Saving Stuck Photos
4/1/2013
What to do when an old photo has become stuck to the glass in its frame.
Q. How do you salvage a photo that's stuck to the glass of a picture frame?

A. Do-it-yourself remedies, such as holding the photo over a simmering pot or prying it off with dental floss, don't work—and usually lead to even more damage. "Photos stuck to glass are almost always a lost cause because removing the photo usually tears the emulsion away from the photographic paper," says Heather Tudhope, a Denver-based photographic conservator. A professional conservator might be able to reattach the emulsion—the coating that contains the image—but your photo won't look the same.

The best course of action is to make a good copy of your stuck photo. Scan it glass-side-down on a flatbed scanner at a high resolution, then print it onto photographic paper using a photo printer. If you don't have a scanner, use a do-it-yourself kiosk at a large retailers such as Target or Walgreen's.

Or if you let a professional photo lab do the scanning for you, you can request photo editing to correct scratches, balance the color and fix other damage. You can edit photos yourself using free software such as Picasa. (Our Amateur Photo Restoration video class demonstrates how to digitally mend tears, scratches, spots and other damage.) 

Technicians also can use the resulting image to create a new negative. Ask for a referral at a camera store or search the Internet for the name of your hometown plus Photo Copying or Photo Restoration.

If you want to try to save the original, you can hire a photographic conservator for about $60 to $150 per hour. He or she should evaluate the photo, prepare a condition report and develop a treatment proposal. Contact the American Institute for Conservation at (202) 452-9545 for a referral.

Naturally, prevention is the best cure. Avoid framing a photograph so it touches the glass, especially in humid climates. Instead, mount it behind an acid-free, lignin-free mat to create a small space between the photo and the glass.

Find more advice on the best ways to make sure your family's precious pictures are around for generations to come in Preserving Your Family Photographs by Maureen A. Taylor.
 
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