With the popularity of digital cameras and camera phones, storing actual photographs will soon be a problem of the past. However, chances are you still have a bunch of physical pictures from recent years or as historical archives. There was a time before Facebook when actual photo albums were the only way to show off your pictures! So what do you do with them all? If your family pictures are still piled sloppily in a closet, attic, or spare room somewhere, here are some storage tips for optimal preservation.
Organize Your Photos
Store similar pictures or pictures from an event together, depending on the size of your storage containers and the amount of photos you have. For example, you could keep all of your son’s baby pictures in the same container. Or if you have so many baby pictures that you can’t keep them all together, organize by event or time. For example, keep all his baby pictures from his first birthday party in one container.
If you have the time, label the containers with details such as time and place it was taken. This will help you easily find and identify your photos when it’s time to show them off again. If you are labeling individual photos, be sure to include names and ages of people in the photo as well. Don’t ever use a ballpoint pen because this could damage the photographs. Stick with a pencil or permanent marker instead.
Handle your photos carefully. Try to touch the front side of the photo as little as possible because oils from your fingers can deteriorate the photo quality. If you can, use a protective covering or place photos in a album or book.
Control Your Storage Location
Store photos in a safe place for optimal preservation. Temperature, humidity, moisture, and light are important to consider when deciding where to store your photos. A mild temperature, moderate humidity, and very limited light is ideal. Too much light or a high temperature can make your photos vulnerable to fading and cracking. Too much moisture in the air can cause your photos to stick together or mold. Basements, attics, and garages are a bad idea because of the variation in temperature and humidity. The best place to store your photos is a climate-controlled location that stays between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Climate-controlled storage units are the best place to find this.
Whether you choose to have your photos matted, put in a photo album, or stored in a container, make sure these materials are non-acidic. For extra insurance, look for materials that pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) which tests whether a material will cause fading or staining.
Always Have a Backup Plan
Always keep backups (negatives or a second copy) in an alternative location if you have them. That way, in case either copies are ever damaged, you will have a backup in a separate location.
Alternatively, if you don’t have backups, scan the most important photos into a computer. You can also pay an office supply store to do this for you if you don’t have the time to do it yourself. They will provide you with a thumb drive so you can access your photos on any computer. The plus side of this is you can then create custom gifts with your photos. You can also print another copy whenever you need it.