles of very important, kind of important, and not so important you should have a much more manageable group of photographs to deal with.
Four Simple Questions for Keeping Photos
Does the photograph appear 40 years or older?
If it’s a scarce photo, it’s more emotionally valuable.
How many other photos are there that show those family members in that approximate time in their lives?
If there are not many others, you know the photo needs to be given special attention.
Is the picture of a birth, wedding, or funeral?
If yes, this pushes these photos to the front of the line for preservation steps or copying.
Can you stand the thought of never being able to see that photo again?
If the answer is no…then contact us today!
Time to Digitize
The first line of defense for preservation and preventing a terrible loss to your prized family photos is to use today’s computer scanners to copy. It’s an excellent insurance policy. In the case of photography, digital backups offer safe, affordable and convenient storage. Scan the images and save the files to hard drives and burn to multiple CDs or DVDs. Store these discs at multiple locations, to avoid lost from fire and water damage. Even better, share the photographs with other family members by giving them the discs for their own storage. We can back up your images as well if you have hundreds or thousands of images and save you many hours of time and trouble.
If you are scanning your own photos, use 600ppi. If it’s color save as 24 bit RGB. It’s it black & white, use 300ppi, 8 bit grayscale. TIFF files are the best but take up a lot of hard drive pace. JPEGS are compressed TIFF files and work fine and save space on your hard drive.
Storing Original Photos After Scanning: Keep Them Cool and Dry
Store your photographs in the coolest, driest part of your house. No basements and no attics. There’s too much humidity in a basement and too much heat in an attic. Store them in an area that stays fairly consistent year around.
The best way to store your originals and backups are in a fire-proof safe. Only invest in a safe that is rated by Underwriter Laboratories. It is best to use safes that are rated at UL125 that has been tested by UL to allow for no more than 125 degrees Fahrenheit internal temps during a one hour or longer fire.
A closet on a second floor room is a good bet to store your photos. It has a fairly consistent climate with fairly dry air. It’s also dark. Remember bright light or UV from the sun deteriorates all images quickly.
Storing Prints and Negatives
Albums are a terrific means of storing images. The albums keep the images organized, safely stored and offer great protection when being handled. They are also an enjoyable way to see and view the photos.
Avoid self-stick albums, their adhesives stain photographs. That same adhesive dries up after several years. Boxes are another good storage method although don’t over stuff the boxes or under fill them.
If you are going to use plastic such as sleeves or page protectors, use uncoated pure polyethylene, polyester or polypropylene plastics. Avoid PVC plastics since they have acids that can stick to items and damage prints. Over time images touching such plastics are likely to transfer an oily substance as the plastic breaks down after 25 or more years.
If you are using paper enclosures such as envelopes use a non-acidic, lignin-free paper made from cotton or highly purified wood pulp.
Original Slides (after scanning)
Storage in 80 and 140 capacity trays work well if kept in tray boxes and kept in the dark with low humidity. Slide storage in plastic sleeves does not work well for periods over 5 years.
Most of the plastic 20 page holders can turn back to a greasy oily substance when they break down from age and when that sticks to the emulsion side, those images can be totaled over decades.
Low-density polyethylene pages also are not recommended.
Store slides in the dark in a reasonable environment.
The storage temperature should not exceed 75°F and the relative humidity should be kept as low as possible – to avoid fungus growths, slides should never be stored where the relative humidity is above 65-70% for prolonged periods.
Handling 35mm Slides
Handle slides carefully to avoid fingerprints, scratches, and abrasion. Slides, especially one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable originals, should be treated with the same care given to valuable negatives.