Tips for Safe Photo Storage

May 05, 2014  •  2 Comments

Longmont Photography Gift PrintsLongmont Photography Gift PrintsGift Prints are gifts of memories given to your loved ones.

When choosing a place to store your old photos safely, which of these factors do you think matters the most: light, moisture, or temperature? Here are my favorite tips for keeping your precious photos safe for decades (and see number 2 for the answer to my question).


1. “Archival-safe” isn’t just a fad. It’s not important whether your Longmont photography photos are in albums or boxes—it’s important that those albums and boxes are archival-safe and acid-free. You can also find photo-safe envelopes for storing large quantities of prints. Archival, acid-free materials won’t emit the harmful gases that can lead to photo deterioration over time. Non-PVC plastics are safer than PVC, too. (You know how the album pages from your childhood turned yellow? That’s because safe photo-storage items weren’t invented yet.)


2. What’s worse, light, moisture, or temperature? I guess I was tricking you, because they can all be just as damaging to your photos. It’s important to keep your photos protected, in a place that is dark and dry, with low temperatures. The basement is dark and cool, but most basements aren’t dry, and if you have any flooding, that’s the most likely place for it to be. Attics are dark, but they’re not cool, and one leak in the roof means no more photos. Find a place on the main floor of your home that meets all the criteria.


3. If you’re combining photo display and storage by using frames, remember that custom frames are safer than “off the shelf” frames. When you buy a frame off the shelf, even in a photography or framing store, you could be unwittingly buying one that isn’t protected with acid-free processing, so watch for labels that say “acid-free.” With a custom frame, you’ll know you’re getting safe photo materials, including UV-filtered glass to protect your treasured images from harmful light.


4. Speaking of photo-safe frames, try canvas! Many of my Longmont photography clients chose my stretched-canvas print options. Canvas prints won’t curl, stick, or warp like photos printed on regular photography paper. Canvas prints are a simple, elegant option, and they look just like fine-art paintings!


5. Take time to sort your photos before storing them. Save any photo that means something to you or that tells a story, but don’t waste money on archival-safe albums and boxes for photos that are blurry, or for multiple angles/views of the same subject. Don’t feel compelled to keep photos that are unflattering, either. Keep your very favorites, and give duplicates of good photos to family members, but toss everything else.


6. And here’s what NOT to do if your photos do happen to get damaged, so you won’t harm them further:

  • If your photos have dirt on them, don’t try to wipe the dirt off the surface; it will scratch. Instead, try gently blowing the dirt off.
  • If your photos get wet, all you can do is wait for them to dry. Do not stack wet photos and do not touch the surface of wet photos.
  • If your photos are already stuck together into a dried pile, do not try to pull them apart.
  • If your photos are ripped, do not try to repair them with glue or tape. Glue will stain and tape will ruin the photo’s surface.


Longmont Photographer Lisa Patchem offers photo restoration if your photos get too damaged.  Call Lisa today for a free consultation on how to preserve your photographs & memories.


Lisa Patchem Photography - Longmont Photographer
Dorothy, I feel guilty too when I have to get rid of a photo (even if it is digital). So what I do is make a collection of 'bad' photos. When the pile gets big, I revisit them to see if there is anything creative I can do with them. It can be artistic most of the time, but sometimes it is very humorous!
Wow, these are great tips, thank you! I'm going to get my photos from the basement right now. And I always feel guilty throwing photos away, even if they're unflattering or blurry. But I definitely don't have room to keep them all, so thank you for agreeing that it's okay to do it!
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