Make Photographic Memories Last

Congratulations if you're the one person in 1 million who doesn't have family photos stuffed in a giant shopping bag. But for those of you intending to assemble your albums any week/month/year now, keep these tips in mind:

  • Wash your hands: You'd hate yourself if you smudged a negative or print with a greasy fingerprint. Also, don't bundle pictures with rubber bands, staples or paper clips.
  • Write it down: Don't trust your memory—jot down all the important information about the people and scene in a photograph. If you write on the back of the print, use a soft-lead pencil. Avoid markers—the ink will seep through.
  • Watch the scissors: Never cut Polaroid photographs; exposing the sealed chemistry to air will make the photo fade quickly.
  • Store safely: Stand your completed photo albums upright—as you would on a bookshelf —to avoid extra pressure on the album pages. The ideal storage condition for photographs is 68 degrees and not more than 50 percent humidity.
  • Stick with paper: Avoid acetate and vinyl photo-album pages—over time, your photos will become stuck permanently to the pages. Instead, use non-acidic scrapbook pages, photo corners and glue approved by archivists.
For more information on preserving your family photos, see Picking a Photo Album That's for Keeps.
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