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Photos are vulnerable to air, heat, direct sunlight, humidity, mold and mildew, bug infestation, and acid from non-archival storage, which can cause permanent damage. Begin your photo preservation mission by first getting and then keeping your photos out of harm's way.
- Remove loose photos from regular cardboard boxes and put them in acid-free storage containers.
- Select paper or plastic storage boxes that are designed specifically for archival storage.
- Keep boxes in a cool, dry location with low light, low humidity, and away from fire and water.
The materials in photo albums, along with the glues used to adhere the photos, are crucial considerations in photo preservation. Magnetic photo albums, with their sticky pages and plastic covers, are damaging to photos from the front and the back. Ordinary glues and adhesives such as rubber cement can quickly damage photos.
- Remove photos carefully from an album while trying not to tear, scratch, or curl them.
- Once removed, turn photos over and gently peel off any large glue blobs, being very careful not to scratch the backing.
- Handle photos as little as possible to avoid damage from fingerprints.
- Store photos flat on an archival-safe surface in a single layer (do not stack on top of each other as the remaining adhesive on the back will do further damage to the front of the photo beneath it).
- Select only archival-quality photo albums that are acid- and lignin-free.
- Store photo albums as you would photo boxes: in a low-light, low-humidity, cool, dry area.
Caution: Before extracting photos from old albums, consider scanning and saving the images while they are still attached, just in case they are accidentally damaged in the removal process.
Scan and Save
Thanks to the digital age, photo preservation and restoration are more effective and easier than ever. High-resolution scanners can turn old photos, negatives, or slides into digital images that can remain unchanged for generations when properly saved and stored.
- Save permanent "read only" copies of your original scanned photos to avoid unintentionally saving over them.
- Scan photos at 300 dpi and save at the highest quality.
- Store images onto compact disks that are archival quality.
- Make more than one backup copy of photos and store them separately.
- Consider online photo storage.
Repair and Restore
Photos tend to fade over time, especially when they're not stored safely. The good news is that with photo-editing software you can refresh old photos that are in need of brightening, and you can digitally repair cracks, tears, smudges, or other damage.
- Restore photo brightness by adjusting brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation.
- Fix cracks, tears, and smudges by using the Cloning tool to copy an undamaged area of the photo over the damaged area.
Seek Professional Help
Many local photo-processing stores are able to scan and save photos as well as touch and restore tired or damaged photos.
There also are many online companies that provide scanning restoration services, here are a few:
Sites with photo preservation guidance:
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