Tips for Modern Photo Preservation

photo preservation

Photo Preservation Keeps History Alive 

Preserving a physical photograph requires great care and attention to detail. Protecting it against common threats presents challenges that differ wildly from modern digital methods. These can include airborne moisture, ultraviolet light, improper handling of the photo, and many more. 

Milton H. Greene pioneered on-location photography long before digital cameras were considered a concept within reach. As he amassed an incredible portfolio of work, however, a great deal of his collection required restoration over time. This is why we have taken on the task of restoring as many of his historic photographs as possible for you to see. 

If you have purchased or are considering purchasing a print from the Milton H. Greene Archives for your collection, we want to help you enjoy your new piece of history for as long as possible. Here are some key factors to note when protecting your photograph from Father Time. 

Handle Your Photos with Clean Hands 

Always wash your hands and wear wrist-length gloves that do not contain any abrasive coating or material on them. In most cases, microfiber and nitrile are acceptable glove materials and do not pose a threat to the photograph’s integrity. 

Handle Your Photos in a Dedicated Space

Never remove your photos from their protective enclosure unless you are doing so in a space that is away from any food, drink, or similar hazard that could damage them. An empty, wiped-down table should prove suitable for this. 

Never Attach Anything to Your Photos 

Do not use any adhesive materials like glue or tape to hold your photo in place. The residue from these types of products can stick to the photo permanently and damage its condition. 

Also avoid using any common office objects like paperclips, staples, or rubber bands. These can puncture, tear, or bend the photo beyond remedy. Additionally, do not mark your photo with any type of pen or marker. This will leave a mark and negatively affect the photograph’s pristine condition. For framing your photos, never dry mount a print; use a double matte with archival corners.

Do Not Store Photos in Direct Sunlight 

When storing photographs in direct sunlight, the UV rays can damage them in a variety of ways, such as fading the color and distorting clarity. To passionate collectors, a photo’s value is highest when it appears as close to its original quality as possible. 

Avoid Sources of Airflow 

Temperature can also impact a photo’s quality. Avoid placing the frame near any source of heat or cold air. Try instead to keep it in the most stably temperature-neutral parts of your home. 

Do Not Store Near Sources of Water or Moisture

Keep your photographs away from parts of your home where water is most present, such as sinks, bathtubs, toilets, basements, and piping. Basements are the areas most prone to leaks and floods and can generate a high amount of humidity in the summertime. The moisture in the air can become trapped in the picture frame and cause warping damage to the photo. 

Use An Airtight Frame, if Displaying Them

One of the best ways to ensure photo preservation is to house it in an airtight frame that restricts any oxygen from entering. Oxygen, light, and moisture are the three most damaging environmental elements that can affect your picture’s condition. 

If Not On Display, Use the Right Protection 

If you are not planning to show off your new photograph to your guests, be sure to use the right preservation methods for storing them elsewhere. The Library of Congress advises that you use either a proper paper or plastic enclosure and offer the following guidelines for selecting the right one for optimal preservation: 

For Paper: 

  • Must be acid and lignin-free
  • Should either be buffered with a pH of 8.5 or unbuffered with a neutral pH of 7 
  • Use buffered enclosures for prints that have degraded over time 
  • Use unbuffered enclosures for fresher, higher-quality photograph prints 
  • Must be Photographic Activity Test (PAT)-approved 
  • Label the paper with a pencil to mark photographs before placing them inside so you know how to find them without opening the enclosure. 

For Plastic: 

The LOC recommends that you only use plastic enclosures that are made of one of the following materials: 

  • Uncoated polyester film 
  • Cellulose triacetate 
  • Polyethylene 
  • Polypropylene. 

Start Your Own Photo Preservation Project Today 

History is best enjoyed when it comes alive. By preserving your own collection of historical photographs, whether a reprint or original, you can keep your memories alive with you for as long as possible. 

To acquire your own piece of unique history, browse our collections of Milton’s previously unreleased archives to see which ones you want to add to your own collection.