photo by Shanina via iStock
I was helping my father clear out his house the other day when I stumbled across an old box stuffed to the brim with photographs. Needless to say, we pretty much stopped cleaning at that point and spent the rest of the day reminiscing about everyone in that box.
But, I also spent a lot of that day chastising him for keeping precious family heirlooms stuffed in a dirty old box. As a professional photographer, nothing bothers me more. So many of the photos we found were either incredibly faded or unrecognizable.
Faded photos are really frustrating, especially when those faded photos are of loved ones who are no longer here with us.
And while photo restoration techniques are vastly improving compared to how we used to restore faded photos, the best cure to faded photos is to prevent them from fading at all.
Of course, this is easier said than done. So, in this article I’m going to walk you through the science behind why photos fade, how to prevent faded photos, and how to restore photos that have already faded.
Old Photos Fade From the Elements
photo by duncan1890 via iStock
Obviously the best way to prevent faded photos is to understand what causes them and the number one culprit is the elements. The sun, air, and water droplets are all really bad for photographs.
Of course, the elements will affect photos differently depending upon what era those photos were created in, since there are so many different printing methods. However, every mass printing method creates images with three layers: one of paper, one of a binding substance, and one of the ink. Importantly, every layer can be hurt by natural elements if they are exposed to them for too long.
Of the elements, the sun is the most damaging. UV light acts similarly to photographs and our skin. It destroys the molecules present.
I should note here that the elements are not the only thing that can cause faded photos, because chemicals that you keep around your house can do the same thing. So, keep your photos away from things like smoke or cleaning chemicals.
How to Prevent Faded Photos
photo by LiliGraphie via iStock
Now that you understand how photos fade, you need to understand how to stop them from doing so, at least to the best of your ability.
The biggest tip here is that you shouldn’t display original copies of your photos. You should scan the original copies and use the scanned photos to display. Then, you need to take the originals and place them in a museum-quality frame. This is a frame that doesn’t have any acid and is also a frame that features UV resistant glass. Important historical documents are protected in a similar manner in museums all over the world.
Of course, you’ll also need to store your original copies in places that are dark and dry. While you may feel like storing old photos in your basement, this really isn’t the best way to prevent them from being damaged since basements are prone to flooding.
Finally, you should make backups. Make multiple backups. Regardless of how well you store your old photos, they won’t be around forever and you’ll want to have copies on hand when that happens.
How to Restore Faded Photos
It’s great that you know how to prevent photos from fading, but what happens when you encounter a family member’s photos that they didn’t store correctly? I’m going through the same thing with my dad right now and went in search of photo restoration online.
If you can make out any details on your damaged image, then photo restoration is an option so long as you work with a reputable company that specializes in bringing old, faded photos back to life.
One such company that I’ve worked with in the past is PhotoRepairPro. PhotoRepairPro takes your old damaged photos and turns it into a downloadable JPEG and 2 5x7” prints for your home. You can choose whether you want to get your faded photos restored to their original condition or whether you want them to be colorized. Plus, the process is incredibly easy. All you have to do is start your order, scan your image with their Photo Capture Tips, and pay.
Each photo will cost you $40 and will be returned to you within 7 business days.
If you’re serious about getting your faded photos restored through PhotoRepairPro, you will want to look at their requirements for your original images.
For instance, you need to make sure that your photos are sized at 300ppi, that they are in a JPEG file, and that you used sRGB. These are simple steps to follow in order to breathe new life into faded photos!