Heirloom photos

Some photos play an important role into anyones life. Especially since almost everyone takes photos with their cellphone of any special moment or event that tehy can view and show to others on their phone. In this blogpost I talk about the printed photos. The photos that were taken years ago on an analog camera, the ones that you only have one print of and no option to replace that photo when it is damaged or lost. These photos connect us to our past, they remind us of people, places, feelings, and stories. Heirloom portraits are photos that will be handed down to future generations. Like this portrait of my great grandfather and me at age 1 taken by my uncle Jos. Losing heirloom family portraits can be heartbreaking and devastating.

What to do with your photos after they are damaged by water

Damaged photographs for which there are no negatives should receive attention first.

Handle wet photos carefully. The surfaces may be fragile.

If you’re dealing with hundreds of damaged photos, you’ll want to start the drying process as soon as possible or at least within two days. The longer you wait, the more your images are at risk of becoming stuck together and quickly deteriorating.

You’ll want to dry your water-damaged photos as soon as possible, prioritizing the ones without negatives. Carefully remove the wet photos from their respective albums or the dirty water they’ve been submerged in.

Then, gently rinse both sides with cold water. Gently separate any stuck photos, laying each of them face-up on wax paper. If the images are badly stuck, don’t force photos apart. 

Photos in frames can get stuck in the glass if not carefully removed. When salvaging a wet, framed photograph, keep the images and the glass together. Then, rinse both materials with clean water until the photo separates from the display. 

If photographs cannot be dried immediately or if they are stuck together, freeze them to slow down the drying process.

Place waxed paper between photos or wrap them with a non-woven polyester cloth, then place in the freezer.

When you’re ready to work on them, remove photos from freezer.

As the stack thaws, carefully peel photos from the group and place them face up on a clean, absorbent surface to air dry.

Dried or frozen photographs are reasonably stable. When dealing with priceless photos, store them in the freezer until you can talk to a professional.

Lay your photos on a clean surface. Place each image on something highly absorbent, such as paper towels. Do not put them in direct sunlight!

If you don't have room to lay out your photos in a single layer, you can try putting wax paper in between each photo.

Run a fan to circulate air over and around the items as they dry.

As the photos dry and images appear, take photos of the photographs. They may actually get worse as they dry, so you will at least have a photo image of the picture.

If the photo is stuck in a frame and you can't remove it, it may be possible to scan the frame/photo to create a new jpeg image.

It may take two to three days for the photos to dry completely.

Negatives should always be dried vertically. Hang them on a line with plastic clips placed at the edges.

Restoring the damaged photos

In the articles below, you will find some companies who can help with photo restoration.

As a photographer I am able to do some restoring/retouching to help you with your damaged heirloom photos, but I also work closely with 2 amazing retouch companies for the more difficult and complex retouches and restorations. Please contact me with any questions or concerns.

Damaged original photo

Digital retouched and restored photo