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10 tips to make your old family photos last a lifetime

How to

Posted on February 17, 2014

3 min read

This post was originally published on Crowdsupport, Telstra’s community support forum.

We all have a box of family photos somewhere from the pre-digital camera days; in albums, frames, boxes and envelopes.

These precious family memories are always fun to look through, but how can you make sure they don’t deteriorate? How do you ensure they’re accessible for generations to come?

The following ten tips will ensure your family history lives forever.

How to take care of your photographs

A black and white photo of a family at the beach
  1. Handle with care: when you are looking at them and passing them round try to hold them by the edges. If you plan on handling them a lot (for example of you are scanning them in or putting them an album) consider wearing white gloves or making sure your hands are clean and free from lotion.
  2. Store them in the right place: the worst place to store your old photos is in an uninsulated shed or garage. High temperatures and humidity can cause your photos to crack or become damp and stick together. The photos are also susceptible to insects and rodents. You may wish to keep them in a temperature controlled storage container for the best conditions, or a ventilated part of the house.
  3. Avoid cheap photo albums: many inexpensive photo albums contain plastics that can damage your photos. Go to a photography shop to purchase them rather than a supermarket or department store.
  4. Don’t write on them: the pressure from a pen can damage the photo. Ink can interact badly, causing spotting or fading.
  5. Back up! As these photos may get lost or damaged, if you have negatives take care of them and store them in a different place to the originals. If you are displaying photos in frames, sunlight may damage them over time so make sure you have a copy. You may also consider backing up digitally, which brings us to the next section…

How to digitise your photos

A 70s photo of two grandparents

There are a few options to digitalise your photos depending on how much time you have, which technology is most available to you and how much money you want to invest.

  1. Use a regular scanner: if you or a friend own a scanner, this will be your best choice for quality. For the best results, clean your scanner’s screen according to the manufacturer’s instructions before using. Take advantage of editing options. Most scanning software will allow you to adjust colour and brightness and remove red-eye.
  2. Use a digital camera: a digital camera will take good quality photos of your prints you can then upload to your computer.
  3. Use an app on your phone or tablet: a camera’s phone function will do the same as above, but for better results consider downloading a photo scanning app such as Pic Scanner for iPhone or CMC Image Scanner for Android phones.
  4. Outsource the task: you can pay for a service such as Fotofast to do the job for you.
  5. Edit and enhance: make sure that once you’ve scanned in your photos you can enhance and restore them with photo editing software such as Photoshop or apps for your phone like Afterlight.

Do you have any any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments below.