Got Stuck Photos?

Have you cleaned up and found some photos that were stuck together?

We often have customers walk in and wish to use our scanning services to preserve old photos so they may submit for new prints. Sometimes those photos arrive stuck together, or even stuck to glass. What should you do if you find your old photos have grown too fond of each other and can’t be separated?

Avoid the temptation to pull them apart! This will only tear them and damage them further. If your photo is stuck to the frame’s glass, start with an attempt to scan the photo, glass and all. You can do this yourself if you have a scanner. Just remember to scan it at a high resolution so you’ll have a quality print from the digital file later on.

Why are they stuck?
The surface of most modern photographic prints is composed of gelatin, called an emulsion. Just like dried Jell-O in your fridge, it can get sticky. Photos stuck together were likely exposed to water or high humidity that softened the gelatin coating and formed a glue that caused them to stick together

How to loosen stuck-together photos
In order to loosen that stickiness, it may seem counter-intuitive but you need to re-wet the photos. However, if you are really uncertain what type of photos you have, you might want to consult a professional restorer. If you have a good idea they are gelatin coated photos – those will be photos printed at a photo lab – then you can try the following technique:

  • Start by using warm distilled water in a shallow pan or dish
  • Submerge the photos for about 20-30 minutes. This should be long enough to gently slide your fingers between the photos or slip a rubber spatula between them to slowly separate the layers.
  • If they are still sticking, soak a bit longer. Monitor the progress.
  • Too long of a soak can damage the gelatin layer and result in loss of the image This may result in image loss.

Once loosened…
If you are able to separate the photos, do not pat to dry! Simply hang them from the corner using clothespins or lay flat – image side up – on a paper towel until they air dry.

Let us know if this tip worked for you!