Info: Maximizing your photograph print life

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To get maximum life from your inkjet or traditional photography prints, you should either store them in a cool, dry, dark, archival storage box or album -- or frame them. The three things that damage prints the most are:

  1. Moisture: Condensing moisture (i.e., droplets or water) will cause prints to stick to each other or to the nearest closest surface. Even high levels of non-condensing moisture (i.e., high humidity) will cause the print layers to delaminate, bubble up, or for dyes to bleed or transfer to other surfaces.
  2. Ozone: Ozone and other environmental contaminants can reek havoc on dye-based images -- including those made by traditional RA-4 photography. Framing helps by considerably cutting off the outside atmosphere. If you can, take the extra step of covering the back of the frame with a protective sheet.
  3. Ultraviolet light (UV light): This is the major cause of fading in dye and pigment based prints. UV light is powerfully active, it actually destroys the molecules that give your prints color. Cutting off as much UV light as possible will make your prints last.
You can cut UV light many ways. Most simply, putting your prints in a dark box or album. You can also cut it at the source. Many fluorescent lamps are powerful emitters of UV wavelengths. You can either buy bulbs with UV-cut filters in them or buy a UV-cut sleeve for your existing bulbs. Your quality lighting specialist can help you with this.

Framing your prints will also help tremendously. Many framing supply stores will sell you "UV-cut museum archival glass." Is it worth the cost? All coated glass is not the same. If you look at the UV cut-off points for camera filters, you'll realize that some coatings do cut UV rays off at different points than others. The best UV filters cut it off right at the limit of human vision.

That said, even cheap frame or window glass reduces UV rays, just not by that much. Otherwise, your sofa wouldn't fade where the sun's rays hit it through the window. If you want to stop the UV rays from sunlight, you can also buy after-market UV-cut window coatings. Just laminate it onto your existing windows.

Much cheaper than UV-cut framing glass (which is expensive since it's a coated glass) is UV-cut acrylic. It's cheaper because you can just mix in the UV-blocking material in with the acrylic rather than vacuum depositing it on the glass.

The advantage of UV-cut acrylic for framing is that it's 1) cheaper, 2) doesn't break, 3) cheaper, 4) lighter, 5) cheaper, and 6) did I mention it's cheaper? The disadvantage is that acrylic scratches much easier than glass and isn't as flat.

For more information, check the Wilhelm Research site. They are the most authorative source on photographic print life. With proper care, a silver print (traditional B&W) on archival fiber should last you 100 years; an RA-4 traditional print or cibachrome about 25-50 years; a pigment-based print about 25-50 years; a quality dye-based print about 5-25 years. But these estimates vary greatly depending on how and where you store the photograph.

My advice? Store the original negative/film/file archivally and enjoy the print even if it has a short lifespan!

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on March 14, 2005 4:53 PM.

Info: Cheap generic Canon EOS DSLR 10D/20D batteries was the previous entry in this blog.

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