Printing analogue photos to last – our quick guide

Have you seen a photo print gradually lose its’ sparkle or worse, see the image fade away? We must all have seen an old photo print that has turned a yellowish colour, or sometimes where the image looks like a negative version of the picture. Is it possible to create analogue photos to last?

Deterioration of a new photo print need not happen. A silver gelatin fibre based photo paper can last for over a hundred years, for example, prints from the First World War (1914-18) still exist in good condition.

We do not believe that it is inevitable that an analogue photo print will deteriorate due to the ravages of time, we can make photos to last.

Here is our quick guide to creating analogue photos to last

Read the instructions

How often are the instructions from manufacturers ignored?

Probably more often than we imagine!

This may sound dull and obvious however the manufacturers of photo papers that are left in the marketplace at 2017 have great experience in using their products. They know exactly what goes into the paper and in what quantities, how a paper will react with light and recommended chemicals.

Read the instructions, understand what they state and by following those instructions, you can establish a good foundation for the print to last.

A consistent workflow

Again, this may sound dull and tedious, however by working with a consistent workflow as a foundation to work from is very useful to make prints that last and are look consistent.

Occasionally there is a temptation to cut short one part of the printing process as ‘it looks okay’.  Either trying to get results too fast or at the end of a printing session. This might seem the best thing to do at the time but generally this is only storing problems up for later. If an issue does arise for a print, by working with a consistent workflow pinpointing the potential cause is easier than if all steps in the process are fairly random.

Is it better to have fewer excellent prints or many problematic prints? We know which one we would choose – how about you?

Respect the materials

An analogue print, especially a fibre based silver gelatin print, is an object with a life of its’ own.

Because of the materials used, the print can interact with its’ environment. Put it somewhere too humid and watch it go mouldy. Put it somewhere too arid and see it react to having all the moisture pulled out of the paper fibres! The analogue silver gelatin print will try to be ‘in balance’ with the environment it is in. So, if one respects the materials in the photo print it will reward you with a very long existence.

Accept it for what it is

This may sound a little like an exhortation from a new age mystic guru, it is not meant in that way, however we believe that it is relevant.

If one wants to create a photo print that will last, there really aren’t any shortcuts. Printing a good analogue photo print that will last (a silver gelatin print especially) is a considered, deliberate and time-consuming method of creating a print. By working with the process and what is required rather than against it, has the potential to prevent issues occurring later on.

In the same way that a Michelin starred menu will create issues if one is wanting some quick food to pop in a lunchbox, though will be ideal for a genuine fine dining experience. The printing of a silver gelatin print to last is not best suited to making a quick print to stick on the fridge!

By accepting what is required and working with a similar ethos of respect for the ingredients, processes and presentation to a Michelin starred menu, we can and do create by hand a silver gelatin analogue print that will last the ravages of time.


This has been a Hand Printed Photos production