How to Store Photographs

Learn how to store photographs and care for your precious pictures.

| July 2012

Photographs make time stand still. They record important moments in history, and range from having monetary value to sentimental value. Unfortunately, photos can deteriorate quickly if you don’t know how to care for them. In this excerpt from Tips, Tools, and Techniques (University of North Texas Press, 2012) by Georgia Kemp Caraway, learn how to store photographs, including the ideal conditions for storage and which photo albums are best for preserving your pictures. 

• Store photographs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, the air conditioning, a hot lamp, or a heating unit.

• Before handling photographs, wash your hands, or wear light cotton gloves.

• Use pencil and a light touch or a marking pen made for photographs to write on the back of photographs. Do not use regular ink, felt-tip pens, or rubber stamps as they can bleed through to the image itself.

• Mount small snapshots with photograph corners. Use paper hinges with archival glue or tape (pH balanced) for larger photographs. Do not use regular cellophane tape, masking tape, synthetic glue, adhesive, or rubber cement.

• Select albums either with pages of archival plastic like Mylar (it doesn’t have that plastic smell); acid-free paper with interleaving tissue to prohibit contact of photographs on facing pages; or sheet protector pages of acid-free paper covered with archival plastic. Magnetic photograph albums are especially harmful to color images, as the pages contain acid and adhesive that will bleed through the photograph’s paper backing.