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How To Preserve Your Photos

SUMMARY: This is a list of things you can do to preserve your important photos

Safe Storage

Store your photos in acid free archival storage containers, not cardboard boxes. Cardboard boxes are vulnerable containers that will easily let in moisture, insects and dust. Also a cardboard box will offer no protection in the event of a fire of flood. A fire-proof safe is a good place for negatives and important prints. In the tragic event of a fire in your home, a fire-proof safe would keep your most valuable materials safe.

Keep A Second Set

Keep your most treasured prints and negatives safe by keeping a second set in a bank deposit box or at another family member or friends house. This way if theft, fire or a flood should affect your home, you will have a second set of the most valuable pictures and negatives to come back to.

Individual Protection

Individually wrap all photographs not hanging on the wall in poly bags to protect them from dust and scratches. Also, remove all paper clips or rubber bands from negatives and pictures. Paper clips and rubber bands will crease and stain your photos.

Matboarding and framing

Use only acid free materials such as backing board, mat board and tape all available from REDIMAT. Attaching photos to backing board and mat board will keep your pictures from curling along the edges and the extra layers will act a stabilizing force for the photos.

Photo albums

Use acid free photo corners to prevent your pictures corners from curling around the edges. Keep pictures safely secured to your photo album by using an acid free glue stick. Keep photo albums in archival storage containers or a fire proof safe. Another option is to keep a second set of albums at a friend or family member's house.

Digitize photos

By scanning and digitizing your favorite photos you will have an image preserved for your ancestors for generations to come. The color in your pictures will stay crisp for years when stored properly, but even photos stored in ideal conditions will change one hundred or more years from now. One hundred years seems like forever now, but your great, great grandchildren will appreciate the digitized images you left them.

What to avoid

Bright light

The sun and unfiltered fluorescent lights will fade your photos. If you want to keep your favorite photos on your walls or near windows where light can compromise colors over time, then keep a second set of prints or negatives in an acid free storage area or in your fire proof safe. This way, if you realize your photos are faded years down the line you will have a second copy or negatives to replace the old photos.


Extreme humidity can cause stains or mold to grow on photos. Relative humidity should stay within 30 - 40%. Keep your photos in rooms and storage areas that stay at a constant temperature and humidity level.

Extreme Temperatures

Keep your photographs away from bright light and extreme temperatures. The ideal temperature for your photographs 68 F. Keeping your photos dry, cool and well ventilated is key. Attics and basements are often not insulated and the high temperatures in the summer and low temperatures in the winter can compromise the quality of your prints and negatives over time.

Floods and Leaks

Your photos should not be kept in your garage, basement or attic. A flood will begin and end in your basement, soaking and destroying your pictures along the way. Leaks most often start at the top of your house and work their way down, so keeping your pictures in the attic is a sure-fire way to get them wet or damp when the rainy season sets in. Your garage is also a target for floods, leaks and unregulated temperatures. To keep your pictures safe from water damage, keep them in archive containers in a closet or other humidity and temperature-regulated area.

Household spills

Spills happen in the blink of an eye. A toddler drops his bottle or you spill your coffee. Spills and accidents can happen anywhere, but keeping your treasures away from the kitchen and living room will help diminish your chances of knocking over a glass of sticky red Kool-Aid onto a your pictures.

Insects and rodents

This brings us back to why not to store photos in cardboard boxes and in basements and attics. Small insects can creep their way into almost anything. Keeping your photos individually wrapped in poly bags will help reduce the risk of bugs nesting in your wedding photos and baby pictures. Rodents can eat through almost anything, including boxes. Keep your photos in storage containers to avoid nibble marks on the corners.


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