When was the last time you bought a roll of camera film? When was the last time you even saw a roll of camera film? About the same time you last used a pay phone maybe? But do you also have – in an old album if not in a shoebox in the back of a closet somewhere – a bunch of old print photographs that you just can’t get rid of? So do some of our customers. Today we go over a few tips on taking care of those irreplaceable, ancient keepsakes.
Photos Already in Albums
…are the easiest to pack – usually. But there are a couple of things to watch out for.
Like books and papers, photo albums fare best when they are placed flat in the carton. Unlike books and papers, photo albums contain materials – like the photos and their plastic sleeves – that can become hopelessly stuck together under certain conditions: pressure from having an apartment’s worth of furniture and books on top of them along with extreme temperatures and humidity.
To keep the pressure off them, pack photo albums in something other than a book box. In between sweaters and t-shirts in a 3-cube isn’t a bad idea – as long as you mark the carton properly. Guarding against the elements can be a tougher proposition. Mention to your customer that environmental factors can affect their photos, and if they are concerned about the weather or the time their photos will be in storage suggest climate control for their storage unit and a general awareness while they are in transit. If conditions outside – and thus inside the back of the truck – begin to get extreme, taking those packed up photos to a milder environment couldn’t hurt.
A Few More General Tips
Avoid stacking unprotected pictures – in those aforementioned harsher conditions, even if they aren’t all that harsh, those unprotected photos can easily stick together and be ruined. Suggest to the customer (even if they’ve had those photos in a shoebox since the last time they saw a pay phone) that separating their photos with packing paper is a great way to help keep them protected from the elements – though doing this with even just one shoebox of photos can take a load of time. Tell them you’d be happy to do it, of course, but also remind them that they are paying you by the hour.
Avoid wrapping photos (or photo albums) in plastic – the possibility of trapping moisture resulting in mold is too great.
If you have a habit of using foam peanuts when packing certain items, avoid using them for packing photos and photo albums. The peanuts and particularly the crumbs can get static clingy and are a pain in the neck to have to pick off all the photos and their plastic housings.
For those special photos your customer wants to take particularly good care of, consider placing them in between the pages of a hardcover book – between pieces of packing paper as older books’ ink might rub off and the glossy pages of newer books, not to mention those big coffee table picture books, can wreak havoc on a photo, especially in hot and humid conditions.
* Note: Most types of packing paper are acid-free and lignin-free…which is good news for those photos.
Packing Photos in Frames
Yes, we do it all the time, with rarely a nick or scratch. Be aware, though, that the glass of the frame actually makes a photo more vulnerable to damage, not less, and if the frame seems delicate or the glass thin and fragile it is always an option to take that extra-large family portrait from 2002 out of the frame and pack it separately.
Preserving Those Most Precious Photos
If no digital copy of the last photo ever taken of your customer’s dearly beloved Grandma exists, suggest scanning it and creating a digital file, along with any other treasured photos that have no digital counterpart. When packing such photos, if they are not in frames or otherwise fully protected, it shows extra care if you wear gloves to keep the oil on your hands from damaging the photographs.
Packing Digital Photos
Okay, we don’t exactly pack digital photos. But we do pack the devices they are stored on. Packed correctly, these devices and thus the pictures stored in them should arrive safe and uncorrupted. But occasionally things happen. Even people who are not in the middle of moving have seen their external hard drive crash.
Two ways to help prevent the loss of all those gigs of images: Suggest a backup on another external hard drive (nothing groundbreaking here) or (maybe more helpful) uploading their archives to a cloud storage site. Using a cloud service (like Dropbox, Windows SkyDrive, Apple’s iCloud) will incur a monthly charge for anything more than a couple of gigs. Online photo storage website Flickr offers 1,000 gigs of free photo storage. Shutterfly offers unlimited photo storage for the same low price.
Your customer may be fine with a shoebox full of stacked and unprotected photos. But for everyone else, a few preventative measures can help preserve a lifetime of memories.