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Why Restore?

There are many reasons why photographs need to be restored. First and foremost is the fact that the photographs themselves don’t age very well. Remember, the images were captured on materials that were designed to be sensitive to light. After a piece of film or paper has been developed, theoretically that sensitivity is supposed to cease. It just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps a black-and-white print wasn’t washed enough to remove all the processing chemicals from its surface. Those chemicals can cause stains as the print ages.

Or, consider that color images derive their color from different colored dyes. We all know from experience that dyes fade and colors change, especially when exposed to sunlight. Compare the drapery in the north and south windows of your home, or perhaps some carpet in your family room that gets a daily visit from Mr. Sunbeam. So, too, do color prints that are exposed to light fade over time. Of course, color prints will also fade if you keep them locked in a drawer. The longevity of color photos is tracked by color scientists in terms of both their “light keeping” and “dark keeping” characteristics. It’s even possible to predict how much a particular picture will fade over time, when the storage conditions are known, using complicated-sounding math involving something called the Arrhenius equations. All you need to know is that fading is inevitable, so you’d better be prepared for it. Although conventional color photographic materials are more stable today, they are rapidly being supplanted by prints made with inkjet printers, which, unfortunately, themselves fade on a schedule entirely predictable by Dr. Arrhenius’ math.


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