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Restoring Water Damaged Photographs & Film.


A common concern in the minds of families and business as they suffer through the tragic aftermath of flooding or fire and its resultant water damage is whether their photographic images and film can be saved. The short answer is yes - If they are pure photographic and proper care is taken.

The first rule of handling water-damaged photographic images and film is - Not to Panic. You may be able to salvage many or all of your Images. Here are a few suggestions to preserve your images before bringing them into Prolab Professional Imaging or any Professional Lab that has experience with wet photographic emulsions. Be careful not to entrust your images to inexperienced operators.

Keep your photographs wet in a container of clear cold tap water! Don’t let the photos dry out! As your photographs dry, they will stick to each other and any other materials they may be in contact with. This will increase the possibility that they may not be able to be separated without causing potentially irreparable damage. You can then bring your wet images into Prolab or attempt to wash and separate them yourself.

If you choose to attempt it yourself get to work as soon as possible. Your photographs and film ideally should not stay wet for more than two or three days. Store your images in a container full of cold clean tap water. The colder the better! Do not add chemicals to the water, but change the water every day.

Rinse your photos in a container of cold, clear running water. Do not run the water directly onto the photos, because that could damage the chemical emulsion, causing permanent damage. Keep rinsing them until the run-off water is clear.

Carefully remove your photographs or negatives from the water, taking the smallest quantity possible. Gently separate them. DO NOT FORCE THEM APART. Separate as many as possible before returning them to the cold water and starting on another batch. Repeat the separate-soak cycle as many times as necessary. However, sometimes you may not be able to separate photos without forcing the issue. In those cases you will probably have to just accept the corresponding damage.

Once your photos are separated, store them in water until you can bring them into Prolab to wash and dry them correctly using special solutions that facilitate uniform, spot-free drying when applied to photographs, negatives and slides.

Please be aware that even by following these instructions, some of your photos and film will probably suffer permanent damage. In that case, Prolab can advise and quote you on which photos and film can be restored and reprinted. You’ll be pleasantly surprised as to what can be achieved!

Should we be able to assist any clients that may have flood damaged photographs. Please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance with rescuing these precious items.