Tips for Storing Printed Photographs
Does your photo collection contain hundreds of printed photographs? How are you currently storing them? And, are you storing them so that they will be preserved for your children, grandchildren and others in the future?
Photographs are irreplaceable so it’s important to take care of them and store them properly.
Of course, one of the first things you do before storing your printed photographs anywhere is to back them up! You’ll find more about back-up strategies in these posts:
Now, let’s look at how to store all of those photos!
Photo Storage Conditions
Store photos in the right kind of conditions. This refers to the humidity, temperature and light of the place your photos are stored in.
With regards to humidity, the lower the better.
- Stay away from storing photographs in basements. They tend to be too humid and may flood. Dampness in the basement leads to mold, pictures sticking together and insect infestations.
Another issue is temperature. Again, the lower the better. While temperatures of 50 to 75 degrees F are acceptable; if you want longevity, keeping the temp below 35 degrees may be more suitable.
- Warm temps cause the colors in your photographs to fade quicker.
- Attics tend to be too dry and hot.
- Keep the temp and humidity as consistent as possible – a climate-controlled environment, if possible. This tends to rule out garages as a good storage place since these areas range from very cold to very hot depending on where you live.
Fluctuations in temp and humidity cause curling, warping and cracking of printed photos.
Light is another factor that can affect your printed photographs, causing them to fade. Best practice is to store photographs in a dark room.
When you find a room or location that you think would work, ask yourself these questions:
- Will the photographs be free of insect and/or rodent damage?
- Will the photographs be free water damage, which might be caused by flooding and leaks?
- Can the photographs be stored up off the floor?
This should lead you to a good photo storage location.
Photo Storage Containers
Finding the right place with the right conditions is the first step. Now, let’s look at the containers you use, such as photo albums and photo storage boxes.
If you’re like most, you probably have lots of photos stored in photo albums. If so, you may need to switch to another type of photo album or storage container (especially if they happen to be those icky magnetic photo albums!).
The key to photo storage containers – use containers that are archival quality, photo safe, and acid, lignin and PVC free.
Keep these storage tips in mind when storing your photo collection.
- Envelopes can be fine for short-term storage, but not for the long term. When using envelopes, be sure to use ones made from archival quality paper.
- Do not overfill an album or storage container. Pictures easily fall out, get bent or torn.
- If your storage container (photo box) is underfilled, photos can move around and the edges get frayed or curled. Another problem with underfilled photo boxes is that photos may not stand up straight. This can cause them to bow or bend.
- Do not use ordinary cardboard boxes for storing your photographs. Cardboard, wood and many plastics give off gases that will damage your photos.
- When writing on the back of photos, use an archival safe photo pen rather than a pen or marker. These can leave indentations, ink can smear or transfer to another photo.
- Use those corner squares instead of gluing or taping a photo down. This means less risk of tearing a photo should you need to take it out.
- Do not use any kind of adhesive label. Chemicals in the adhesive can cause problems.
- Avoid using paper clips or rubber bands to hold photos together.
- Avoid storing photographs with newspaper clippings. The acid in the paper will damage the photos. Consider photocopying the newspaper article using acid-free paper before storing with your photos.
- Handle negatives carefully and avoid getting fingerprints on them. They should be stored just like photos, away from light, heat and humidity. You also want to store negatives separately from the original – that way, you will have one copy should the other get lost or damaged.
- Be aware that excessive photocopying or scanning can damage your photos. The process involves both light and heat.
Photo Organizer Services
As a photo organizer, I help clients in all parts of the process or in organizing their photos, whether that means downsizing a large collection, putting an organizing process into place, developing a back-up plan, sharing with the family or how to display those very special memories.
We are here to help you whether you are a DIY-person, need a team to assist you or just want someone to do it all!