Colour print fading

It is worth noting that since the 1980’s technology for colour print stability has greatly improved.

With the advent of Digital photography and inkjet prints, it has reached a stage that colour prints should last a lifetime and longer if stored in cool, dry conditions.

Prior to this, the chemical reactions in colour photographs cause fading within a few decades. A common effect is for photos to get a strong red cast. Often this is not too difficult to reproduce and fix.

The main proviso is loss of detail if the fading has gone too far.

Another reason for fading is incorrect processing at the time. Sometimes portraits made for instant portrait shopping centre or restaurants were processed for speed rather than longevity and had less washing (removal of residual chemicals) than was required. Sometimes these images fade unevenly making restoration difficult.

The only way to guarantee non-fading of traditional colour photographs is to keep them in cold storage. This is because heat is one of the reasons for fading. It is interesting to note that a photo will continue to fade even in total darkness if exposed to heat.


James M. Reilly- Storage Guide for colour photographic materials.