How to save flood damaged photographs

It is possible to save water damaged photos but you must act promptly.

Read all the information below before starting to handle or attempting to repair your images.
Contact Fix-a-Frame if you have any concern about undertaking these suggestions.

This post was first published as a guide to saving your photos that had been flood damaged during the floods that occurred in Queensland during late 2010 and the 2011 Brisbane flood. It has been re-published to try to help those people affected by the recent 2013 floods that have affected many Queenslanders.

If you have any wet or muddy photographs please call us or send an email for assistance and advice without any strings attached. The team at Fix-a-Frame hope they can help anyone who has had their photos affected by the flooding and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those displaced.

Before doing anything, try to find any undamaged negatives or digital files you may have saved. If you have the negatives or files you can have new prints made from these.

Damaged photos for which you do not have negatives need to receive immediate attention. Once photos are stuck together or have become mouldy, it becomes increasingly difficult to save them.

Repair colour photos before black and white photos.

You should handle the photographs carefully because the surface coatings may be very fragile.

Do not to touch the photograph’s surface with your bare hands.

Wear cotton gloves and avoid handling them as much as possible.

Take new photographs using the highest resolution setting on your camera of all damaged photographs as soon as you can. Often new copies can be made from these images. Take new photos before you attempt any soaking or cleaning.

Remove photos from frames and as gently as possible remove all mat borders. It is better to send your photograph to a restorer in the frame or mat if you are unsure it you will cause more damage.

If the photo is really stuck you can attempt soaking but take a new photograph though the glass before you attempt to remove or soak it.

Also, if the stuck photo is in good condition, it is possible to scan within the frame and then send a digital file to us for restoration.

If you have many photos stuck together they can be soaked in clean distilled water that has been warmed slightly.

Change the water often as dirty water will cause more damage. It can take a few hours to loosen them and allow them to separate. Don’t prise them apart, just let nature take its course.

Wet photos should be rinsed in clean distilled water to remove mud and sediments.

You can always send a wet photo to us in a zip lock plastic bag and we will take it from there.

You can always freeze the photos until they can be worked on in a clean environment. The photographs can then be defrosted, separated, and air-dried at a later stage.

Dry the photographs face up, in a single layer on a clean surface such as a clean white sheet, towel, or clean plastic. Alternatively hang the photographs on a line with pegs or clips but do not dry in direct sunlight or using heat.

You will reduce the growth of mould and mildew by reducing humidity. It is advisable to increase the air flow with fans, open windows, air conditioners or dehumidifiers.

You can gently place weights on the tips of each photo corner to help reduce curling but a curled photograph can be flattened later by a restorer or copied via a new scan.

Please contact Fix-a-Frame for further help and advice on restoring you treasured images.

These recommendations are intended as guidance only.

Fix-a-Frame assumes no responsibility or liability for any treatment of damaged photos you may undertake.

All the restoration work is done digitally. The only thing that will be done to your original photo is scanning. Your original photos will be safely preserved and returned to you when the job is done.