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Preserving photos, negatives and slides
This article has been supplied by ‘Acid Free Photo Album Shop’ www.photoalbumshop.com.au

Why do photos fade?
All photos have a limited lifespan, even when stored in the best photo albums. With luck, this life could be as long as fifty years for a colour photo - quite likely, it will be much shorter (check out the reference list for links to more information). The reason for this is primarily that the dyes used to put the colours in the photos are chemically sensitive, and they degrade over time. This degradation is caused by many factors; main contributors include exposure to acidic compounds released from adhesives, plastics and papers used in photo albums, as well as exposure to atmospheric pollutants, light and heat. There are several simple points you can follow to easily protect your photos from premature fading.

Another major factor in the lifespan of your photos is the processing. Poor quality processing can doom your photos no matter how well you store them, either through the use of cheap photo paper or chemicals, inadequate fixing or stopping, or poor drying. Choose a reputable photo lab, and remember that the cheapest (or quickest!) may not be the best. "Archival quality" photo processing is becoming more widely available, but this is an expensive option.

Black and white photos using silver chemistry are chemically much more stable than colour photos; this is why you can see very old B&W photos. It is unlikely that today's colour photos will last 150 years into the future.

Why should I protect my negatives?
Even if your photos are set up in the best quality album - even if they're in an archival storage system - it's still possible that your collection could be lost in an unexpected catastrophe (flood, fire, child, etc).

For this reason, it's a great idea to store the negatives properly, so that you have a back-up system to safeguard against the loss of your photos. Also, if the negatives are stored well, they can last longer than the photos, and you can make more copies from the negative which will be exactly the same quality as the original photo. Remember, every photo is only a copy of the negative.

However you choose to store your photographs, your negatives (the originals of your photos) should be stored in an archival storage system, and kept in another location from your photo album - preferably in a different building.

How can I protect my photographs, negatives and slides?
The best protection for your photos, negs and slides is a polypropylene or polyester archival storage system. However, acid-free slip-in, dry-mount and scrapbook-style albums can provide a very good alternative if display and presentation of your photos is an important consideration.

The best place to store your photo album in the average family home tends to be up high inside a cupboard or wardrobe. This sort of location is usually dry, cool and dark, making it an ideal place to keep your albums. Keep in mind that all photographic materials last longer if protected from:

  • acidic environments - ensure you use an acid-free album and mounting products; try to use acid-free papers and polypropylene or polyester plastics; avoid PVC, which can contain dangerous plasticisers and solvents.

  • heat - avoid hot places; e.g. near radiators or water heaters, on the front seat of cars, etc.

  • light - store photos out of direct sunlight, away from windows, etc.

  • humidity - encourages mildew, mould and fungus growth, as well as accelerating the decomposition of photographic materials, papers and adhesives.

  • grease from fingerprints - surfaces of photos, negs and slides are very difficult to clean; it's best to avoid direct contact where possible.

  • insects and vermin - love to eat paper products; this is another advantage of polypropylene systems; avoid spraying chemicals near your photos.

  • atmospheric pollutants - may cause adverse chemical reactions with the colour dyes.

  • other chemical reactants - try to avoid using adhesives, sticky tapes, inks and other chemicals near your photos.

More photo album advice is available at www.photoalbumshop.com.au


The Photo Album Shop are the wedding album specialists, offering an extensive selection of elegant, customised, professional-quality wedding albums, so you are sure to find an album which matches the splendour of your wedding. No frills, no lace; only genuine premium-quality albums in aluminium, timber, leather, and much more...

For further information please contact the Acid Free Photo Album Shop
Phone (02) 9476 2610
Fax : (02) 9476 5192
Email: service@photoalbumshop.com.au
Website: www.photoalbumshop.com.au

This article has been reproduced on Wedding Central Australia with permission.
© Acid Free Photo Album Shop 2002. All Rights Reserve



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