Most photographs have great sentimental value, and that’s why it can feel devastating when they get stuck together.
While it may be tempting to try and jam your fingers between two photo prints, this can damage your pictures alongside the frame you used! But does that mean every photo that gets stuck to other pictures is doomed forever? Of course not.
In this blog post, we’ll be discussing three ways to finally get those stubborn photos that are stuck together – all without leaving the comfort of your home.
Ever wondered why your photo prints get stuck together? The answer is actually real simple.
Because each print image goes through a series of chemical processes during development and printing, it requires a thin gelatinous “emulsion” layer to keep it safe and protected. When your pictures are exposed to humidity and moisture, the excess water can cause the emulsion to degrade and get stuck to each other.
TL;DR? Humidity makes your pictures sticky, and they remain stuck even after they’re dry.
Whether you have pages upon pages of albums or just two stubborn photographs that won’t come unstuck, we have the answers. Here are three photographer-approved methods of retrieving a stuck picture.
The first step to this method is real simple: survey your image for signs of dust or dirt. Getting them out of the way before committing to pulling your photos apart makes the whole process much easier in the long run.
Consider putting gloves on for this next step!
If your photo is framed, be sure to remove the glass before gently pushing any dust or debris away. We recommend using a soft-bristle brush to minimize any additional damage on the subject.
Once you’re happy with your image, measure just enough warm water to submerge your photos completely. We recommend using distilled water at room temperature, which is available at most grocery stores. The water soaking process can take up to 60 minutes, so this may be a good time to grab food or make a short visit to some friends.
If one photo is hanging off the other, gently try to separate it from the smaller image, being extra careful to account for any ripping noises or damage. You can also try using a silicone spatula to peel them apart if you’d rather not use your hands. They should separate easily if they were sufficiently soaked.
Once you’ve managed to pry them apart, gently lay them down on some paper towels for a few hours. This process will allow the emulsion to dry up and make them relatively stick-free. Note that sometimes photos can become distorted during this process, but using a heavy book can quickly flatten them back out.
For this next method, we recommend taking your hairdryer’s heat settings into account. Like when avoiding damage while you style your hair, you’re going to need something that has a cooling function.
Photographs can be quite sensitive to heat, so we recommend holding your dryer 6-10 inches away from the actual photo prints. This keeps the paper from getting too hot and avoids any further damage.
Our research and experimentation has discovered that the best method is to heat the edges and slowly peel your photos back as they dry. We recommend taking it very slowly during this step.
First thing’s first: prepare your photos and stick them into a ziplock bag, ensuring there are no air pockets or little packets of moisture trapped in the plastic. Flatten out the pouch before proceeding to the next step.
Put your ziplocked photos in the freezer and account for their surroundings. Take note if the subject gets too wet or falls to the back of the compartment. Leave in place for about an hour and check back later.
Once the timer’s up, pull the plastic bag out of the freezer and check on your photographs. If sufficiently cooled, the pictures should easily come unstuck with a little bit of pulling and coaxing with your fingers or a thin card.
Getting an image unstuck is just one part of restoring your precious old family portraits, especially when the unsticking process can leave it damaged and torn. That’s where we come in. Image Restoration Center can restore, repair, refresh or unblur.