Caring for your Photographs

There are a few basics that you should know on how to properly store and mount photographs. Photos are very fragile, especially as they age, and you’ll want to take care of them on the front end of their existence to ensure they last the test of time. As photographs get older they can yellow, crack, stick to glass, and can even become moldy. Yes, this is possible! If your photos become damaged there are a number of solutions available to correct them, though it does often require the efforts of a professional.

Photographs have three basic layers, and each layer requires special care. The layers are: a supportive backing, a binder, and the image material. The supportive backing is typically cardboard or heavy paper. The binder is an agent that binds the image to the backing. The image material is suspended in the binder, and can consist of silver, color dyes, and pigment particles. Over time, as the paper yellows or grows mold, the binder can become soft and sticky or dry and cracked. The image materials, such as color dyes, will start to fade.

Caring for your Photographs

There are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding how to store your photographs. Sunlight will quicken the deterioration of a photograph, particularly by causing extensive image fading. The humidity in the air can also effect the longevity of your photograph. When displaying your photos, keep them out of direct sunlight and in a cool, temperature controlled room. Make sure the air is not too humid and not too dry. 

Mounted photographs should also be kept out of sunlight, but the mounting materials are important too. To start off, make sure that all of your supplies are acid-free. When you are mounting your photos, ensure that you have a good mat, a solid backing board, and either use a high-quality glazing material or a glass/acrylic frame. The “glazing” material is any thick, clear material that protects your photo from UV radiation. Do not let the glass or acrylic come in contact with the photograph. By using a mat spacer, you can prevent your photograph from sticking to the glass.

Taking proper care of your photographs from the very beginning will ensure a longer life for your memories, allowing future generations to enjoy them with you!