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How Old Are My Photos?

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By Shelby Burr

Did you inherit a box of old photos recently? Family photos are an incredible treasure that keeps your family’s legacy alive. The only thing you’re unsure of is how old these photos really are and you’re probably asking, “How old are my photos?”. I mean, they could have been sitting in a basement or an old attic at your grandparents for years - and maybe even at their parents homes before then!

Is there a true way to tell how old your photos are?

Let’s talk about three specific photo formats: negatives, prints, and 35 mm slides!

 

Negatives

This format, especially old negative film formats, vary depending on the size of the negative. You can identify what type of film negatives you have by examining the size and appearance of your negatives. Here are the different kinds of film and how old they are:


  • 120 film - introduced in 1901
  • 127 film - introduced in 1912
  • 135 standard film - introduced in 1934
  • 126 “instamatic” film - introduced in 1963
  • 110 film - introduced in 1972
  • Disc film - introduced in 1982
  • APS (Advanced Photo System)  film - introduced in 1990s

Your negatives hold precious and beloved photos of your friends and family. It also carries precious memories, stories, and even people who helped write our future - they are meant to be protected and relived again, and again. Make sure you keep them safe! As time goes on, your negatives are at risk of deterioration or environmental damage.



Prints

Print photos go way back, and are still very popular to this day! When trying to decipher how old your photos are, there are some telltale signs. Majority of print photos will have the date printed on the back of the photo. If you’re ever curious to know how old your print photos are, flip them around and look for a printed date! Other printed photos have the date digitally displayed on the front of the image (typically in the bottom right of the photo). Additionally, the edge of the photo can also be a sign of date - if the photo has scalloped edges then it is likely from the 1950s. There is one other way to tell a photos age by it’s edge...which brings us to our last photo format!



35 mm slides

If your photos are in the original developing envelope, like 35 mm slides, check it for dates! This will give you a time when the photo was developed. It may even have an address or phone number of your family member on it! If not, know that the 35 mm slides were invented in 1935 and became the new standard for image protection, especially within academic departments. 


This beloved photo format’s popularity eventually died down once digital photography became more popular. However, there are a few people who use it to this day for artistic value!


No matter how old your photos are, it’s time to get them digitized and preserved forever. 

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