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All About Archiving Family Photos

Jun 27, 2022 / Learn

Remember that picture your mom used to show you of your grandparents? Or that photo of your parents back when they were your age (they looked so different!) and the smiles the photo still brings. Family photos are an invaluable keepsake. And maybe you’ll one day, want to show future generations the photos of your lifetime the way older ones were shown to you. Preserving and displaying images is important so that they can be enjoyed now – and much, much later. But these irreplaceable images are subject to wear and tear, so read on for a comprehensive guide on the best ways to archive your family photos so that they may be enjoyed for years (and generations) to come.

How to Preserve Family Photos

How to Handle

Be conscious of your hands & environment when working with your family photos: a clean, clear working space and washed hands are best. Do not eat, drink or smoke around them. Wearing gloves will help to avoid getting fingerprints on photos and negatives, as they can smudge and even stain.

How to Store

It sometimes goes unthought of, but the ways your photos are stored can have a significant impact on their longevity. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Generally, the lower the room temperature, the longer your photos will last, as cooler temperatures tend to slow the rate of chemical decay; below 75 degrees is optimal.
  • To reduce mold and reduce insect activity, a relative humidity (RH) of below 65% is ideal (but not too low, as a RH below 15% can cause brittleness).
  • Limit light exposure to your photos, as any type of visible light can cause fading and other unwanted changes.

How to Digitize Your Family Photos

In this day and age, digitizing the photos you want to keep is definitely a best practice. Use a high-resolution scanner if available, and place them with care using the handling methods above. If you’ll be re-printing them, then getting your image at 300 dots per inch (DPI) is ideal. Another thing to consider is when saving out your files, the higher the .jpg setting, the better the quality will be for editing, viewing and printing. Also, after scanning your images into your computer, don’t forget to back up your work!

Diagram of components of a framed presentation

How to Restore Family Photos & Make Them Look Like New Again

Now that your photos have been digitally stored, there are various forms of software available that are wonderful for adjusting imperfections, color, lighting, and more. Adobe Photoshop, one of the most popular, has easy-to-use tools that even a beginner can play with. “Saturation” or “Levels” adjust color, and either “Brightness” or “Levels” can change the lighting. Their “Spot Healing” tool does wonders for erasing dust, scratches, and other minor imperfections.

That being said, if you feel you cannot safely handle and restore your photos, there are professional conservators available, and it may be worth the extra buck to have an experienced professional safely handle such a delicate situation.

Vintage Family Photo Preservation

Best Ways to Frame Old Family Photos

Make it Last With Materials

Scanning, uploading and printing an image on archival paper can create the same, if not a better, look! Also, using acid-free mats, paper and foamcore backing help protect the integrity of photos and paper. If you want to go the extra mile, using a Shadowbox Frame minimizes contact between the glass and the surface of your photos or documents.

Caption with Caution

Photographs that have been passed on from generation to generation may have some sort of description on the back. Things like “Bobby, Easter ’46” or “Christmas, ’72” can be seen throughout familial photo albums. For the best care and keeping, if you want to add some history on the back – use pencil. The ink in pens and markers can damage a photo over time or bleed through. By using pencil, you can capture the story behind the photo while still keeping it safe. (Better yet, write up a short summary and create a collage to pass the family history onto your loved ones.)

Use UV Protection

When choosing your frame, select the “UV Protective Acrylic & Acid-Free Foamcore Backing” option. The protective acrylic will help block UV rays, just like how sunscreen protects your skin, and keep the colors or shadows sharp. Again, it’s good to try and hang in an area where direct light is at a minimum and humidity is limited.

Now it’s your turn! Transform your very own vintage piece – and share it with us on Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #framingjoy. We can’t wait to see your story!