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:
- Moisture and Temperature
- 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 www.retouchingbylorie.com
Preserving Your Family Photographs goes into more detail about these concerns and how to avoid them in order to save your valuable photos.