A long, long time ago people didn’t take photographs with their phones. There was no such thing as a digital camera. Taking pictures involved buying film at the store, loading the camera, and then sending the film off to be developed once it was fully used. If you are old enough to remember those days, there’s a good bet you have a couple boxes or albums filled with pictures.
Those old pictures printed on photography paper bring back special memories. Unfortunately, they will not last forever if you don’t make an effort to preserve them. The problem is that paper breaks down. Colors fade, edges start to get fuzzy, and images blur. But there is something you can do about it.
You can preserve your old pictures and keep the memories alive forever. Preserving is a two-step process: converting the originals to digital and properly storing those originals so that they last as long as possible.
Converting to Digital
Converting old paper photographs to digital format may seem like anathema to you. But understand that the modern world is more digital and less paper. If you are preserving photographs for future generations, those generations may not use paper at all. Converting photographs to digital format is actually a benefit to them.
There are multiple ways to do this. The first is to use a scanner connected to your computer. A scanner is almost like a copy machine except that it sends the image to your computer rather than printing it on paper. Scanned images can be manipulated as well. You can adjust colors, sharpen the image, crop pictures that are too large, etc.
The other method is to simply take a picture of the picture. Many of today’s smartphones have particularly good built-in cameras more than capable of doing the trick. You just lay your photographs out on the table, make sure you have good lighting, and take individual pictures of each one. Then you upload the pictures to your cloud storage or save them on a USB flash drive.
Preserving the Originals
Once all of your old pictures are converted to digital format it is time to preserve the paper copies. The first thing to understand is that you are trying to avoid moisture, light, and temperature extremes. This is why you should never store old photos in attics, basements, or out in the garage.
A bedroom closet is still one of the best places for photo storage. Under the bed isn’t a bad idea either. Any place that is dry and subject to more consistent temperatures is best.
As for storage methods, here’s something you might find surprising: storing your photos in photo albums is not necessarily a wise idea. The chemicals in the photographic paper can interact with the chemicals in the album pages and cause faster degradation. It is best to take photos out of albums and store them in another way.
Keeping old photos flat is the key. So we recommend getting your hands on a watertight plastic storage box into which you can place your old photos. Just put them inside, neatly stacked if you wish, and put the lid on top. It is really a lot easier than many people think.
Those old photographs you have lying around are the stuff of memories. Why not preserve those memories by converting your paper photos into digital format and then storing the originals in a sealed container? Future generations will thank you.