10 Things Most Damaging To Photographs

There are so many factors that can ruin or damage a photograph permanently. Proper storage and handling are important for long-term enjoyment.

However, there are ten things you can watch to help control any long term damage to your photographs. One is not any worse than the other, as they all have damaging principles, and almost all are completely controllable.


Obviously keeping a photograph out of direct sunlight is extremely important. If you choose to place a photograph in a frame, try to avoid direct sunlight or a sunny area of the house. Overtime the exposure to sunlight will cause the photograph to fade. The colors will lessen and it will lose it’s vibrancy.

Water and Humidity

Humidity can do invisible damage behind the scenes of a frame. It can cause the photograph to stick to the glass, rendering the photograph irremovable without extensive damage. Water can cause the photograph to warp, bleed and get color blotches.

Oily and Dirty Hands

Handling your photos without washing them first can leave particles of dirt all over. Not to mention the oils from your fingertips leave a residue behind that causes damage over time.

Using Ink on the back

Most inks contain a fair amount of acid. If you’ve ever written with a ball point pen, or even a sharpie marker on the back of a photograph you know what I’m talking about. Turn the photo over after only about a year or more and you will see the damage it can cause.

Frequent Handling

Frequently handling photographs can cause damage by the more obvious oily and dirty hands, but it can also cause damage over a period of time. Slight creases and bends in the photograph, as well as allowing particles of dust rest on the photo frequently.

Using high acid content materials

This is why as scrapbookers we are so concerned about “acid free” items. If you continuously place high acid content materials near your photographs, they will fade, discolor and the acid will actually eat at your photos. To avoid this use acid-free products when scrapbooking!

Using incorrect adhesives

Rubber cement, masking tape and regular clear tape are NOT safe options for your photographs. Looking for an acid free adhesive is your best choice. They are available in liquid and sticker format and can be used on any photograph.

Attics and basements

Proper storage of your photographs is extremely important. Because of the high humidity level of both attics and basements, you have to be concerned of anything stored in one of these two locations. In addition the extreme temperatures can cause damage as well.

Magnetic Photo Albums

Most of the older magnetic albums have such a high acid content, that if you flip through them you will find yellowed pages, discolored photographs and general chaos. The sticky principle of a magnet album can cause your photo to be permanently stuck in place as well. It will be difficult to remove without extensive damage to your photograph, so if you have any photos in these magnetic albums – get them out now!

Cropping Mistakes

Easy to fix. Don’t crop your photos. And especially avoid cropping them into strange shapes. Be careful not to crop out important information that is present in the photo. The car in the background might seem distracting at first glance, but it also tells about the time era of the photo as well as preserving that car for years to come.

I’ve known many scrapbookers who have been terribly upset by falling prey to one of these common elements of damage to their photographs. Practice safety around your photographs at all times.

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