How to care for photographsTiakitanga o te whakaahua

Learn how to preserve photographs – physical and digital.

Handling and displaying

Hold photographs and negatives by their edges and be careful not to touch the surface. Wear clean cotton or nitrile gloves when you can – dirt and oil from fingertips can cause long-term damage.

When displaying your photographs, try to use low, artificial lighting rather than direct sunlight, which will cause the image to fade rapidly.


Store photographs in a dark place with a stable temperature (10–18°C is ideal) and humidity level (35–50% is best, but 40–60% is acceptable). Photographs are very sensitive to environmental conditions.

Ideally, store photographs in Mylar sleeves or acid-free paper. Negatives should be kept in acid-free paper enclosures.

For advice on storing photographs go to National Library of New Zealand: Photographs.

For digital images, keep back-up copies in a separate place – an online account, an external hard drive, or good-quality archival CDs. CDs can deteriorate over time, so store them in a cool, dry place and test them regularly.

For advice on storing digital images go to National Library of New Zealand: Digital Images.


To label the back of a photograph, use a 2B pencil instead of pen ink, which can seep into the image. Write on the edge of the photograph (away from the image). If you are numbering the enclosure, write the number before you put the photograph or negative into it.

More resources

Help identifying an object, a treasure, or a specimen

Video: How to care for photographs, Handling and labeling photos (Tāmaki Paenga Hira | Auckland Museum)

Care and handling of rare books, paper, manuscripts, photographs, and archives – Auckland Libraries

Auckland Libraries’ Preservation Manager and Book Conservator reveals the tricks of his trade in this 20-minute video.