You’ve captured the ultimate image. Now you want to do all that you can to ensure the longest possible life for your print.
Many factors can affect the life of a photographic print. The following conditions can all contribute to degradation of prints on resin-coated or fiber-base papers:
- Improper processing
- Atmospheric and environmental contamination
- Fungus and bacterial growth
- Surface contamination
Photographic prints can have a long, useful life when they’re properly processed, displayed, and stored. Your prints will exhibit good stability if you protect them by following these recommendations:
Atmospheric or environmental contamination can be subtle. Oxides of sulfur and nitrogen from chemical and engine fumes, new plastic materials such as tablecloths, home fireplaces, fresh paint, new carpeting, gases from food preparation, and aerosol sprays can all spread contaminants that can cause harm, such as overall yellowing or red spots.
Avoid displaying and storing prints in an environment where they’re exposed to atmospheric contaminants. Proper handing of prints can prevent surface contamination from foods, cosmetics, cleaning agents, polishes, medicines, printing inks, and adhesives.
Use lacquers with caution. Some lacquers yellow with age. If you choose to lacquer your prints, select a lacquer that’s specifically intended for photographic applications. Apply multiple light coats rather than a single thick coating. Do not allow a lacquered print to come into contact with the glass in a picture frame, because it may stick to the glass. Laminating
Laminating is really a variation of lacquering. Instead of applying a very thin polymer layer, laminating produces a much thicker layer. Laminates may contain UV absorbers, plasticizers, and matting agents. Laminates provide protection against fungus and bacterial attack, moisture and dirt in the air, and physical abrasion. However, like lacquers, some laminates tend to yellow with age.
For more information on lacquering and laminating resin-coated prints, see KODAK Publication No. E-67, Finishing Prints on KODAK Water-Resistant Papers.
Mounting provides rigidity, helps prevent wrinkling, and gives some physical protection to prints.
For long-term keeping, it is best not to use adhesives or dry-mounting tissue. The best mounting method is to use plastic corners or hinge the print by using Japanese rice paper and water-soluble wheat paste. Do not use rubber cement, contact cement, or animal glue.
If you choose to dry-mount your prints, use acid-free, pH-buffered, conservation-quality mounting board and conservation-quality mounting tissue.
Note: Mounting glossy resin-coated prints with dry-mounting tissue can introduce an “orange peel” effect.
An overmat, or window mat, will help protect a print from abrasion, keep the print surface away from the glass in a frame, and provide a neutral or complementary field. Be sure to use conservation-quality mat boards and backing.
If you plan to display your prints for more than a few months, a frame with glass will provide protection against physical damage, airborne dirt and grease, oxidizing gases, and other pollutants.
Avoid frames made from materials known to emit vapors that cause image damage — for example, frames of bleached wood and those that are varnished, stained, or oiled. Frames made of clean glass, metal, and some plastics are usually considered “safe.”
Protect framed prints with a sheet of UV-absorbing glass. Do not use acrylic or UV-absorbing acrylic glazing, because those materials are porous to atmospheric contaminants. Always provide a slight separation between the print and the glass. An overmat will provide a separation while enhancing print appearance.
Carefully clean picture-frame glass with a non-ionic liquid dish detergent such as Joy or Ivory liquid, rinse it thoroughly with hot water, and dry it completely before inserting your print into the frame.
Controlling Light, Heat, and Humidity: Carefully consider the location for displaying your prints. Provide only enough light for comfortable viewing, and avoid direct daylight. Tungsten or ultraviolet-free fluorescent light is preferable to daylight.
Avoid displaying or storing prints where the temperature rises above 75°F (24°C). The relative humidity should be between 30 and 50 percent. Humidity that’s too low can cause cracking and curling; high humidity can accelerate unwanted chemical reactions. Print emulsions contain nutrients that are attractive to living organisms, and warm, moist environments encourage the growth of fungi and molds.