On top of losing furnishings, families that are flood victims lose tangible evidence of their memories in the form of photographs. But for some of...

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On top of losing furnishings, families that are flood victims lose tangible evidence of their memories in the form of photographs. But for some of them, all might not be lost. Some water-damaged photos can be salvaged.

For photos that are simply muddy and wet, clean water might be the key.

“I recommend they rinse them off and try to separate them with clean, running water,” says Errol Leger of Spectrum Arts and Photo Imaging in Lafayette, La. “Don’t let them sit in water for a couple of days, because the water bubbles it and it smears. Most of the time, they can separate them and take a couple of hours to let them dry.”

Some photos tend to curl after being wet. Weighing down the dried print with a heavy object can counteract the problem.

Modern technology can help to save images that are stuck to plastic or glass, Leger says. Those images can be scanned through the glass and saved to a CD.

If part of an image is lost, photography programs like Adobe Photoshop allow a technician to restore it.

“If the damage is across a face,” Leger says, “sometimes, we can take another photo (as a model) and rebuild something important, like a chin. If there’s a missing eye or mouth, we can steal it from another image.”

Scanning can be a good way to preserve and share undamaged photos, as well, Leger says. When having photos scanned by a photo shop or department, be sure to find out whether the images will be scanned at high resolution. High-resolution images, about 300 dpi, or dots per inch, yield high-quality prints. Low-resolution images do not, Leger said. “They look great on the screen at 72 dpi, but the printer needs 300 dpi, or you’ll get a tiny little wallet-size.”

Those who have a large number of photos to be scanned might consider buying an inexpensive scanner and doing it themselves. Prices have come down in recent years. “Five years ago, you had to spend $1,000, but now, you’ll get the same results for about $100 or $200,” says Leger.

When making your own photo CDs, pay attention to the CD itself, Leger says. “Bargain-rate CDs will give you trouble in two or three years. Get a better CD. Gold CDs will give the most long-lasting storage.”

Digital photos on CD take less space than hard copies in photo albums and are easier to grab in an urgent situation.

“I had a fire once, and grabbed a shoe box of pictures and ran out the door with them,” says Leger.