How to take care of your printed photos

I have so many fond memories, both as a child and more recently, of sitting with my family and looking through old photos.

Some of the oldest ones were taken on my Pop’s old film cameras more than 50 years ago.

Many of those photos are of great grandparents and other family members I never had the opportunity to meet in person.

They hold glimpses into what life was like in different eras. The fashion, the homes, the relationships.

Each image holds countless stories of our family’s history, a history that paved the way for our family today.

Isn’t it amazing that we have the opportunity to pass down pieces of our lives. To share the highs and lows that make up our story to future generations.

It’s kind of crazy that with the correct care, mere pieces of paper and ink can last for decades or even centuries.

There are a few things you can do get the longest life out of your prints and keep their quality for the generations to come.

Paper and ink quality

If you’ve ever printed a photo on your home printer you’re probably aware that not all prints are made equal.

I know that it may seem unnecessary to invest in quality prints through a professional printer when places like Big W and Harvey Norman are so cheap.

However there is a huge difference in quality – not only will professional prints be clear and accurately colour graded but they will actually last so much longer.

For example, the print lab I use for my client’s prints use archival grade inks, premium printing techniques and high quality paper that will last up to 200 years with proper care. The paper is even formulated to be able to withstand water damage from flooding.

Caring for your prints

To keep your prints looking their best for as long as possible, follow these guideline:

Avoid touching the printed area with your hands.

Dirt and oil on your hands can cause damage to the print over time.

Store your prints away from direct sunlight as much as possible.

UV rays will cause colours to fade over time.

Avoid scratching the surface of the print.

Prints will have specialised coatings to encapsulate and protect the ink . Scratches can expose the ink to the elements and cause them to deteriorate quicker.

The better you store your prints, the longer they will last.

Using frames or albums to store and display your prints will help them last longer.

That said, I have boxes of loose prints because I love looking through them that way

– just be aware that this may compromise their lifespan.

Store your prints away from water or harsh humidity.

Even though quality prints are designed to withstand water damage – water and humidity can still cause some damage or even allow mould to grow on the paper. Keep your prints in the dryer rooms of the house (so not the kitchen or bathroom) to get the longest life from them.

My number one tip

With all that said, my biggest tip is get the most out your photos by having them accessible.

There is no point getting photos printed to have them hidden in a cupboard and rarely enjoying them.

Above all else, choose a home for your photos where they will cause you the most enjoyment.

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