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Old Photos Restoration – What to Do with Old Photos?

May 20, 2023 5 min read

photo restoration example of what to do with old photos

Do you have old, faded photos that are slowly degrading? A picture might be worth a thousand words, but it won’t last forever. Images fade over time, transforming vivid memories into ghostly silhouettes and shadows. 

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. While there’s no way to prevent printed photos from fading, new technology has made old photos restoration a reality.

Now, you can breathe new life into those faded old pictures, restoring their former glory.  

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know, from why old photos fade to what to do with old photos to restore them.

restoration examples of old family photos

Why Do Old Photos Fade?

The primary reason your old photos fade is exposure to light. However, it’s not all types of light. Ultraviolet (UV) light is the most damaging. 

This process is called photodegradation; you can see it in anything exposed to sunlight for long periods. 

In photographs, the process works like this:

  1. Sunlight shines on the plastic materials within the photo and the ink.
  2. UV light excites the particles, which begin to break down.
  3. As the particles break down, color and resolution are lost. 
  4. Eventually, you’re faced with the choice to repair old photos or toss them out.

It’s not just sunlight that will cause the need for old photos restoration. Any light source can cause photodegradation. Your home also houses a wide range of other threats, including:

  • Dust
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Smoke
  • Tape residue (acid)
  • Low-quality photo paper (acid, again)
  • Fungus (foxing from exposure to moisture)
  • Oxygen (oxidation)

To keep your old photos in optimal condition, they must be kept in a dark, airtight place away from lurking threats. Of course, that also means you can’t enjoy looking at them, and what’s the point of taking pictures if you can’t hang them on the wall or put them in a photo album?

old family pictures restoration

Old Photos Restoration: The Process of Digitization 

Digital photos, like those taken by a digital camera or your smartphone, aren’t subject to the same threats as printed photos. Light can’t damage the photo because it’s stored as lines of code in a digital file, not printed on paper. 

The first step in the photo restoration process is to scan your printed picture and create a digital copy. This should be done with a high-quality scanner or a high-end camera. The more detailed the image, the better.

Next, the file is uploaded to a specialist with years of experience using software to enhance old photos. The specialist will manually adjust the image to restore lost color, remove foxing, and even eliminate cracks and watermarks. 

Even photographs with missing pieces can be restored. Restoration experts can extrapolate features that might have been damaged using special tools.

Once the image has been restored, you’ll receive the new digital file. This file should be stored somewhere safe, such as on a cloud storage account, so that damage to your local hard drive or upgrading to a new computer doesn’t affect access to it.

You can also print and display your new picture in a photo album or picture frame. The digital file will remain as pristine as ever, and you can print another photo whenever necessary. Of course, there are a few things you can do to ensure your printed photo stands the test of time.

Old Photo to New Photo: Printing Photos That Resist Fading

While there is no way to prevent fading and other damage to a printed photograph completely, there are things you can do to maximize its lifespan.

  1. Choose the right photo paper. Always choose archival-quality, acid-free paper specially designed for photographs. Printing on anything less will result in a photo that’s easily damaged. The paper costs more upfront, but it will last for years.
  1. Choose your display location very carefully. If you hang the picture on the wall or display it on a shelf somewhere in your home or office, pay close attention to light cycles in the area. Is direct sunlight ever present? How bright is the ambient lighting? 
  1. How humid is it? Moisture damages photographs, leaving physical marks and increasing the chances of fungal growth. Make sure you keep the humidity low. This applies to displayed photos but especially to those you might store in an album or box. Pro tip: the attic and basement are not safe places for photographs!
  1. Don’t leave it open to the air. Oxidation occurs with exposure to the air. To maximize your new photo’s lifespan, keep it sealed.

Black & White or Color

Old photos restoration technology is very versatile. You can use it to restore both color images and black-and-white photos. You can even choose to colorize black and white photos if you choose, breathing life into those memories and helping to reveal the real world hidden behind those gray or sepia tones. 

Digital Photos: Permanent Beauty

Unlike printed photos, even those that use archival paper, digital photos do not degrade over time. Digitizing pictures is a simple, effective way to prevent your treasured memories from fading away entirely and ensuring that they’re available for generations to come.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things to avoid with digital photos. Some of the most important tips include:

  • Avoid compression – While digital photos don’t degrade over time, compressed copies sacrifice quality to reduce file size. If you’ve ever uploaded a new profile picture for your social media account only to find that it doesn’t look as good as it did on your phone, it’s because the online version is compressed.
  • Storage – Digital files are safe from photodegradation, but that doesn’t mean they’re impervious to all threats. Damage to the hard drive or other storage media (flash drive, etc.) can destroy your file. To reduce this risk, store digital photos in the cloud in addition to physical drives.

In Conclusion

There’s no reason your memories have to fade and disappear. Modern technology and expert restoration specialists like those at PixelsPhotoArt can restore those photos to their former glory. In many cases, we can even make them better than they were!

We specialize in restoring cracked, faded, damaged photos and bringing them back to life. Our three-step process is simple and easy, too. Most photo restoration only takes three business days, and we provide order tracking throughout the process, so you always know what to expect. 

before and after example of what to do with old photos

We’re completely committed to your satisfaction, too. That’s why we offer unlimited revisions and access to our professional customer support team around the clock.

All images are delivered in high-resolution digital format. However, we also offer professional prints either as framed posters or on canvas to help you showcase your treasured memories for years to come. All poster paper and canvas options are of archival quality and free of acid.

We’re proud of our ability to deliver outstanding results. Whether you’re restoring family heirlooms or want to colorize those old B&W photos, we can help. Don’t let time steal your memories – contact us today.