You remember your wedding like it was yesterday, but why do your photos look so old? It’s not the big poofy sleeves that were popular at the time or the high hair that was forced into place with an entire can of hairspray. Rather, the photo prints themselves look damaged and worn out.

This is a common concern for families that have photo prints stored in closets or displayed around the house. The pictures start to fade over time or become discolored and warped. What is happening and why? Photo prints are delicate and almost any natural element can affect the image, leading many to invest in professional photo and slide scanning services. Here are three elements that are can damage print photos without you realizing it and how you can protect these old photos.

1. Sunshine

The top culprit for damaged print photos is often the sun. Unless you are hanging photos in dark hallways and keeping pictures away from windows, the sun is nearly unavoidable. Unfortunately, almost any sun exposure can impact your images. 

According to the Library of Congress, the technical term for color fading is photodegradation, which is often caused by ultraviolet rays. These rays break down the chemical bonds that make up an image, causing the bleaching experience you notice in your photos. If you live in a sunny part of the country, you might notice sun bleaching on your books, outdoor accessories, and even your car. 

So what do you do? First, move any precious photos you want to preserve out of the sun. Next, look for UV-reflective picture frames (if you don’t already have this glass in your windows). These will prevent most of the damage print photos experience when placed in the sun.

2. Humidity

The other major threat that can damage print photos is humidity, which refers to the moisture levels in the area. If you live in a humid area, your air conditioning system should control the humidity levels in your home. It will filter out moisture while pumping in cool, dry air. However, many homeowners keep their print memories in garages or basements – parts of the home that aren’t climate controlled and notorious for being damp. 

Print photos are known to absorb moisture, including the moist humid conditions in the air. This moisture can wear down the gelatin binder that preserves the images. When the binder breaks down, the image is more prone to fading. In some cases, mold can also grow on photos because of the paper used for printing. 

Even light levels of humidity can damage print photos. If you have ever looked at old photos and noticed that they are stuck together, you are dealing with the effects of moisture in the area. When pulled apart, you can lose chunks of the images and create tears in the pictures if you aren’t careful.

3. Dust

Dust is a normal part of every home. It is made up of dirt particles that find their way inside and skin cells that humans naturally shed throughout the day. Even the most detailed cleaners will still have dusty areas around the house – usually hidden in tight nooks or in hard-to-reach places. 

However, dust particles can damage print photos over time. They can stick to the front of photos and create a layer that clouds the image. Dust can also be hard to remove from photos because you can’t wipe down the images like you can with your furniture and other hard surfaces. 

Unfortunately, dust works hand-in-hand with humidity. As moisture starts to break down photos, dirt, dust, and hair will settle in and adhere to the pictures. Not only will your pictures look faded, but they will start to look dirty as well. 

In the worst-case scenario, dust can impact your digital scans. If you scan the image on a low-quality machine, the scanner might pick up the dust particles and digitize those – not just the smiling faces and beautiful imagery you want to focus on.

One Bad Image Can Damage Print Photos Throughout the Box

As a print photo breaks down, it releases various chemicals and printing components that are used to make the image. If you ever noticed a vinegar-like smell coming from your photos or rolls of film, these are the chemicals. Unfortunately, when one photo starts to break down, it can impact the other images around it – creating a domino effect on your memories. 

For example, if one image gets warped by moisture, the water can seep down through the box and warp other images. Mold can spread from one photo to the next and feed on the paper and ink. As a result, your box of family memories can quickly look worn out, even for images that are at the bottom of the pile. 

The last thing you want is to lose your family memories because of natural elements like moisture or dust. Take steps to preserve them no matter where you live.

Digitize Your Memories to Protect Them

While there are UV-blocking picture frames and specific covers to protect your photos, the best way to preserve your memories is by digitizing them. Digital copies can be saved in the cloud and accessed whenever you need them. Even if you lose the original device where they are stored (like a home computer) you can pull up the photos from any internet-connected device. 

No one wants to think about natural disasters and other crises that can ruin your photos forever. However, house fires, floods, tornados, and other unplanned events are realities for countless homeowners every year. Even if you are able to evacuate from your home ahead of an emergency, you might not have the time and space to load your memories into the car. 

The safest way to preserve your photos, videos, slides, and scrapbooks is to keep digital copies secured online.

Don’t Let Elements Damage Print Photos You Love

If you are worried about the sun, humidity, dust, and other natural elements ruining your photos, start your digitization project today. This process doesn’t have to be hard to time-consuming – not when you let us take over. All you have to do is send us your memories and we will turn them into digital files. Then we will return the original prints to you. 

Learn more about our process and see if working with Memory Fortress is the best option for making your photos last.

We digitize everything right here at our facility in metro Atlanta, processed by US citizens.

2180 Satellite Blvd Suite 400 Duluth, GA 30097
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Saturday, Sundayclosed

Local Atlanta walk-in customers MUST have an appointment for prompt service. This applies to both dropping off materials, and picking up materials as well.