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Photos and memorabilia need care

Posted by PatriciaD on February 4, 2010

In times past (when photos were taken on film) in order to see your pictures you had to print them.  Now you can take a photo and see it instantly on your digital camera and even print it almost instantly on a printer (sometimes you don’t even need a computer to interface between the camera and the printer).  So how do you take care of your photos and preserve them?

Let’s look at a number of things.  What if you never print the photos but keep them digital.  Digital media is susceptible to erasure and/or destruction.  There is no guarantee with digital that they will last forever no matter how you save them. Of course, there wasn’t a guarantee that film photos would last without being printed either.  To preserve digital photos one strategy is to make sure you have a number of copies.  I have my photos on my computer, on an external hard drive and on CD.  I have a friend who keeps his photos on the original camera disk in addition to the above.  There’s still no guarantee that these will keep your data safe but having them in several locations is at least an effort and probably will keep them for many years.

A couple of other options you might want to think about are 1.) create an email address where you send your photos to yourself and that is all you use the email for and 2.) use some of the on-line Internet services that save your photos for you like  The former is free (but takes a fair bit of time) and the latter may be a great option if added security is an issue.  I personally use Mozy and like that every time I get on the Internet with my computer it automatically backs up my photos.  It’s a ‘no thought’ way to protect and preserve documents, photos, whatever.

One thing to keep in mind though is that every time you save a .jpg file it degenerates just a bit more.  If the photos are really high quality to start with this may not be all that big of an issue.

So, at least part of the solution is to print the photos you want preserved.  Then the question is the ink and the paper.  You need high-quality paper and archival-quality ink.  If you are going to print it yourself you need to be sure it’s going to be preserved and still here in 25-50 years.  Be sure to verify when buying your ink and paper.

When you print you can either print the photo itself or the entire scrapbook page with the photo(s) on the page.  I personally, rarely print just the photos but it is an option and if you don’t have your own printer for this you can print at a variety of places and you may already have your own.  I rarely print just the photos because the ones I really want to keep I put on a scrapbook page. 

If you elect not to print your scrapbook pages yourself you can have them printed using an Internet service ( is one) or a local service (call around and find printers that will print for a decent price), or put your pages in a book that is printed and bound.  The prices for some of these are becoming very reasonable.  A couple of sites you might check into are:, and  But there are many others so check around and watch for specials on all of them, of course.  Someone just told me that some of the Sam’s Clubs can print 12×12, too.  I’ll be checking my local Sam’s Club.

Another option is to print on canvas and put into frames for home décor.  This is kinda neat because you can change these frequently and have new personalized art all the time.  Some sites you might consider for printing on canvas are: and   Remember that these are exposed to sun and possibly dust damage so changing them out every two or three months and storing the non-displayed one(s) in a dark area protected from humidity and dust is helpful.

The yellow­ing of vintage newspaper clippings and other printed materials that we see is caused by deterioration of the acids used in the processing and printing of the papers and their reaction with air. When a paper is pH negative, lignin-free or acid-free the fibers won’t yellow or weaken like those containing high amounts of acid. In addition, acid in inks, papers, newsprint, and items of memorabilia can intensify the acid levels surrounding photographs through acid migration.  Acid causes a slow chemical reaction that affects the longevity and color of photos. To slow this process, use acid-free paper, adhesives, inks and supplies. De-acidification sprays such as Krylon Make-It-Acid-Free spray is available at scrapbook stores. Use this to neutralize the acid in most newspaper clippings and other historical items, but not photos. The sprays will not restore things that are already damaged you have to use it before it fades or discolors.

 Whether you print just the photos or print scrapbook pages you then also need to keep them in archival quality boxes, page protectors or whatever.  I have some archival boxes for my old printed photos back when I used film and archival quality page protectors in my scrapbooks for the printed scrapbook pages.


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