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How Do You Keep Old Pictures From Fading?

By Christian Roemer

All too often, we believe that our pictures, tapes, films, and other analog media will last forever. We especially believe our pictures will exist until the sun swallows the earth.

Regrettably, this just isn't true of our memories. 

If you’ve never seen old photos, here’s what happens as they age: they slowly fade away. White noise replaces the beautiful chaos of color that once adorned the plasticy paper.


While it’s true that nothing can stop your pictures from fading, there are things you can do to stave off their march towards over saturation. I even have a handy acronym to help you remember!

When you’re trying to protect your photos from fading, keep SLC in mind. No, not Salt Lake City, although that is a beautiful city that I love visiting. When it comes to pictures, SLC stands for three things: sludge, light, and crud.

Photographs are mostly resilient, but you have to remember that ink and paper are full of chemicals. That’s not a bad thing; chemicals make the word go around. The problem is that chemicals react with other chemicals and can become unstable. When it comes to pictures, those chemicals becoming unstable means the photos go bye bye.


Step 1

So what are the best things you can do to preserve your photos as long as possible? Well, the first step is to get all of them digitized. Think of all of the likes and shares and retweets you could get by sharing some old photos of your dance squad from the 90s on Instagram or Facebook. Shoot, you’d probably be halfway to an influencership. Digitizing your photos is a sure-fire way to have a backup of every one of your photos. Plus, they’ll be ready to email, Insta, or Tik Tok your way to retro fame.

Step 2

Do your best to keep SLC at bay for as long as possible. The trick is to keep your photos in a cool, dry place. Ideally, you’ll put your photos in some sort of protective sleeve--like a binder or a scrapbook. You’ll want to make sure that wherever you're storing the photos doesn’t have a leak. If you live in an especially muggy part of the country like New Orleans, a dehumidifier might even be a good idea.

Sludge, usually in the form of dripping water, and crud, usually in the form of mishandling, are detrimental to your photos’ lifespans. That’s why a protective sleeve is so important. Usually keeping the photos out of the light is a breeze, because they’re mostly stashed in a forgotten box in some closet you forgot existed anyway. But the sludge and crus is important to keep away.

So what’s the best way to keep your old pictures from fading? Make digital backups. Then, store your photos safely away from direct sunlight and keep the SLC away. It won’t save your photos for forever, but it’ll keep Father Time from hashing your vibe longer than if you don’t do anything

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