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 photographs 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 film negatives off other pictures – all without leaving the comfort of your home!
But if you’re just looking for professional conservation services to save and restore your photograph, then save yourself the hassle and order below.
Why Do Photos Get Stuck Together?
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 image is exposed to humidity and moisture, the excess water can cause the emulsion to degrade and get stuck to other photos.
TL;DR? Humidity makes your images sticky, and they remain stuck even after they’re dry.
How To Separate Photos That Are Stuck Together: 3 Easy Ideas
Whether you have pages upon pages of pictures or just two stubborn photos that won’t come unstuck, we have the answers. Here are three photographer-approved methods of retrieving a stuck picture.
Method 1: The Soak And See Technique
Visually Scan Your Photos For Signs Of Dust And Dirt
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.
Gently Push Away Debris With A Soft Brush
Note: 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.
Soak The Images In Room Temperature Distilled Water
Once you’re happy with your image, measure just enough warm water to submerge your photos completely. We recommend using distilled water, which is available at most grocery stores. The 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.
Gently Peel The Photos Apart
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 rubber spatula to peel them apart if you’d rather not use your hands. They should separate easily if they were sufficiently soaked.
Spread The Wet Photographs On Paper Towels To Dry
Once you’ve managed to pry your photos 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.
Method 2: Separate Pictures With A Hairdryer
Find A Hair Dryer With A Low Heat Setting
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.
Gently Apply Heat On The Exposed Area From 6-10 Inches Away
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.
Gently Pull On The Edges Until The Photos Are Separated
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.
Method 3: Freeze Your Photographs
Put The Photographs Into A Ziplock Bag
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.
Leave Them In The Freezer For At Least An Hour
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 for about an hour and check back later.
Check For Any Sign Of Moisture And Pull Them Apart
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, and refresh all your cherished photographs for a fair price. Send us a message to find out more!