Photographs stability?

stud d

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 17, 2003
next too you
I have heard twice now from people in the buisness that photographs are kwite stable. And since they are rag mats and UV glass are not so important on them...? So what is the deal. I disagree, but I am a rather safe than sorry person.

For the knowing peoples out there, what do you say? What shall I believe, the little voice in my head or the combined 50 years in framing?

I had to ask, before a third person tells me, I want a come back ready to go.

I am not one of the "knowing peoples" out there, Patrick, but I suspect that it depends on the kind of photograph, the processing, condition to start, and where it is on display.

Two good books on the subject are:

The Life of a Photograph, by Laurence E. Keefe and Dennis Inch.

Framing Photography, by Allan R. Lamb, CPF, Volume 6 of the Library of Professional Picture Framing.

The first book - Life of a Photograph, goes into a lot of detail about the kind of photograph and factors that affect the stability and life of it. It also discusses the testing that has been done by Wilhelm Research, Ilford, and others.
It does depend on the type of photo and how it was printed. And now there are all kinds of new printing techniques, so things are getting more complicated. Both the books Terry recommends are excellent. I only made it part way through "Life of a Photograph" but I do remember that it was visible light that causes the most fading to traditional photos. However, that doesn't mean UV filtering glass won't help cutting down on the part of the fading caused by UV. They are also sensitive to damage from both acids and bases, so a ph neutral rag board is usually best. I always prefer to take the better safe than sorry approach and mount all the 8x10 and larger photos that our studio sells on rag mat.
I've noticed that the photos I print myself have a 4-5 year life span. They are stuck into photo frames and sit on the hearth in front of the fireplace - not a kind environment but it doesn't matter. When they get to looking faded, I print another copy or replace them with something else.

If they were irreplacable I would take better care of them, as Patrick suggests.


I am assembling 2 samples at the moment. One for me and one for a framer client.
Split displays, one half plain clear, other half Guardian UV clear.
Having done quite a few successfully with posters etc, I opted to try an inkjet printed from my Canon, with normal ink.
(I think this is plain dye ink, while you can get the better quality pigment inks, OR the dye inks with Chromalife100 system ?)

Anyway, I normally put samples together, give them about 4 hours under pure 366nm light, then give them filtered light under a carport or similar (not inside through glass), and these usually come out great for examples after about 2 weeks.

Well, I'm now on week 4 or 5 with these blasted inkjet pics, and there is only a very slight change.
It is a red Hibiscus flower pic I took, which also has a lot of green foilage in it too, so should fade nicely.

I'm afraid very soon (like starting today), I will resort to giving them a good 3 or 4 hours of direct sun !

I havn't had a chance to read it yet, but this Canon site has a fair bit of info.

Personally, I would go for UV and rag mat etc where it is a valued piece. There is no such thing as overprotection of valued pieces.

Oh yeah, just remembered. What about the paper destruction caused by moisture reacting with UV light ?
UV glass will reduce this (if the paper itself might be prone to damage from this reaction).
I have a portrait Photo studio that insists that no glass be put on their photos. They tell their customers this when they pick them up.
They tell them they can wipe them down with a damp cloth!~ Being gutsy, I wiped one down with paper towel dampened with water. No problems. I tell them about enviromental films that will build up over time they say They think they will just be able to wipe it off. The Photo studio also gives a liftime warranty so if it fades he will reprint it. Oh well!~
We hear wonderful claims of permanence for the latest inkjet photo-printing technology, when certain paper & ink set combinations are used.

The Henry Wilhelm research institute is said to be the ultimate authority, because they test various combinations from all sources. A manufacturer's claims may apply only in specific use of a certain printer, ink set, and paper. but Wilhelm will cross-test.

Personally, I am skeptical about claims of permanence. I think there are few printer/ink set/paper combinations that would create an image that is unaffected by light, unintended reactive chemicals within the frame package, and temperature/humidity fluctuations.

I saw one 25 year image guarantee taht seemed too good to be true. In that case the devil was in the fine print. Maybe there really are permanent-in-all-circumstances prints available, but I just haven't seen them yet.
Originally posted by GUMBY, GCF:
...The Photo studio also gives a liftime warranty so if it fades he will reprint it. Oh well!~
That's an easy guarantee to honor, if he keeps all images files for a lifetime. Do you suppose he really will be able to do that? Do you believe most consumers would go back 5 or 10 or 20 years later for a new photo? My guess is most of them would forget all about the photographer's lifetime guarantee.

When I hear "lifetime guarantee" I think of the light bulbs sold door-to-door to businesses, guaranteed for 5 or 10 years. Might as well be a lifetime guarantee.

Having been in the lighting business, I know they are playing the odds. Not the odds of lamp failure -- there's no question about that. I'm talking about odds of a replacement claim.

If you bother to keep track of the installation dates of every lamp, and go through the trouble of making a claim to the company, they really will replace your lamp...if the sales company still exists at taht time. It's the seller's guarantee, not the manufacturer's, you know.

The companies who make such offers know that time diminishes the likelihood of a claim. After a couple of years, most of us would not bother to make a warranty claim. We would just replace the &%$# thing and get on with our lives.
One of our favorite photographers who has been in the business since 1961 and does amazing restoration just had us reframe a photo that he had lifetime guaranteed.

It was one he had done in 1963, black and white.. the mat had killed it...

He dug out the negative, printed a new one and we reframed it archivally. He also had us include inside the package, a copy of the negative in a mylar pouch. I asked if you he knew you Jim... he didn't. :D
Fine Art Photographs are being sold by auction houses and art galleries and people are paying huge sums to buy them.photographers who want big bucks for their pictures print them most often on Fuji Archival Paper.I have Black and white pics. printed by me 25 years old which havent faded.Present day inks by Epson are also claimed to be archival.
To address what I guess was the original question:

Regardless of the stability claims, or accuracy, why would you NOT use UV glass and alpha-cellulose mats? Are those to be used only for newsprint?

Most of the stability claims are comparing with other photographs - not with lithographs and other prints.

The Epson 2000P I use carries extravagant estimates of longevity and I assure my customers that, if the print fades in only 200 years instead of 250, they can come back to for a new print.

(Just to be on the safe side, I use UV glass and alpha-cellulose mats. I don't want to be swamped with demands for free reprints in 200 years.)
Ok lets get digital out of the kwestion. We know they are bad and will fade. I am talking about "real" photography. And I do not want to hear someone chirp in and say digital is real. I want to know about photographs on RC paper, Fiberbased paper. The most known sutff for the past 70 years or so. My kwery is based on that. Digital is not needed here.

Please if you take offense post a new thread.

Digital vs film capture has absolutely nothing to do with the longevity of prints. Prints made with inkjets that use archival inks will resist fading longer than c-prints. Those the facts. Do with them what you will.
Originally posted by EllenAtHowards:
Perhaps the 'Lifetime Guarantee' refers to the lifetime of the photo.....
The Lifetime Guarantee is, I believe, a Kodak program offered through certain select professional photo labs. I have a good idea which one the photographer in question is using because they have strongly encouraged the studios that use them to use it as a selling point to their customers. Should there be a problem, the lab will reprint it for the photographer at no charge.

As far as RC and fiber base go, a fiber based black and white photo, properly processed will usually last longer than a comparable RC black and white. The newer color RC prints are much more stable than the older ones. In any case, the information I gave on framing photos earlier on this thread was for both RC and fiber based photos. My husband and I have had both a frame shop and photo studio for 17 years and I take care of all the framing and mounting of the photos he produces. At one time, he used to process and print all his own black and white pictures. Now we are about 98% digital. He still likes to occasionally do some printing in the dark room.
Hey Anne, does he ever give you that line, "Step into my darkroom and let's see what develops"?
:cool: Rick
(It might be dorky, but after 17 years it sounds pretty romantic.)
Patrick, page 291, life of a photograph, fading and life expectancies, trials under 45-55% RH, maximum temp = 86 Ferenheight, light levels corresponded to those of an office environment protected from direct sunlight, hanging at least 7 feet from a window, with spotlights on the ceiling overhead, lights on for 12 hours per day.

Light levels in an office are pretty high - higher than the low light levels recommended with the use of conservation glass. Low light levels are a hallway or a bedroom with light filtering drapes.

glossy print - no glass - less than 3 years lifespan at 500 lux, approximately 2 years lifespan at 1000 lux.

glossy print - glass - approximately 5 years at 500 lux, approximately 3 years at 1000 lux.

RC pearl paper - no glass - less than 2 years at 500 lux, less than 1 year at 1000 lux.

RC pearl paper - glass - approximately 4 years at 500 lux, less than 2 years at 1000 lux.

But it is still more complicated than that, as there are many things that can further alter the test results.

Good book - you might find that it has the answers that you are looking for.
Originally posted by Rick Granick:
Hey Anne, does he ever give you that line, "Step into my darkroom and let's see what develops"?
:cool: Rick
(It might be dorky, but after 17 years it sounds pretty romantic.)
Cute Rick!
He's never used that one. Just the one about watching him load film in the canister. (It has to be done in complete darkness by feel so there is actually nothing to see.) :eek:
Terry thanks for an answer, I will have to check on this book. I appreciate knowing facts, not just thinking it should be. Although it is nice to know that an occassional thought that happens upon me can be correct. I will have to tell my woman that, but she will say I made it up anyways.