Tips To Preserve Your Portraits

We’ve all seen in old photo albums the yellowing, cracking portraits of family and loved ones. Understanding how this happens can help you reduce the effects of time on your portraits and custom wall art products. Let’s first explore the reasons time has this effect on the photographs, then we can look at simple solutions to prevent them.

The first culprit we should look at are lignins.  Lignins are polymers found in plants that are important for their growth and development of their cellular structure.  Photographic papers, made from plant based materials such as wood pulp, contain these polymers that yellow when exposed to UV light or heat.  This is why you may notice portraits exposed to window light will fade and yellow more quickly where the direct light hits them.  Using cotton based materials, which contain less of these polymers, can greatly reduce the effects of time on your photographs and art.  Sometimes these may be referred to as “Lignin Free” paper or products.  Using a UV coating over your images, particularly wall art such as large prints and canvas products, can also greatly reduce the effects of UV light and heat.

The second reason for premature aging of portraits and wall art is the acidity of the materials used in their construction.  Acidity is measured by the PH scale which runs from 0-14, 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline.  7 is considered “neutral”.  It is the acid in the papers and materials that cause them to break down over time and age.  Typically this kind of aging results in cracking and peeling of the paper.  It is important to note here that acids may also leach off of other plant based materials such as cardboard or paper that the photographs are stored in.  ”Acid Free” paper and other materials are created in a way that will provide products that are stable and slightly basic PH level that will protect them from harmful effects of acid.  (this means that these materials measure more toward the alkaline end of the scale with a PH level of around 8)

The third reason that portraits and wall art ages is the process of oxydation on trace amounts of metals found in the materials they are made of.  Yep, rust.  Of course, this oxydation is caused by exposure to oxygen, but humidity and temperature also play a huge role in the process of oxydation.  Warm, humid environments tend to speed up this process which can cause yellowing of your precious images.  Again, the solution to this one is to simply apply a protective gel over the canvas or image that will help block oxygen.  This is the same protective gel that can block the UV light as mentioned above.

In addition to the above tips, storing your photos properly will also help preserve them for years.  Loose photos such as gift prints that are not displayed should be stored in a cool room (avoid the garage for these, especially in Arizona) inside a box that is made from acid free materials.  Try to avoid wood or cardboard.  Acid free tissue paper can be easily purchased from several companies online that can be used to wrap your prints while in storage.

At Emotions And Memories Photography we use only the best materials to create products that have an estimated life expentancy of 100 years.  Our canvas products are made from a cotton-poly blend that greatly reduces the amount of lignin, and all of our paper including our mounting substrate and matts are acid free.  We also include a protective gel coating on all of our canvases at no additional cost, and the glass available with custom framing is UV blocking.  It is our goal to provide you with more than just fine art, but an heirloom that you can hand down for generations.


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