Q1: What’s acid on photo albums?
A1: Acid causes discoloration, yellowing and damage to photographs. Examples of non-acid-free albums that damaged photographs could be easily found in our home – family albums that are passed down through generations. Most of them are self-adhesive or plastic slip-in type of albums.
Q2: What’s lignin?
A2: An organic acidic component found in trees and plants responsible for their strength, but it causes paper to turn yellow or brown and brittle.
Q3: Why do photos fade?
A3: All photos have a limited lifespan, even when stored in the best photo albums. With luck, this life could be as long as fifty years for a colour photo – quite likely, it will be much shorter. The reason for this is primarily that the dyes used to put the colours in the photos are chemically sensitive, and they degrade over time mainly due to exposure to acidic compounds released from adhesives, plastics and papers used in photo albums, as well as exposure to atmospheric pollutants, light and heat. Poor quality processing can doom your photos no matter how well you store them, either through the use of cheap photo paper or chemicals, inadequate fixing or stopping, or poor drying. Remember that the cheapest or quickest may not be the best. “Archival quality” photo processing is becoming more widely available, but this is an expensive option.
Q4: How to process archival quality photos?
A4: Inkjet printers that are widely available in the market is an option to print archival quality photographs. However, do bear in mind that not all inkjet printers produce quality colour or black and white photographs. Professional inkjet printers can produce quality photographs when the right match of pigment inks and paper type are combined and this will affect different lifespan of that photograph. Also do note that not all inkjet prints are waterproof.
Q5: How can I protect my photographs?
A5: The good protection for your photos is to display and present photos in an acid-free slip-in, dry-mount or scrapbook style albums. The best protection for your photos, negatives and slides is a polypropylene or polyester archival storage system. However, acid-free slip-in, dry-mount and scrapbook-style albums can provide a very good alternative if display and presentation of your photos is an important consideration. The best place to store your photo album in the average family home tends to be up high inside a cupboard or wardrobe. This sort of location is usually dry, cool and dark, making it an ideal place to keep your albums. Photographic materials last longer if protected from:
* acidic environments – ensure you use an acid-free album and mounting products; try using acid-freepapers and polypropylene or polyester plastics; avoid PVC, which contains dangerous plasticisers and solvents
* heat – avoid hot places; e.g. on front seat of cars, etc.
* light – store photos away from direct sunlight and windows, etc.
* humidity – encourages mildew, meld and fungus growth as well as accelerating the decomposition of the photos and albums
* grease from fingerprints – surfaces of photos are difficult to clean; best to avoid direct contact
* insects and vermin – love to eat paper products; this is an another advantage of polypropylene systems
Q6: Why should you get your prints made in this age of technology?
A6: Printing is the most important thing you can do to save your digital photos. Technology shifts, computers crash, websites shut down. Prints last, so safeguard your photos by making a physical print.
Q7: What is the best way to mount photographs?
A7: “Reversible” mounting using photo corners or sleeves is the purist method in terms of archiving. Reversible means the process can be reversed without affecting the photograph – no adhesive or paper sticks to the print. For a permanent solution, use acid-free double-stick photo mounting tapes – never use rubber cement or cellophane tape.
Q8: What is a “dry mount” photo album?
A8: “Dry-mount” photo albums have plain cardboard or card pages, ideally also with interleaving. These albums require the use of photo corners, tape or paste to hold photos in place. They allow for greater artistic control over the presentation of photos and are ideal for storing and presenting mixed sized photos. It is important that dry-mount photo albums have interleaving to protect photographs from scratching and chafing on each other and from sticking together in humid conditions.
Q9: What is a “slip-in” photo album?
A9: Slip-in photo albums have pre-formed pockets which photos are inserted. These albums tend to be plastic over paper or all plastic pages. They are convenient and economical for regular-sized photographs and they restrict the size of the photos that can be stored as well as a restrictive page layout. These albums are good for storing a large number of photos of a similar size.
Q10: What is a “self-adhesive” or “magnetic-page” photo album?
A10: Self-adhesive or magnetic-page photo albums have an adhesive-lined page with a plastic overleaf. The overleaf is peeled back, photos are mounted on the adhesive-lined page and then the overleaf is pushed down to seal the photos in. We certainly do not recommend cheaper albums of this style for long-term storage of your photos. Problems may include discolouration of photos especially colour photos and the promotion of mildew and fungal growths due to moisture sealed in under the plastic overleaf. Commonly, there is report of great difficulty in removing photos from these albums after a length of time. If you must buy this type of album, ensure that the paper, plastic and adhesive used are acid-free materials. If you are concerned with the longevity of your photos, it is best to avoid PVC plastics.
Q11: What is a “book-bound” photo album?
A11: Book-bound photo albums have pages that are stitched or glue in. These albums are not refillable (meaning you cannot add or remove pages or change the order of the pages). Book-bound albums typically have a one-piece cover and the spine of the album is covered which makes for a very neat presentation. Pages turn neatly and lie quite flat when the album is open.
Q12: What is a “post-bound” photo album?
A12: Post-bound photo albums have pages that are held into the cover by a post and screw system. This album is refillable whereby you can extend the album. This is very convenient for ongoing collections. These albums may have exposed page-ends at the spine of the album or they may have a separate spine-cover, which conceals the page-ends. Usually the spine-cover can be adjusted to cover the page-ends even when refills are added to the album.
Q13: What is a “spiral-bound” photo album?
A13: Spiral-bound photo albums have pages held in by a wire or plastic spiral. This means that these albums are not refillable. Spiral-binding allows the album to be opened fully without stress on the spine and the pages should lie perfectly flat, allowing the use of the full page surface for mounting photos. Potential problems to be wary of is this spiral is not wide enough to accommodate the extra thickness of the pages when they are fully loaded with photos.