Preserving Photographs: What to Spend Your Money On

This post may contain affiliate links. For more details, please view our full disclosure.

restoring old photosI have a few grandmother-like hobbies.  Last Christmas I got really into crocheting.  I sew to mend clothes and make stockings for my family.  And I’m really into genealogy.  (If you want to see how to get into that hobby on  your budget, you can check out this article.)

A major part of genealogy is the photographs.  I love finding a picture of an ancestor, doing research, and then being able to ascribe a story to that person’s life.  In our age of technology and science, we’re lucky to be able to have great ways to preserve these tangible memories for generations to come.

 Displaying Photographs

Everyone’s favorite thing to do with old family photos is to display them in their home.  I generally print a copy to frame and display so that I can preserve the original properly.  But photographs usually fade, especially when displayed, and I don’t want that to happen even if it’s not the original.  The major reason pictures fade is exposure to light, and the biggest culprit is UV rays.  Frame Brand by blocks out a lot of those UV rays.  (They sell frames for both posters and things like family photographs.)  The UV protection isn’t something that you usually find at a retail store, and they make the product themselves and then sell directly to you on-line, so it’s a pretty cost-effective method of finding a frame that will keep your pictures from fading for a long time.  The key, wherever you shop, is looking for that UV protection.

To preserve photo’s life even longer, make sure the place you’re hanging or displaying them is out of the direct sunlight for the same reason:  those nasty UV rays.


Preserving Photographs

Whether you’re storing pictures from 100 years ago or pictures from last week’s birthday party that you’ll want people to see in 100 years, picking the right storage method is crucial.  Two ways to store them physically are using a box or a photo album.  Any old box or album won’t do. The box must be archival quality, made for storing photographs.  The album should be archival quality, as well.  It should also be acid-free and preferably not made using PVC.  (If all of this is not evident on labeling, you can call the manufacturer.  I’ve done it before and they’ve always been helpful.)  You can read more about the types of storage and how to use them here.

No matter what method you use to preserve your pictures, they will, eventually, fade.  Some precautions can delay this tragedy.  But I’m a big fan of preserving what you’ve got digitally.

Scanning your photographs into your computer ensures that they will be recorded as they look today…not how they will look twenty years from now even in the best album.  When you’re scanning them in, make sure you examine the settings and set your dpi (dots per inch) high; at least 600, preferably higher.  This means that their resolution will be decent enough for you to print more hard copies and/or blow them up/zoom in without getting any graininess.  It will take longer to scan and upload, but it’s worth the extra time.

Backup your photos, and then have a backup of your backup.  Every few years, get a new backup.  It sounds paranoid and redundant, but flash drives and external hard drives eventually die, and they do so without warning.  Keep one of these back-ups outside your home so that, heaven forbid, if you should ever experience a house fire, flood, or something of the like, you have not lost all of your hard work.

Make sure to be careful when you’re handling your photographs.  Fingerprints on the photo itself may not show up today, but the acid from your hands will eat away at them.  I have one from 50 years ago that has a big thumb print right in the center, over everyone’s faces.

Restoring Photographs

My mother and mother-in-law both have a myriad of family photos in frames.  Most of them have been in those frames longer than they have been alive.  The only problem with that is that you should never, ever try to take them out of the frame yourself.  It’s noble to want to scan them or store them properly, but odds are that they are flaking, crumbling, and held together only by the frame itself.  If you want to restore the photo or in any other way move it, it’s worth every penny to take it to an experienced professional.

My mother had one photo that was painted in the the days of early color photographs.  It was in a frame, and she knew she shouldn’t remove it.  She had a really positive experience taking it into our local Ritz.  (I’m not sure if every location offers these services.  The important thing is to find an individual that has a good reputation, regardless of the company they work for.)  They not only restored the photograph to one whole piece, but restored the faded color and made copies for her to distribute to the whole family.  This picture had been in our house my entire life, and with the work they did it was like seeing it for the first time.


What do you do to preserve your family’s memories?



*This post is brought to you by All content has been created by and is the opinion of Femme Frugality.*


10 thoughts on “Preserving Photographs: What to Spend Your Money On

  1. Krysten

    These are some great ideas…. I actually want to work on getting all my non digital photos put onto the computer too so I can have them saved.

  2. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter

    What a cool idea! I wish I had photos to preserve. We don’t have much in the way of historical family photographs. If we do have any, I’d imagine that my grandmother has them, but they aren’t displayed anywhere.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Maybe they will get passed down! I have some, but my mother still has most of them. I’ve worked with her on preserving a lot of them, but sometimes those are things that just have to be handed down.

  3. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog

    Great ideas! I worry about not being able to preserve some of my older photos. I love that we have digital nowadays. I have all of our family photos on my computer, on zip drives and an external hard drive. That way I can be sure I always have a backup. Thanks for the unique article! I wouldn’t have thought about this topic if you hadn’t posted it.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Back it up, back it up! Great job! Getting the older ones digital can be a way to make sure they’re always there, as long as you’ve got them in multiple places and update every few years. At least. Otherwise those other tips….proper storage, UV protecting frames, and even using a professional to restore….are amazing things to do, too.

  4. Meredith

    Smart to know! I don’t have many old photographs, but know a couple people who are very into genealogy and am passing this along. This is definitely an investment worth protecting!

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Yay! Thanks! And they are! I’ve found that even people who aren’t crazily into genealogy will sit and listen to the stories if they have photographs to go along with them, so it can be an investment for the whole family. A way to keep that history from being lost.

  5. donebyforty

    We are mostly digital now, but on Mother’s day we flipped through an old photo album from the eighties and I’m amazed at how well the photos preserve. I think just keeping them out of the light really helps. That said, maybe scanning them is a prudent move. One fire could wipe out all those memories.

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      You guys must have been smart and used a nice photo album! Way to be! A few of my friends have pulled out pictures from the same era and said, “Wow…I guess they really do fade…” Kind of sad. But then we scan them so they have an account should they fade any more. And in case of a fire or other natural disaster, keeping the digital storage in two separate physical locations is key.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *