Eight Tips for Giving your Printed Photos a Long and Happy Life

I preach a monthly sermon to my social media friends about printing photos early and often. It's important that we not buy into the lie that our photos are safely stored for all eternity on our electronic device. The truth is your photos are one "plop in the pottie" or "glitch in the cloud" from being suddenly no longer existent. The only way to permanently preserve is to PRINT! If you need some recommendations on printing, feel free to hit me up.

Today, I would like to discuss the care and handling of printed photos. Once you've had your images printed, what are the best practices for ensuring they live a long and happy life? 

I'm glad you asked!

Here are my eight tips for giving your printed photos a long and healthy, happy life: 

1 Remember, printed photos are quite similar to people in that they live most comfortably in moderated environments. Photos don't like temperature extremes--not too hot, not too cold, low humidity. Slightly on the cool side is good. Hot is never good. Avoid attics and basements. 

2. Photos were not made for water. Keep the water at bay when your photos are around. 

3. Photos don't like to be poked with sharp metal objects. Staples, nails, push pins, paperclips  and stick pins are not photo-friendly items. Avoid these offenders at all cost. 

4. Photos love to be enjoyed by lots of friends and family. Print them, display them in attractive frames where they can easily be enjoyed by everyone! 

5. Photos do not love the sunshine. Direct sunshine will take its toll on your photos just like it will on your body if exposure is brilliant and unlimited. 

6. When handling your pictures, do so with clean hands. If you really wanna treat them right, wear cotton gloves. If you notice fingerprints on a picture, clean them up gently with a microfiber photo cleaning cloth. 

7. Resist the temptation to write all the details on the back of your photos. Most writing instruments will cause an indentation to occur in the surface of the photo paper. Some even use ink that is so heavy that it will halo through from back to front. 

8. Photo storage is its own major issue. Suffice it to say that the United States Library of Congress--the leading community of experts on curation and preservation of all kinds of media, including photos--has set forth some guidelines for photo storage safety. Plastic storage bags and containers are acceptable so long as they are made of plastic that has no "plastic smell" and does not stick to itself. 

If you would like to read all the US Library of Congress documents on archiving photos, you can do so here. The Library of Congress has a beautiful website that is overflowing with good information on safety and storing collections of all kinds of media.

I realize that in this age of easy access to our images, many people would say that archiving photos no longer really matters. I get it. Sorta.

OK maybe not.

If I expend the effort to have my images printed, why not put forth a little bit more effort to be sure that those printed images last for as long as possible? Life is full of disposable things. I don't want my photos to be on that list. There's something very personal about holding an actual picture in your hand. It's a moment, frozen in time. You can't go back to it any other way. A photo is like a ticket back...

There's a tension that exists between the printed image and the image stored on a digital device. Both have their place--one just needs a little more care to give it a long life.

I'm very grateful that we have made such extravagant forays into the world of personal imaging technology that we can carry thousands of pictures around in our pockets on our phones. This is truly an incredible achievement! Because I have the luxury of carrying my camera around in my pocket everywhere I go, I have been prepared to capture some really beautiful spontaneous moments that I treasure. I admit it: I feel something akin to nakedness when I don't have my phone and camera on my person.

There was a time when scrapbook enthusiasts cared deeply about using products that were photo safe and labeled acid-free. Certain companies made "acid-free" a buzz word in our community. It's unfortunate that any product manufacturer can slap the label "acid-free" on a package of embellishments and call it good and certainly many companies did just that. There is no oversight of any kind associated with the use of photo-quality descriptors, no one has to do any product testing to use it. If you want scrapbookers to buy your product, tell them it's safe. Today, on the rare occasion that someone brings up photo safety in a discussion, most people quickly point out how easy it is to print and declare that they do not pay attention to the overused labels. To a point I agree. We have definitely made great strides in the ease of printing--now we just need to remember to make printing a priority!

With a swish and a swipe and a few other taps, I can take that photo of my 94 year old grandmother holding my three year old nephew and within seconds share it with my entire family. It's a glorious treasure, but I refuse to let it make me complacent about the printed versions of images. If my device suddenly catches on fire or there is a universal cloud failure, I don't want to fall on the floor in disbelief and agony. I want to say "It's OK. I printed my pictures just last week."

And I have to believe that in forty years, when my grandmother is gone on, my (then) 43 year old nephew will be able to hold that printed image in his hand and listen to his father talk about his sassy, red-headed great grandmother and he will know her, even if he doesn't remember her. That's my hope.

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