Make photos last longer with careful storage

Use a camera long enough, and eventually slides, prints, and negatives start piling up all over your office. If your photo file consists of the back half of a dusty file drawer, consider upgrading your storage system.

How to store photos

Placing negatives, slides, and prints in plastic sheets and putting them into three-ring binders makes searching your image file quick and easy. Camera shops and camera departments in large stores usually stock photo storage products, so finding materials for your image file won’t be difficult. Plastic pages for negatives, 35mm slides, and prints all are readily available. However, not all photo storage products on the market are “photo safe.”

Storage materials

Make sure that plastic page protectors you use for photographic materials are not made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This compound can break down over time, emitting acid residues that ruin photographic prints and slides. Polypropylene sheets are best for 35mm slides; polyethylene is best for negatives. Mylar also works well for storing photographic materials.

If you store photographic prints in albums, avoid paper storage pages containing lignin. Lignin occurs naturally in wood, and is commonly found in some lower-grade papers and paper mat board. Like PVC, lignin can break down over time, releasing acid residues that harm photographs.

Storage location

Also, be aware that photographic materials don’t react well to dust or extremes in temperature and humidity. Your photo file storage location should be dust-free, dry, and warm--the kind of place where you would feel comfortable yourself.