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Any photograph that carries special memories is precious requiring careful handling. Very old photographs in particular require the highest respect whether just offered for viewing or formal display.

Digital photography has done much to provide a safer environment for pictures either as finished or the raw capture of them. In addition, digital offers a means of preserving the damaged material of the past, can be rapidly repaired and corrected.

Not all have evolved to digital, camera lovers amateur to professionals will never abandon the freedom that lighting, and actual film can provide. As long as this medium, past and present, is a pasrt of our lives proper handling is foremost to their preservation.

Photographic Prints

In addition to the material above, concerning proper storage, photo albums, plastic sleeves and the environment, how we personally handle photographs is a separate issue. Older photographs are brittle, unstable, and light and touch sensitive.

t is not expected that you would keep a set of cotton gloves on hand like museums or collectors of quality artifacts do and a small amount of common sense will work just as well. Chemicals on our fingers or moist fingers can be very harmful either immediately or over time to the life on an antique photograph

Antique Photo

Chemicals never heard of when the photograph was created can react to the delicate emulsion coating and cause the prints to oxidize, turn black and deteriorate. Clean and dry hands are essential to preventing this type of damage.

Photographs, new or old, should be handled only by their edges or thy their borders without touching the image directly. Do no view or display photographs in direct sunlight and if unavoidable, limit the suns exposure to a bare minimum. If photographs have, plastic protectors display them in that manner avoiding removing the photograph if possible.

Today's "RC" prints are made of a plastic based material and can be cleaned with a soft moist cloth, water only. Older prints of paper and cloth substance can be dabbed and then professional advice sought after they have dried.

Digital prints produced from your PC printer and most produced from photo finishing services are not water proof and are highly susceptible to handling damages in every form.


Photographic Negatives and Transparencies

Photographic prints are one thing but negatives and transparencies should require the "Cotton Glove" treatment. Damage to the emulsion side of this film is of major consequence is irreversible and unforgivable. The image is totally lost in most cases when prevention could have avoided the disaster.



Negatives and transparencies have two unique surfaces to make up the film and subsequent image. The base is the shinny plastic side that holds the emulsion side in place. The emulsion side is a very fine application of material that captures the light that is converted finally into a finished image. This material, depending on its sensitivity is of such a fine nature to allow enlarged images to be produced from a 33mm format. A hairline scratch on the negatives emulsion can equate to a two-inch gap upon the image enlargement. This is the reason for the highest respect and care in the handling of the emulsion of either medium.

The base side is hardly impregnable to damage either. As your plastic glasses, lenses are susceptible to scratches the base side is nowhere as strong. Same size scratches with one difference your eyes view from the same distance and only faintly notice. Light is transferred with magnification to produce images for prints or viewing amplifying the minor scratches dramatically. A good reason that the film base also requires some respect.

Negatives and transparencies should be handled by the edges only and if either surface needs attention it should be with the aid of cotton gloves obtainable from most photo finishing dealers.


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