How To Destroy All Your Family Heirloom Photos in a Quick and Efficient Manner!


When was the last time you really took the time out to search through your old photographs? 

Remember those mementos of a time well-spent with the people you once loved, some of whom you lost? Those are the pictures you keep with you, perhaps to provide you with comfort, to provide you with motivation and inspiration to strive for a better relationship.

Whatever your purpose may be for having these old keepsakes close to your heart, utter agony is the result when something happens to damage these frozen moments in time.

Time, weather and even moments of tender love and care can sometimes damage your photos significantly. It’s true!  You can provide TOO much love and care to your photos.  But, despair not.  There’s always a right way and a wrong way to do everything.  It is paramount that you know what to do, in case you are unable to save these pictures for future reminisce.


What Ruins Your Old Photographs?

Been brushing up on your photograph expertise? You know by now that spills, dust and the occasional thumbing between your archives of photos can ruin their print and quality. However, these are not the only reasons why your photographs lose their beauty.

Here, we offer our expert knowledge (and a little dry humor) to answer some of the more common questions you may have.

Q. What is the Most Common Cause of Faded Photographs?

As with most homes, here in Houston, TX, many frame their photos and place in near the window in full exposure to the sun. This exposure causes the colors to fade over time and diminish the picture quality.  Gorgeous full-color prints can turn red, fade, or even develop a purple tint when they are exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun for extended periods.

Now, those of us who live in the Houston / Galveston area are a little worse off.  You see, Houston is not dissimilar to the planet Mercury.  Every year from April through October, we’re exposed to blistering sun, 100 degree heat, and humidity levels that choke even the alligators in our nearby swamps.  So what?  Your photos thank you for not bringing them to our great Bayou City. J

Q. What Human Error Causes the Most Issues with Old Photographs?

Water spills, coffee stains, lack of dusting and cheap photo paper quality are usually to blame when it comes to old damaged photographs. However, the biggest culprit for damaged photographs usually turns out to be our own carelessness when we flip through the old pictures.

image003When we handle our photos, we leave smudges and fingerprints on the paper. Even if your hands are clean, the natural oils present in our skin leave quite a bit of residue on the surface of the photo.  Now, if you compound that with the popular “textured” photographs from the 1970s-1980s and your photos are in serious trouble.  Call the ambulance.  Call Walker Texas Ranger.  If you’re in Georgia and live near Hazard County, you better get on your phone and have Roscoe and Flash out there, PRONTO. 

Those old textured photos absorb the oils from your skin and ALL forms of liquid like a sponge.  It gets worse.  Once that oil or liquid gets into the microscopic pockets that create the texture, they NEVER come out.  In fact, they often present some of the most difficult photo restoration work we see.


Q. Which Everyday Habit Most Damages Old Photographs?

Touching our pictures without taking precautionary measures is the first. Negligence is a close second.

By negligence, we don’t just mean leaving your pictures piled together in a box and then forgetting about it.

When it comes to photographs, it’s important to take proper precaution to ensure that nothing comes in contact with it.

For example, if you live in a home with four cats and a small army for a family, it’s probably better if you don’t leave the pictures on the kitchen counter, in the open.  Are you laughing at us yet?  We speak only the truth, dear brothers and sisters.  I had a customer only a few months back that left her heirloom photos neatly organized in 4 piles on the kitchen table for ONE night.  She was preparing to bring some to the Heritage studio the next day.  When she got up on her morning, her precious yet vindictive feline companion utterly destroyed 16 photos from the late 1800s.  The cost to restore those images more than doubled due to the time required.

Q. What is the Best Advice You Can Give?

Get better paper!  Get better paper!  Get better paper! 

As professionals in restoring old photos, we know when the paper quality damages the photo. This is why we urge customers to invest in superior paper such as Fuji DeepMatte.  The paper you choose goes a long way toward longevity.  Can’t afford those papers.  Just make sure what you do buy is 100% Acid-Free. 


Remember, however, that buying quality paper for your photos is but ONE step.  Let’s assume you are going to frame that new photo….

Buy acid free paper to place BEHIND the picture as well, especially if you’re placing the photo in a frame. It’s not expensive.  Almost all “arts and crafts” stores have acid free framing paper.  Try Michael's or Hobby Lobby.

Q. I Put My Pictures in a Photo Album. Is that Okay?

That would depend on your photo album, old friend.

The worst photo albums are those that have a sticky layer on the sheet to hold your photos in place. They may look nice and sleek now, but 20 years later, you will need to use a razor blade to scrape that photo from the album.  Besides, that glue is some nasty stuff.  If that vindictive kitty cat I mentioned earlier had chewed on one of these pages, it’s entirely likely one of her 9 lives would be gone.

Q. How Will You Restore my Old Photos? What are the Different Recognized Forms of Restoration You Offer?

Different techniques of photo restoration are usually used to correct your image. At Heritage Photo Restoration and Genealogy, we recolor and treat fading damage to bring your picture back to its former glory.

However, if the picture is more damaged than normal, we dive into heavy photo restoration.  That might mean a quick 30 minutes with Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro (just to take out some small scratches and noise).  However, it might mean an 8-16 hour process that involves digital tools and more hand painting than Picasso ever dreamed of.   We do it all. 

What We Do!

postcard style fashion photoThe process of restoring old photographs begins with the creation of a digital copy of the picture.

The picture is first scanned, so we can determine the damage and steps we need to take to fix it.  We would love to demonstrate this!  Stop by the studio with your small photo.  Once you see it scanned and enlarged on a 42” screen, you’ll see things you had no idea were there.

The better the scan, the more options we have to fix it. This is why we offer digital scanning services at our own establishment. Yes, we will certainly accept photos you scan yourself.  Just make sure to set your scanner to the highest resolution / dots per inch possible.  On most HOME scanners this is 1200dpi.  That’s plenty for us, unless the photo itself is smaller than 3”x5”.  If it is, please scan it at 2400dpi or bring it in and we will do it for you.  If it’s just 1-10 photos, we will scan them while you wait.  Our Professional Series scanners are specifically made to provide superior uncompressed image quality.  That almost always results in a more aesthetically appealing result after we complete photo retouching in Houston.

Next, we use the tools we have to begin work on the restoration process. Usually, the process involves correcting the ratio of sharpness and clearness to correct the fading. We pull left and right on white levels, black levels, exposure, shadows, highlights and more.  We reduce the yellowing so the original color can come out.  We manually adjust our software’s color balancing tool.

Next, we target specific damaged portions of the picture. Spots, stains and tears are cleaned using the cloning or healing brush and patch tools. Other damage requires specific tools which can sometimes only be handled by the experts in the field.

As an art form, photo restoration takes a longer time than normal but we do try to have the damage fixed as soon as possible. This is a delicate process so it mustn’t be rushed. Please do keep in mind that if the picture is damaged too much, it may take a longer time.  If you are researching national or houston photo restoration services right now, you are going to see a LOT of “one price fits all” and “24 hour turnaround” websites.  Please be careful.  No two photos are alike, and if you want the best possible result you should never go for the “quick turnaround.”

Nevertheless, if you want to lessen any damage that may have already been done to your photos, we suggest that you read further.

Damage Control for Old Photographs

Weather Damage

If your pictures have been exposed to dust, sand, mud or grime for a time, make sure they’re completely or, at a minimum, mostly dry. Wear thin rubber gloves and keep the photo under room temperature water to remove any bigger pieces of grime. Do not forcibly scratch the photo if a speck or mark doesn’t come off.

Next, soak the picture in clean, room temperature distilled or purified water for no more than 15-20 seconds. When the picture is submerged, use the tip of your finger or preferably a soft-tipped paintbrush and gently wipe the surface to remove any marks that were stubborn. Start from the corners then gradually move to the center so that there is no smudging. Be sure to wipe the back of the photograph as well.

image007Once the cleaning is finished, rinse the photo in COLD distilled or purified water.  Leave it to dry on a flat surface in a dark area, away from any dirt or sand so that it is not exposed to any more damage. If you don’t have a big enough flat surface, you can hang them using clothes pins.

Stay away from hairdryers. Rapid drying and heat can ruin the photo print and cause the photo paper to curl up.

Note: If the print image starts turning white, red or yellow during the clean process, stop immediately. This is an indicator that your image is severely damaged and should only be handled by a professional in photo restoration.


Pictures Stuck Together or in Photo Album

There are several ways to fix stuck photos. If they are just stuck in one of those sticky photo albums, you just need to know one thing:  WAXED DENTAL FLOSS.  Honestly, it almost always works.. unless you’re addicted to 5-hour Energy shots and drink 13 cups of coffee per day.  If you have shaky hands, maybe you should ask someone to assist you.

Now, for photos that are stuck together, this is your best bet (and it is in no way guaranteed to work)

First, wear rubber gloves and handle your pictures with a delicate touch. Remove any dust or dirt from the picture using a brush or light lint-free cloth.  Proceed to soak them in a bowl of clean water at room temperature.

Let the water seep into the spaces between the parts of the photos that are stuck together. Start by slowly peeling the picture from the top to the bottom. Never force the pictures apart otherwise you can tear them or peel off the print.

If the picture does not give, soak it in water for a little longer until you see the edges come apart. This process may take 30 minutes or an hour or more, so you will need to be patient.

Once you peel the photos, rinse the photos in clean water and leave them in the shade to dry out. If the pictures become stuck in one part of the picture, don’t pry them apart any further. Take the picture to a professional in photo restoration to get fixed.

Three Facts to Prevent Further Damage

The basics of taking proper care of your old photos depend on three facts that you should apply.

 Storing your pictures in a controlled environment

 Utilizing archival boxes and albums to protect them from heat and humidity

 Properly storing them in an album instead of stacking them in a box

For more information on how you can exercise these facts, go to our blogs and read our extensive guides and tips.

image008Contact Heritage!

Our little firm offers quality photo restoration services to repair and edit the pictures that may have become damage over time.

Apart from that, we also offer genealogy services as well as digital scanning services so that our customers can use their photographs to learn more about their past, alongside with preserving their memories.

So if you have an old photo emergency, call us at +1 281 940 5870 to inquire about our services and use our experience to make these precious mementos from your life last a long time.