Whether you are looking to box up your photo collection for a self-storage unit, put them away in a basement or attic, or box them up for a move, you want to make sure your photos will be properly preserved and protected from damage. From handling them with care to choosing the right storing environment, here is all you need to know on how to best store printed photos.

Consider Your Storing Environment

Printed photos are sensitive and the environment you store them in weighs significantly in preserving them long term. This is what you should aim for if you really want to keep those memories for years to come:

  • Light: Store photos in dark rooms and avoid direct sunlight.
  • Temperature: Opt for a temperature-controlled environment, preferably below 75°F.
  • Humidity: The ideal range of relative humidity is 30-40%, but 15-65% is also acceptable, according to the National Archives and Records Administration. High humidity favors mold growth and insect activity, whereas if the humidity is too low, old photos can become brittle.

Preparing Your Photos for Storage

You may be downsizing and putting belongings in a storage unit, clearing extra room in your house, or sorting through the belongings of a loved one that has recently passed away or moved into assisted living. Before the actual move, let’s go over the basics.

How to Handle Photos Properly

Do not touch printed photos unless your hands are clean and dry. Old photos benefit from extra protection, so consider wearing powder-free gloves when sorting and putting them into albums or storage boxes.

How to Choose The Right Boxes For Your Photos

Paper and cardboard typically contain acid and this can damage photos over time. Choose cardboard boxes that are marked acid-free and use alkaline paper to separate photos and prevent them from sticking together when stacked. When it comes to box size, make sure it is small enough for the photos to stay in place, but not too small to bend them.

How to Digitize Your Photos

While you may store the originals in a box in a cool, dark place, it is highly recommended that you also digitize photos and store them in the cloud. You can scan them yourself or ask your local photo shop to do it. Once digitized, you can upload them to a number of cloud storage services. Most options also have mobile apps that enable you to access your digital photos from your smartphone or tablet. Many of these apps also allow you to print and edit photos.

Some of the most popular cloud services are:

Storing Photos in a Self-Storage Unit

To make sure the storing environment has a temperature and relative humidity suitable for preserving photographs and important documents, opt for a climate-controlled self-storage unit instead of relying on your basement or attic.

How to Organize Your Negatives

Negatives have the some storing requirements as photo prints, and they can be organized neatly and safely in polyethylene pocket pages. One such page typically stores seven film strips of five frames and is fit for stacking in binders.

Ideas For Storing Photos

Before putting them away in a storage unit, take time to organize photos by classifying them by year, person, holiday or even travel destinations. Organizing photos in high quality photo albums can add an extra layer of protection while in storage. Pro tip: Use color-coded labels for the boxes to identify them more easily.

And lastly, you may want to save space by discarding photos that are too blurry and set aside the ones you want duplicated and framed.

Jay MacDonald
Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics.