Saving Harvey Damaged Photographs


As victims of Hurricane Harvey get back into their homes and assessing the damage, many people will realize the most important items they lost are their photographs: memories of loved ones and life events that cannot be replaced.

Before you give them up and throw these prized possessions away, here is how you can salvage those precious memories.

Unpack your photos

As soon as you can, remove your photographs from frames and albums slots. This will prevent continued water damage (if water is still between the album pouches or glass) and prevent mold and mildew from growing.

hurrican harvey damaged portrait

Also, once the ink and paper begin to dry, it will stick to the glass or plastic lining, thus ripping and tearing the ink and/or paper of the photograph when you attempt to remove it.

Cleaning your photographs

Wash any dirt off your photographs with clean, cold water. Warm water will soften the inks and may cause further damage.

DO NOT spray the front of your photos with Lysol, alcohol, or cleaning.  Solvents that contain alcohol can damage most inks and thus ruin what is left of your portrait.

If you have space and time to dry your photographs, lay them out flat on dry paper towels. Check your towels often. Once they are saturated, replace with new paper towels until they are dry.

If you do not have time or space to dry them, clean them as previously directed, then stack them neatly between sheets of wax paper. Place them inside a plastic zipper bag or plastic tub to store. If possible put them in the freezer; you can defrost and dry at a later date.  Freezing your photographs will also prevent mold and mildew from growing, as well as remove the musty wet smell they may develop.

Take great care not to touch the front of your photographs. Wet ink is highly sensitive to finger prints and smudges.

Your corners may or may not curl, depending on the surface, temperature, drying time, and humidity. Not to worry; prints can be mounted on styrene or flattened.


If there is smudging or blurring where water damage occurred, a professional photo restoration service can correct these areas. Do not give these to just any photographer; be sure to use a reputable company that specializes in Photo restoration. Please keep in mind there are limitations to how much damage can be corrected.


Once your photos are dried, consider having your photographs framed with archival techniques just as those we provide here at Alex Shelley photography.

With archival framing, your photographs are mounted and sealed into a metal frame with an acid-free foam core barrier, cotton rag mats, and UV glass.  We also take an extra archival step by using cotton paper with special ink that is embedded down into the paper.  With this method, water damage will not cause smearing, smudging, or other damage as it does with standard photo papers.   While we can't guarantee they won't receive any damage by hurricane flood waters, we can tell you that archival portrait methods will slow the damage.

While many people would rather pay drugstore prices for their portrait prints, in times of disasters such as Harvey has caused, having archival portraits is as priceless as the memories they preserve.  We have a great passion for preserving your memories, which is why we have chosen to only provide our clients with the best. You can't avoid natural disasters, but you can prepare for them.

If you would like more information on our archival framing, or you have lost your photographs due to Harvey but have digital files and would like to have them reprinted and archival framed, we will be happy to help. Please feel free to contact us.

I hope this information gives you a game plan for your damaged photographs and puts your mind at ease when it comes to salvaging your memories.

God bless Texas, the families and victims affected by Hurricane Harvey, the heroes who have helped, and the many people contributing in whatever way they can.  Our prayers are with all of you.