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Home /Science / Do Black and White Photos Fade?

Do Black and White Photos Fade?

By Shelby Burr

You’re doing it! You’re taking the step to take care of your precious memories (specifically your photos).

You may be in the process of filtering through your family photos and realizing you have...well, a plethora.
While the beauty of nostalgia sets in, you start to sort your photos by color and black & white. That’s when it dawns on you - what should be preserved first?


Black and white photos are timeless. They have this classic and beautiful look of capturing the world in a perfectly monotone still shot. We adore black and white photos. The question is, do black and white photos fade faster than color? Should you get them digitized sooner than the colored photos? Do they even fade at all?


Let’s shine a little light on the situation (the kind that doesn’t fade your photos)...


Black and White Images

First, let’s talk about how special these photos are. Back in the day, photography was all the rage and black and white imaging was all that was available. Then, in 1907, color photography was invented. It wasn’t until 1935 that color photography became popular, however, it was very expensive. Color photography really only became affordable for an average person until the 1950s.


That said, black and white photos were still being taken until average households could afford color photography in the 50s. Did you know that prior to color photography, individuals would hand-colour their photographs? Hand-colouring refers to any method of manually adding color to a monochrome photograph. This was used to either heighten the realism of the image or for artistic purposes.


See how special these images are? Black and white photos are special! If folks wanted color, they would hand paint their black and white images with watercolor, oils, crayons or pastel. This was the most popular way to achieve color in the mid-to-late 19th century. 


Now that you know they can be painted, try looking at your black and white photos. What color would that shirt be? Or that car? Do you think the sky was blue or gray in that one photo? Use your imagination to determine what the colors might be in your photos.


Will Black and White Photos Fade?

Alright, here’s the main question. We want to save your photos (both color and monochromatic), but we need to provide some info on the safety of your memories. Short answer? Yes, your black and white photos can fade. Long answer?...


Black and white photos do fade over time. However, they do not fade as quickly as colored photos. Black and white pictures stay clearer longer, a bit longer than colored photos. Why? Because they have only one color that fades, rather than several colors in one image. Depending on how they are stored, the black and white images can last a long time before you see them aging. 



All photos fade. The longer you wait, the more likely your memories will face irreversible damage. It stinks, we know. But the good news is you can help keep your photos safe and preserved for...well, forever. Sure, black and white photos may be kicking it longer than color, but other elements can cause damage: water, mold, light exposure, rodents, etc. Better to preserve those beautiful images now than later. 


Let the Good Times Roll

As you continue to filter through your memories, enjoy this special time! Gather all of your favorite family photos and send them in to be digitized. Your family's legacy will be preserved for all future relatives to see. Plus, everyone will be able to admire your family's classic and timeless black and white photos.

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