Photo’s don’t last forever. There are many reasons for this and you can, in many ways, help to slow down or even prevent this. To understand what’s actually going on we’re going to have to go into a little bit of science but don’t worry it’s also interesting.

Light Damage

Photo damage due to sunlight is known as photo-degradation and is caused by the UV or ultraviolet portion of the sunlight that lands on your photograph. The UV light strikes the chemicals that make up your image and excites or vibrates the molecules and they start to break down. This breakdown can cause the image to fade and become less clear. The best way to combat this problem, is firstly to make a high resolution scan of the image immediately. This will produce a digital version of the image that will not be further affected by light and also can allow a professional restoration of the image. Secondly have a copy of the image made and keep the original image stored in a dark, dry, cool place in an acid-free photo album.


Oxidation is basically exposure to air which reacts with the dyes or pigments that are used to create the photograph. This is almost impossible to stop completely unless you store your photos in a vacuum, which is not very practical. Older photographs which have been printed using dyes are more prone to this process than newer pigment based prints used by inkjet printers. Storing photos in “archival” quality plastic sleeves can slow down the oxidation of your photo. (use only PVC-free plastics such as mylar, polyester, and polypropylene). Again making a digital scan is the best way to stop further damage.

Foxing and Brown Spots


If your photo’s have brown spots or blotches they may be suffering from fungal attack which is known as foxing. This usually happens when your photographs are stored in damp or humid conditions. Basements and attics are not an ideal storage space for photos. Fungus growth can usually be stopped by making sure your pictures are stored in a cool dry place. Again making a digital scan is the best way to stop further damage.

Sticky Tape

sticky tape

Another suprising threat is tape or adhesive photo corners.Adhesive on most sticky tape is a killer for photo’s. Over time the adhesive bonds to the photograph and seeps into the structure of the dyes which can seriously damage the image. If you have images that have been mounted using some type of adhesive material, it is best to cut arround the edge of the picture and definitely not to try to remove the tape. If you wish to store your photo’s in an album it is essential that you use an archival album with acid free pages and correct mounting methods. Professional restorers can remove the adhesive but doing this digitally is by far the cheapest option.


To prevent futher loss of your precious photographs, follow these steps.

  • Make a digital copy of your image.
  • Store in a cool dark dry place.
  • Use archival quality photo albums.
  • Do not try to repair any damage or remove tape or adhesive already present on your photographs.
  • Seek expert advice on the best way to repair or preserve your images.


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