It has been another long, hard West Virginia winter, and other than shoveling snow, I know what a lot of people have been doing to keep from getting cabin fever. They have been going through the old shoe boxes full of pictures and videos that have accumulated over the years.
I know this for two reasons. One is, that is exactly what I have been up to - doing my annual recap of the previous year and filing away things to make room for what 2011 has to offer. The other reason is, I can tell because customers have been bringing things in to copy, frame and restore.
As I have said many times, copies of your old family photographs are a great gift for other members of your family, and if you don't want them to end up in somebody else's shoebox, a frame is a natural necessity. Restoration is also very popular. Since photographs often live in cardboard boxes for long periods of time, they are very frequently in bad shape when they are finally rescued.
At Foto 1, we frequently act as the photo emergency squad by repairing and replacing missing or damaged limbs and body parts on images that have been cracked from the heat, molded from the damp or folded by the careless.
To avoid any of these mishaps in the future, consider a different method for storing your treasured photos. The best place to store your pictures or negatives is in an album or a box that won't damage your images in the long term. These usually say on the package that they are archival quality and are free of floro-cloro stuff. Loosely translated, it means free of chemicals that can damage your pictures over time. They usually cost a little more than a standard album or shoe box, but it is a small price to pay to preserve your family history.
The same goes for your CDs or DVDs of your digital files. You always want to use the best quality media to backup your important digital images. Never buy the cheapest CDs and DVDs! It will come back and bite you someday. Never store anything photo related in a damp basement or a hot attic. Try to store them in an area of your home where the heat and humidity is constantly regulated. You wouldn't let your grandma live in the basement or the attic, and your pictures shouldn't either.
(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a master photographer, certified professional photographer and president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)