Top 5 Tips For Preserving Your Photographs!

29 March 2021

Whilst the photo album on your phone might be what you’re reaching for nowadays when flicking through old pictures, that wasn’t always the case… Once upon a time, the go-to photo album was the big brick-like binders, brimming with old family photographs.

For many of us, family meetups are centred around looking back and reliving precious family moments and seeing as photographs are like windows into our family’s lives, it is no wonder that they are held onto so tightly. But did you know, by constantly reaching for those old photo albums, we could actually be doing more damage than good!

Unless photographs are treated in the right way, those family heirlooms may not be able to survive for much longer. If you want to ensure they do survive for as long as possible, then you have come to the right place!

Top 5 Tips for Preserving Your Family Photographs!


Want to display your ancestor’s photographs with pride? Well, don’t… Not right away at least!

Unless you live in complete darkness, the light that helps us see the photographs is the enemy here. Ultraviolet light is a type of radiation that mainly comes from the sun, it can cause not only for the photograph to fade, but it can also completely change the colouring too. The best way to prevent this from happening is to make copies of the images and display the copies instead. Not only can you showboat your impressive lineage to all your guests, but you can also show off with peace of mind that the real images are safe and undamaged.

If you are feeling like living your life on the wild side, there is a way to display your original photos without the risk of UV light. Filtration panes are pieces of glass that are put in front of the image that filter 98% of the UV light that hits the pane.


woman in boxing gloves

We all know to keep our precious heirlooms away from those sticky-fingered toddlers. But what if we were to tell you that you should probably keep everyone else and their fingers away too, including yours!

Fingerprints can cause permanent damage to any paper-based item, especially if they are not lotion and perfume free. So, what’s the solution? Wash your hands and get gloved up! Although, you may want to consider alternative gloves to these…


We think it’s a pretty safe bet that almost every single one of you reading this, probably store their family albums in the attic; we know there was certainly a time where we did too.

You should treat your albums like people, if you are in a room that usually is too cold or warm for you, chances are it’s probably not the right conditions for your photos either. Photographs are very sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and climate, so the attic is in fact the worst place you could store them. To find the best place to store your family memories, remember the following factors.

  • Humidity. Extreme humidity can dry the photograph out causing it to crack or it can actually break it down completely, separating the image from the paper backing.
  • Temperature. It is important to remember that a picture is in essence a pattern made from chemicals. Of course, chemicals are directly affected by their environment and their temperature. Extreme temperatures can cause discolouration, and in some cases can completely destroy the image.
  • Ventilation. We all know mould does not mix well with paper documents. So, to keep the mould at bay, it is important that you keep all photographs in a well-ventilated place. This includes keeping them off the floor.


Sorting and ordering, you either love it or hate it but it has to be done. Still, no matter how organised you are, you could be seriously damaging those photos.

Firstly, avoid anything containing acid! As we know, chemicals and photographs don’t mix, but especially not acid. The worst culprits for this are ballpoint pens and adhesives.

Writing on the back of the photograph can sometimes be necessary to clear things up, but this can also speed up the deterioration process incredibly. Ballpoint pens use pressure to work and the ink contains fatty acids. So, if you do want to write on your paper documents, make sure to use archive pens!

This is very much the same case with glues too, they can be much more damaging! So, make sure to use archive appropriate adhesive to keep those memories alive for as long as possible.

A little more unknown not to use, are paperclips and rubber bands. Paper clips will not only scratch the surface but will also rust onto the paper which in turn stains all the documents it comes in contact with. Rubber bands contain high amounts of sulphur which will leave untold damage and definitely shouldn’t be going anywhere near your precious family pictures!


Our final quick tip is something that the genealogical community cannot stress enough at the moment.

DO NOT attempt to repair any photographs yourself. Yes, those YouTube ‘Hack’ videos are entrancing, and yes it may look ‘fairly easy’ straight off the bat, but do you really want to risk completely destroying something forever?  Always seek professional help to restore any old photographs.

Professional photo restoration is an art and takes years to fully master the skill… We don’t know what we would do without our go-to restoration artists.

If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to take a look at our other recent articles, such as “How I Became A Professional Genealogist

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