Archive for the ‘Preserving Your Family Photographs’ Category

Preserving Your family Photographs Promotion

This month I am running a promotion on Preserving Your Family Photographs. Get your copy today for 20% off using coupon code: 2NP8BZDW

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The Digital Age: Photo CD/DVDs

Initial testing of the first CDs gave them a life expectancy of only 5-10 years maximum. Today, manufacturers are creating CDs, that according
to estimates, will last between 30 to 100 years, or as long as 300 years depending on the type of disk.

Longevity depends on a few factors–proper storage conditions, careful handling, and limited exposure to light. In addition, the dyes used in the manufacture of the disks can affect their longevity.

The larger issue with CD/DVD technology is the retrieval of the material written on them. Again, the question is whether the equipment will be around to allow you to look at the files in five, ten, or twenty years. Even if the material lasts to the outside date of 300 years, will anyone really be able to look at your photo disks?

Libraries and archives are very concerned about digital preservation. The Library of Congress has an informational page ( which describes saving everything from email to digital photos.

If you have these same concerns, Preserving Your Family Photographs goes over steps for planning for obsolescence. I also talk about proper storage, handling and labeling of CDs and DVDs to minimize the risk of losing your precious photos.


In 1975, an engineer at Eastman Kodak used a camera with image sensor chips that weighed 8 pounds and took 23 seconds to capture the scene. While a digital camera was used at the 1984 Summer Olympics and during the first Gulf War, the first commercially successful digital cameras didn’t debut until 1990. The technology has come a long way since then. Now we have cameras small enough to carry in a pocket.

Digital photography has become most popular recently. However, according to photographic conservator, Paul Messier,, digital photography has all the traditional issues of preservation – chemical, biological and physical, but electronic files add a new problem—obsolescence. This has 2 components, file format and hardware obsolescence.

Discussion of these issues as well as solutions are covered in Preserving Your Family Photographs. You can get your copy HERE to access the information.

Hiring a Professional Photographer

There are times in our lives when we hire a professional photographer to document important events like weddings or formal family portraits. But how can you tell if they are following procedures to ensure the longevity of your images? You can start by asking a few simple questions.

These Questions may Include:

  • What type of photo paper do they use and how long does it last?
  • Do they water process or chemically process their prints?
  • How long do they store their negatives?
  • Do they use lacquer to coat the photograph or to create texture?
  • Is the photo studio going to frame the prints?

Hiring a professional photographer can be a stressful experience. You never want to worry about someone ruining the most important milestones of your life. Preserving Your Family Photographs can help guide you to hiring the right photographer. The book details the questions above as well as investigating some frequently asked questions that only a professional can answer.

Movie Film

While home movies are not technically photographs, they are often part of a family photograph collection. In fact, it would be difficult to find a family without at least one reel of 16mm or 8mm color movie film.

Movie film first became available in the same 35 mm formats used to make early commercial films. If you own any 35mm motion picture film, please contact the National Center for Film and Video Preservation at the American Film Institute at the American Film Institute, 2021 North Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027, Telephone (323)856-7708. Since nitrate film was produced from 1889 to 1939, most of the early movie film is unstable and should be transferred to safety film.

All color film, both still and motion picture, fades. You should follow a set of guidelines to slow the deterioration of your home movies.

For more information on those guidelines and caring for your movie film. See Chapter 7 of Preserving Your Family Photographs or email me at

Color Photographs: Instant Color

Until 1947, amateur photographers either sent their rolls of film to a lab for developing or did it themselves in a home darkroom. Edwin Land’s patent for “instant” black and white pictures that developed in a minute changed everything. Photographers could shoot a picture, watch it develop, and decide whether to take a new one. This dawn of a new age in family photography presented shutter-bugs with instant gratification.

In the 1970s Polaroid patented a color film. According to The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Focal Press, 2007), consumers shot approximately a billion Polaroid prints in 1974. Close to 65% of that number were color images.

The problem with these new instant color pictures did not surface for several years. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of a color Polaroid can be limited to only 5 to 10 years if storage conditions include environmental fluctuations.

Special Concerns for color photographs include:

  • Fading
  • Discoloration
  • Cracking
  • Moisture and Temperature
  • Fingerprints
  • Poor Quality Plastic
  • Surface Treatments

This is an example of digital restoration. The colors shifted destroying the image. The black and white print was the first stage of the restoration. In the final print, color tint was added. Edwin Schuylar Richerson and his bride Eleanor Rita, November 27, 1954. Photo courtesy of Linda Templeton. Retouching by Lorie

Preserving Your Family Photographs goes into more detail about these concerns and how to avoid them in order to save your valuable photos.

Color Photographs: Deterioration

Color pictures are composed of two elements: the negative and the image. The negative is the film while the image is printed on different types of paper. Today, most photographs are printed on resin coated (RC) papers. This means that the image is printed on a paper coated with a substance that protects the print surface from abrasion. Over time, these RC papers develop cracking.

Kodacolor film, Ektachrome slides and Agfacolor color are three of the color photographic processes used by family photographers that have had disturbing preservation records.  However, instant pictures deteriorate the fastest.

Next week I’ll talk about instant pictures and special concerns.  You can read more about this topic in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs or contact me via email at

Color Photographs – History and Background

Walk into any home and you’ll see color photographs on display, either standing in frames or hanging on walls. The photos depict graduations, family vacations and other events of significance to the owner.

The transition from all black and white photography to commercially available color took close to a century. Daguerre and others tried to invent a color photographic process by experimenting with different chemicals. But they were largely unsuccessful in their quest for permanent color images. In 1850, a New York state Baptist minister, Levi Hill, announced that he’d found a way to reproduce natural color in daguerreotypes, but he refused to reveal his methods. He called his process Heliochromy and his plates were called hillotypes. Many photographers labeled him a fraud. Yet in 2007, researchers working under the auspices of the Smithsonian Museum of American History found that Hill had indeed been able to capture blue and red hues.

To learn more about the history and background of color photographs, check out my book Preserving Your Family Photographs.

Negatives Part 1: Glass

The history of prints corresponds to the development and history of the negatives used to produce them. After prints, negatives make up a significant part of our family photograph collection. But how many people know about the negatives in their possession?

Glass Negatives

Photographers created their own supply of negatives in the 1850s by coating a piece of glass with a new substance, known as collodion. The light-sensitive silver halides in the collodion captured and preserved the image during the photographic process.

If you have glass negatives in your collection, they are probably sitting in a box that is too heavy to lift. Photographers used to store these plates in wooden storage boxes with dividers to protect the glass from breakage. Glass plate negatives, being both heavy and fragile, also require special storage care.

Steps to take when moving or re-boxong glass plates can be found in Preserving your Family Photographs.