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Archiving photo prints

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In years to come, you’ll cherish your photo memories more and more. Make sure the pictures remain as vibrant and crisp as they were the instant you took them. Here are several ways to make sure your photos last a long time.

Using the right supplies

Always look for “archival quality” photo album materials. They are designed to be chemically inert, which means your pictures won’t dissolve, fade, or deteriorate. Your inkjet paper and ink should be equally dependable through the years. HP inkjet cartridges and HP premium plus photo paper create true-to-life color photos that resist fading for up to 73 years.

Creating an album

The best place to store your printed photos is in an album. But be sure you choose the right kind. The two primary types are strap-closing books and three-ring binders. Strapped books might put unnecessary pressure on the photos, which could eventually lead to pages sticking together, so always be sure to store these types of albums in an upright position. And be sure to watch out for three-ring binders that don’t close all the way: You could lose a page. Otherwise, both work well; just choose a cover design that matches your personality.

Once you choose the album, you’ll need to find some archive-quality album pages, photo corners, page protectors, pens, and anything else that will help preserve your memories. When selecting album pages, look for acid-free and lignin-free pages. Acids in paper break down the chemical composition of photos. Lignin, from wood pulp, causes similar yellowing and damage.

Also look for plain pages without adhesives. Unless marked as an archive-quality adhesive, the glue can cause your photos to become yellow and gummy over the years. Instead, use archive-quality photo corners … they may take more time, but aren’t your pictures worth it?

The damage done by some ink pens might give you pause. Before you write on the backs of pictures or include captions on album pages, look closely at your pen. Many ink pens contain acids that can destroy printed pictures, so be sure to search for permanent pens with acid-free inks. These pens and inks come in a variety of colors and styles, especially calligraphy pens.

Page protectors, photo corners, and pocket corners are all perfect for storing photos that you want to keep for future generations. These items limit the print’s contact with air, paper, and more. But beware of page protectors, photo corners, and pocket pages containing PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride). Items made from this plastic material can slowly seep a gas that yellows the photos and makes them sticky.

Where to keep pictures

The most convenient place for a cache of photos (such as a basement or attic) is often the worst place to store them. Photos should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place that’s safe from threats like pet damage or accidental flooding.

Basement air can be extremely moist, a leading cause of photo damage. And the top of the house isn’t much better: An attic can be an oven in the summer and a freezer in the winter. Extreme temperatures can accelerate the aging process, dulling even the best-preserved photos. It’s best to keep your photos and albums in a room that’s relatively well ventilated and where temperatures are less likely to fluctuate dramatically.

A closet, chest, or cabinet (with the prints in a box that controls light and air exposure) offers the best solution. These places are dark and cool. For heirloom pictures, consider a fireproof box. There are many such boxes on the market, and they will often hold several hundred pictures.

How to show off your pictures

One of the biggest causes of photo fading is light. HP photo inks resist the effects of indoor halogens and filtered sunlight, and common fluorescent and incandescent light.

If you frame your pictures, try to hang them out of direct sunlight. If that’s unavoidable, try rotating different prints or putting them in frames with anti-UV glass. This type of frame can often be found at photo stores and frame shops.

When showing pictures to friends and family, try to avoid leaving fingerprints on the photos. Human skin leaves oils that can permanently stain a print after a number of years.

Archiving your photos properly will help them last for generations. By storing them in a cool, dry place, using archive-quality materials, and selecting the right supplies from HP, you can expect them to delight as much in the future as they do now. Learn more about keeping your pictures in good condition in prevent photo fading, and find out how to create a digital archive in preserving photos on dvd.

Quick Tips

The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works recommends the following steps to preserve your old photos. Of course, you can use these same techniques to make sure your newly restored prints don’t have to be restored again for a very long time.

Store photos in a cool, dry, well-ventilated environment. High temperatures and relative humidity increase deterioration and promote mildew, which can mar surfaces and break down photo layers.
Avoid storing photographs in the attic, the basement, or along the outside walls of a building, where environmental conditions can be extreme.
Keep photographic materials in enclosures that protect them from dust and light, and provide physical support during use; albums serve the dual purpose of organizing images while protecting them from damage.
Protect photos from extended exposure to intense light sources.
Keep the areas where photographs are handled or stored clean, pest-free, and clear of food and beverages.
Most damage to photographs results from poor handling. Handle photos with clean hands. Wear white cotton gloves to lessen the possibility of leaving fingerprints and soiling the materials. And if it’s necessary to mark a photograph, write lightly with a soft lead pencil.

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