Dylan Thomas once wrote, “Time passes. Listen. Time passes.”  

While this is true, it doesn’t have to be true for the thousands upon thousands of pixels that make up your most treasured memories. 

Whether they are five years old, or fifty years old; printed photographs are quite vulnerable to the elements. Not unlike other relics of a bygone non-digital era, photographs require just as much maintenance as your beloved vintage vinyl! 

When caring for your photos, I can offer you two powerful words of advice; preventative maintenance. Here are some useful tips to help you get started.

1. Paper and Plastic: While photo albums are a great way to preserve your memories, always remember to check the paper quality of the album before placing the photographs inside it. Acidity levels in the paper can destroy your photos over time; erasing the color and detail. When shopping for an album, look for “acid-free” or “archival-safe” labels on the album , stay away from “magnetic pages” and avoid using corrosive adhesives. Keep the same idea in mind when considering the plastic sleeves, common in most photo albums. While plastic sleeves are a great way to keep your photos “fresh”, if you’re not using “lignin free” plastic, your photos will erode over time, become stuck to the plastic more easily and may even develop a yellow or orange hue. If you choose to store your photos in a photo box, the same rules apply… make sure the box is acid-free!

2. Air Supply and Climate Control: Dry air is optimal for photo preservation. Too much humidity will damage untreated, non framed photos and cause mildew. The damage caused by mildew or mold is usually permanent because it grows by “digesting” the cellulose in the paper backing of the photo. At the very least, it will cause permanent staining. I know this sounds weird, but treat your photos as you would treat yourself. Do not store them in a cold, damp basement or a stuffy, hot attic (remember that heat rises and a high temperature accelerates deterioration). Store your photos in an environment that feels comfortable to your own skin. Extreme climate fluctuations are a photo’s worst enemy. 

3. The Flat Truth: Keep your photos flat. Do not roll them or fold them. Some people have a tendency of rolling up an awkwardly shaped or too-long photograph and then using a rubber-band to secure it. I cannot stress this enough… DO NOT ROLL YOUR PHOTOS. They will become exceedingly brittle over time, making the restorative process of “humidification” very difficult. Rubber-bands contain sulphur, which will degrade photographic emulsion.

4. Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Light can and will hurt your pictures! If you must hang your framed originals, try to hang them in subdued light and use an anti-UV frame, avoiding direct sunlight at all costs. If possible though, it is advisable to display copies and keep your originals in the dark. 

5. Hands Off: Do not handle your photos with bare hands. Always wear gloves, preferably of the cotton variety. Oils from your fingers, even after being meticulously washed, will replenish themselves and stick to the photographs. The acids in the oils will, over time, damage your pictures. (FYI… It is possible to permanently brand a fingerprint into a photograph, simply from handling it) I’d like to point out that you should also avoid using adhesives or fasteners such as rubber cement, pressure-sensitive tape or paper clips. Paper clips, especially, will scratch your photos very easily.

Are you cringing yet… thinking about all those old photos you inherited from your great grandmother and stuffed in an old shoebox from the 1970s, which now sits, collecting dust and who knows what else, up in the attic, wedged between a box of broken Christmas lights and a rusty trunk… containing even more photographs, just sort of rolled up, secured with rubber-bands or stacked in a chaotic heap of disorderly haste?! Fear not. 

While there are a number of DIY tricks for photographic restoration, (which I just may be so inclined to do another blog post about in the future), there are also professionals, like myself, out there who can help you bring your damaged photographs “back to life” with digital restoration. 

And who am I, exactly? My name is Vignette-Noelle Lammott and I am a recent transplant to the glorious community of Cape Ann, via Chicago. My business, which I launched this past October, is called Retrocognitive Restorations. Though I have been restoring photographs professionally for only a few years,  I have studied tarnished beauty, all of my life. An antique shop enthusiast, I surround myself with old things, and can often be found rummaging through dusty used bookstores or scouting around local flea markets and estate sales. I like to think of what I do as more than just retouching your old snaps, but rather, restoring your most treasured memories.

Email me to set up a free consultation. I offer several packages, depending on how many photographs you need done and whether they are true vintage or relatively recent. You can view some samples of these packages at my website And don’t forget to look me up on Facebook, for even more free advice on photocare as well as some stunning “before and afters”.

Vignette-Noelle Lammott
Owner at Retrocognitive Restorations


  • Excellent information, very helpful. Many thanks!


  • Fascinating. Checked out the site and the facebook page. There are some amazing transformations there. I will definitely be contacting Ms. Lammott to do some pictures of my grandmother.


  • Great advise! I don’t think most people know how to care printed photographs. I was shock to see some of my most cherished childhood photographs are now damaged after twenty years last time I saw them at my parent’s home.


  • Vignette has restored many of my most cherished memories. I highly recommend her services.


  • She has restored several old family photos and done an excellent job!


  • I have been a client of Vignette’s for a little over a year and I have never been disappointed with her work. She has a great work ethic and a real eye for details. She’s a real treat to work with and is always smiling.


  • Great information and beautiful work! Thanks.


  • Vignette’s a joy to work with.


  • Lucas T. Lammott

    I may be a bit biased for the fact that I am in fact married to the talent but to be completely honest, the restorations that Vignette has done of my grandfather from WWII are phenomenal along with many other family photos that have been beaten by time. Retrocognitive Restorations has the unique ability to bring fading memories back from the dead.


  • What a wonderful service! It really seems you take great care and pride in your work, and it shows! I look forward to bringing my treasured memories in the future, and seeing the results.


  • Vignette is providing a very valuable service to the community. Thanks to technology and her esteemed skillset, your cherished relic memories no longer have to fade and erode with the paper they were printed on.


  • Great info – thanks for the tips!!


  • Alan Kerslake.

    Wish I’d had all this advice years ago when I was storing my shots. Now it is too late. Good advice.


  • Brenda Riley Tirrell

    I too have seen Vignette’s work. This past year we lost a beloved family member and Vignette was able to restore many treasured photos for the services. I highly recommend her.


  • Donna Daisey says
    Vignettte has retouched a more recent photo for me. Took out the busy background and put a lovely garden behind a great photo of my mother and I. Such a great talent!


  • Alieen Schuman

    I just adore Vignette! I have worked with her a few times now and I keep looking for more photos, just so I can work with her again. She’s not only charming, but so thorough. As I said, on her site, her prices are very reasonable and the quality of the work is exemplary.


  • I’ve tried to retouch photographs myself in a lab and it is extremely tedious work- mine have always come out a disaster!! I keep up with Vignette’s work through her FB page and love it! She’s incredible!


  • Thanks so much Vignette – I have a few photos of my grandparents that I will email you about.
    what a great service and well needed


  • I am the family historian of our haunted past and with the recent passing of my father it is even more important to keep the memories alive for our future generations. Vignette’s beautiful work is much needed in this tech savy world where many snapshots are shown via a mobile phone and don’t ever make it to the print form. Thanks for reminding us that there is a true beauty in a photograph. I look forward to creating a family album for my daughter and her daughter and so on and so on……


  • Congratulations, vignette! So much hard work! Photos are the only window into our past, keep the memories alive!


  • Edward Rosenthal

    Thank you for the info, I will forward the link to my brother
    He has all our old family photos.


  • What a cool post! I never really thought any of this stuff but I actually do have a ton of old photos that are in a shoebox in the closet! These are great tips. I also never really thought much about having them restored, but this business looks great. I will have to pull them out and give Ms. Lammott a call. Thanks for the informative post!


  • Indira aka Judith Ann Parsons, MSW

    Vignette is a true artist in every sense, so her work is elegantly crafted and keeps in mind the entire beauty that she is restoring. Yes! The best Christmas gift this year.


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