Photos and home movies are deteriorating for a number of reasons and there's only one thing you can do about it. To guarantee your family's archive of captured memories is preserved, they need to be archived digitally. One of the best reasons to convert your old photos, negatives, slides, videos and reel to reel film to digital format is to prevent the natural decaying process from stealing your favorite memories away from you. There are many reasons for the deterioration of those materials, but the primary factors include poor environmental conditions, inferior storage containers, and the deterioration of the actual chemical composition of the photographic or film materials.
Poor environmental conditions frequently occur in most homes and storage areas. The evil culprits are present every day: humidity, temperature and light. High humidity causes materials to become stick together due to the moisture whereas low humidity causes cracks and curls. High temperatures and visible light from sunlight and lamps also speed up the rate of deterioration. Even air pollution can cause the degradation of materials. Insufficient storage solutions often play a role in the deterioration of photographic and home movie material. Even the best storage options can be affected by temperature, light, and humidity. In addition, the acid from old photo albums alone can eat away at your memories. Storage areas also tend to be susceptible to insects and rodents who can damage your photos.
Environmental and storage factors aside, the stability of the chemical composition can also fade with time. Black and white negatives and prints use fairly stable silver halide. However, over time and in less than ideal conditions, the papers will yellow along with the gelatin matrix that makes up the image. If the image was not properly developed, that once crisp image can develop a metallic blur. Color images fair even worse off as the chromomeric dye color is not stable over time. The balance of old color photographs also change because the three different dyes that were used to print originally deteriorate at different rates. New ink jet prints and photographic processes are seeing better results, but as this technology is relatively young it has yet to stand the test of time.
So, the bottom line is that unless you have properly stored your professionally developed photos in non-corrosive, non-combustible, acid-free containers in a dark room with the proper humidity, away from insects, rodents, and dust making sure they were not too tight and not too loose, your images will deteriorate. Even if you go through these procedures, which hinder your ability to actually enjoy the images, your images may deteriorate anyway. There are a number of ways to help slow down the process, but the best way to guarantee your images are preserved is to digitally archive your images. Our team will not only preserve your images in their current state, but will also optimize your photos to reverse a little bit of that aging process.
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- Judith Boston, MA July 2010 -
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