The Ultimate Guide To Properly Preserving Your Old Photos

A lot of old memories lie between the photo album you’ve had in your bookshelf for all those years. Family weddings, birthdays, picnics, old cousins whom you don’t get to see for years all come to life as soon as you open those albums.

✍🏻 Written by Dr. Laura Whitman from MemoryCherish

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A lot of old memories lie between the photo album you’ve had in your bookshelf for all those years. Family weddings, birthdays, picnics, old cousins whom you don’t get to see for years all come to life as soon as you open those albums. We not only get nostalgic trying to remember those old golden days but also cherish those memories to stay beside us for the rest of our days.

But with time, nature takes its toll with these unforgettable old photos. What once was thought to be passed on to our next generations, becomes fragile and tore apart. We didn’t think enough about preserving those photographs all this time. Every household has its own share of old photographs that have been damaged far beyond repair. And only those who hold these photographs dear can feel the pain this brings.

Today, we’re going to discuss in-depth how you should preserve and care for those old photographs. We’ll be going through a lot of details concerning how these photographs are damaged, what can be done to prevent or minimise such problems and how you should store these precious memories for your future generations.

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Why do Your Photos Deteriorate?

Your photos can be damaged in a lot of different ways. But environmental factors can be thought of as the primary culprit behind this deterioration. Temperature, humidity, and light are the most common enemies of your old photos. Dust and dirt along with oils are also credited behind the damaging of these photographs.

Alternated cycles of high temperature with excess humidity and cold temperature with dry weather cause the emulsions (image) to separate from their bases(paper). People who store their family photos in basements or attics face this frequently. As most people tend to keep their old albums in these places, this is the most common way of old photographs being damaged.

Things to Avoid When Preserving Old Photographs

It’s quite often we underestimate the necessity of storing these old valuables in an appropriate manner. Only inserting old photos into photo albums and stacking them on top of one another is not enough. Here we’re discussing the things you need to avoid if you want to ensure a long lasting longevity for your old photographs.

1. Stop Storing them in the Basement or Attic

This is the most common way people bring damage to their precious old memories. The ideal space to store your old photos should be a relatively dry and cool place with a stable temperature. Your basement, on the other hand, is likely too damp, which prompts your photos to stick together. Mold can also be a common problem when you store old photographs in the basement.

Hot attics, on the other hand, can promote the degradation of ink and paper. Another common reason why old photos tend to lose their emulsions.

2. Stop Writing Down Information Behind Old Photos

Writing behind old photographs is another common mistake a lot of people do. When going through old family albums, it’s very likely you’ll find this there. Many people do not seem to understand how much hassle they bring when writing useful information like names, dates, and events for future references behind photos. The ink of most pens contains acidic oily substances, that’ll smear your photos in the long run or bleed right through them. If you need to write really important stuff, use proper enclosures.

3. Avoid Using Common Office Supplies

Most people tend to overlook the simplest of problems until they become a nightmare. Common office supplies such as rubber bands, adhesive, paper clips can contribute a long-term damage to your old photos. Tapes and adhesives contain acidic substances which can smear your photos. Holding a stack of photos together in a rubber band might seem to be a fast solution, but when your photos get bent and marked up for forever, you’ll despise the day you did so. Do not put easy convenience over the proper way when it comes to preserving old photographs.

4. Avoid Exposure to Light

As we’ve mentioned earlier, prolonged exposure to light of any kind,  especially sunlight will ruin your old photos. Your old photos will fade very quickly if exposed to light. Store them always far away from light sources, try to seal them in a container to avoid this problem.

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By maintaining merely a handful of important guidelines you can ensure the most possible lifetime of old family visuals. Here, we’re pointing out the must-do things you’d want to cover when preserving those old photos.

1. Set up a Personalized Workspace

If you’re handling 100’s of old photographs, you wouldn’t want them anywhere near foods, drink or even children. Remember just what a normally small incident can do to these photos. Try to wear cotton gloves to stop the spreading of natural oils from your hand to the photographs. In case you can’t find a pair, try to hold the photos on their edges. Old photographs are fragile in nature and a lot of things around you could exploit them. So, try to handle these photos only in a safe space.

2. You Need to Invest in Proper Enclosures

You can’t just put old photos in a safe hoping they’ll be okay for years to come. A high-quality enclosure will keep your old photos safe from various open-air problems. The 2 main types of enclosures are albums and photo box. Albums come in two variant, namely plastic, and paper. If your storage space is moist, you’d want to go with a paper enclosure. Just make sure the paper is lignin and acid-free. When opting with plastic enclosures, you need to ensure the build material isn’t harmful to your photos. For photo boxes, make sure your photos have enough space.

3. Keep ’em Lights Away

You should always keep your photos in a dark space away from light. Framing the original of any old photo can be a disastrous idea. If you insist on displaying an old photo, frame a high quality copy of the original.

4. Digitize the Precious Ones’

You shouldn’t take any chances with old photos that have a significant impact on your family. When organizing your old photographs, set the most precious ones’ aside. Digitize these photos to make sure they stick to you forever. You can scan these photos on your own, but we will suggest a more professional service for this purpose. Once you’ve got them digitized, keep those separately in different storage options like your hard-disc, clouds and flash drives. You can also upload these to online photo services like Google Photos or Flickr.

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If some of your valuable photographs are already damaged, the feeling can be heart-wrenching. Luckily, with some extra effort and a little spending, you can restore almost any damaged old photograph. We’ve outlined here some proven method of restoring old and damaged photos.

1. You Can Fix them Digitally

You can fix almost any damaged photo digitally with the help of a scanner and a photo editing software. You can invest in a high-quality scanner and do this restoration at home all by yourself. However, the scanner needs to be a high-end one and have minimum 300 dpi or dots per inch. The more the dpi, the better the scanner. You then need a good photo editing tool like Adobe Photoshop. With these two in hand, you can restore your old photos into a new one. You can consult online tutorials for advanced restoration techniques.

2. Manual Fixation

Old photos can be restored manually in a somewhat traditional way. Although, some extra equipment and perfect knowledge on the topic is required. We do not advise you to attempt restoring old photos all by yourself. A professional service will definitely save you from a lot of hassles and provide a risk-free restoration.

3. Seek Professional Services

There are a number of professional services who offer restoration services for your old and damaged photographs. Their pricing may vary but you should always opt in for the best service when it comes to this type of sensitive matter. Believe us, spending a few extra bucks can provide you a much better experience in long terms. Professionals will not only guarantee you perfection but also provide a long-term support. After all, you may buy a high-end scanner and premium editing tool, but the restoration depends largely on experience. So, instead of investing in equipment, it’s better you invest in professionals.


Often we do not realize the importance of old photos and neglect their well being. Only just when you open the old family album and find out a damaged photo, you can feel the pain it causes you. Every old photo is like a past piece of our own self, by which we can reconnect to those golden days.

You need to always maintain proper procedures when handling and storing old photographs. In case of any damaged photo, have them restored as soon as you find out. We at MemoryCherish have over three decades of photo restoration experience & would be honoured to help you with restoring & digitizing your photos. Click below to order your photo restorations today! Thank you for reading.

About The Author
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish
Dr. Laura Whitman | MemoryCherish

Dr. Laura Whitman is the Head of Education at MemoryCherish, the #1 photo restoration company in the world.

With a PhD in Art History and a specialization in photographic preservation, she brings an unrivaled breadth of knowledge to her role.
Over her 19-year tenure in the field, Dr. Whitman has become a respected authority on topics ranging from photo restoration techniques to historical context and genealogy.

Her work has been recognized by major media outlets such as ABC, NBC, and FOX News, and she has been trusted with collaborations by Adobe. As an educator, she has developed numerous 'how-to' guides and tutorials, making photo restoration accessible to millions.

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