Photo preservation / blog.


Protecting and preserving old photographs.

  • Photographs should not be stored in Attics or garages. Variation in temperature results in cracks in the emulsion.
  • Keep photographs out of direct sunlight. All photographs will fade in time if exposed to sunlight.
  • It is important not to touch photographs on the emulsion side as oils and acids on the fingers can damage the photographic emulsion.
  • Copy/ scan photographs to preserve the image. If the original is lost, at least there is the copy.
  • Do not put sticky tape on old photographs. It can be impossible to remove without damage and the glue can also affect the emulsion.
  • Avoid laminating old photographs.
  • Do not attempt to clean photographs by wiping with a wet sponge. This can cause the emulsion to swell and come away from it’s base.


Old Photograph Albums

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Old, damaged photograph album from the 1940’s.

Although we take more photos than ever before, the family photo album has become a thing of the past for many families. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of images of family and friends are often only stored on mobile phone memory. Even if they are stored to the cloud backup, it is never the same as holding original photos in your hands. I often see old photo albums, sometimes with hand written notes and names, which are a permanent record for the future. The most a digital file offers is the date and sometimes not that. It is a sad reality of modern life that images have become so ephemeral, especially the candid, fun photos, such as Christmas and holidays. It is always a good idea to have hard copies made of the more important photos and a traditional photo album is one way of doing this. Another option some people consider, is to have entire pages of an existing photo album scanned. These high resolution scans can be preserved on Discs, hard drives or printed to be kept as a permanent record . Multiple copies can be made for various family members at a lower cost than scanning individual photographs.Perhaps the best solution is to have a reproduction album made with copies of all the pages (including notes), made into a new photo book. Original photo albums can be reproduced as a modern photo book, including pages with notes. Even the front and rear cover can be reproduced for the cover of the new album.

A new album cover, matching the original.

Mould and water damage.

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Framed photographs can get moisture damage, resulting in mould, often because the print is in contact with the glass.  This can cause the photograph to stick to the glass and be impossible to remove. To avoid further damage, the only answer is to copy and make a new restored print. A mat between the photograph and glass gives separation and stops mould. Mould is also a serious issue as it destroys the emulsion. The best protection is to store photgraphs is a dry place, not in garages or areas of high humidity. Often tropical climates have this problem with photographs.


Colour Print Fading.

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It is worth noting that since the 1980’s technology for colour print stability has greatly improved. Prior to this the chemical reactions in colour photographs cause fading within a few decades. This can often be digitally retouched and reproduced back to an acceptable condition. One of the main problems is loss of detail if the fading has gone too far. With modern archival inkjet prints, colour prints should last a lifetime and longer if stored in cool, dry conditions. Original faded colour photographs cannot be successfully restored, only reproduced and restored. Colour transparencies (slides) made before the 1980’s, will fade even if kept in the dark. However they are much less susceptible to fading than prints.



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Otherwise known as oxidative-reductive deterioration, this is similar to tarnishing on silverware and is a complex chemical reaction. It can be exacerbated by heat and excessive humidity. Surface cleaning can reduce the effect but you must be very careful!

The best result is obtained by copying with a camera using a polarising filter to reduce flare. This technique cannot be achieved with a scanner.

Historical Images

The state library of victoria has a large collection of historical images that can be downloaded from its website,   These are important as we are rapidly losing much of our architechtural heritage to modern development. Also they provide an important reference for how previous generations lived.

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