May 2


AI Explains How to Make Your Photographs Last 120+ Years

By Ryan Hadley

May 2, 2023

I recently read an article about some of the first photographs ever taken and how amazingly sharp and vibrant they are.

Market Square Helsinki in 1890’s

Some of these images were more than 200 years old and still looked great. So why do these photos look great? I was interested in what ChatGPT (a new Artificial Intelligence service). This is what it had to say.

200-year-old black and white pictures still look great due to the longevity of the materials and techniques used during the printing process. In the past, black and white photographs were printed using a combination of light-sensitive silver halide crystals and chemical solutions applied to light-sensitive paper. These prints were then washed and fixed to remove any residual chemicals and ensure their stability over time.

The materials and techniques used to produce these prints were designed to be stable and long-lasting, and they have proven to be very effective in preserving photographs for many years. The paper used in the printing process was typically made from high-quality materials, such as cotton or linen fibers, which were acid-free and pH-neutral to prevent yellowing and deterioration over time.

What About Modern Photography?

I’m sure you have all seen pictures (even Professionally Printed Pictures) that look like this.

Why is that the case? I asked ChatGPT to give me an explanation. It said:

Photographs today may not last as long as older photos because modern printing processes and materials are often not designed for long-term durability. For instance, some modern photo papers may be made using lower quality materials or chemical processes that are not as stable over time, which can result in fading, yellowing, or other deterioration over time. Additionally, some modern inkjet printers use dye-based inks that may not be as resistant to fading as the pigment-based inks used in older printing processes.

Furthermore, many modern photos are often stored only digitally, rather than being printed on physical media, which can make them vulnerable to data loss or technological obsolescence. While digital storage can be convenient, it may not offer the same level of longevity and stability as physical prints.

Overall, while modern photo printing technology has many benefits, it may not always prioritize long-term durability in the same way that older printing methods did, which can result in shorter lifespans for some modern photographs.

How Can You Get a High-Quality Print That Lasts?

If you have heard me talk about this before, you know how important I think it is to preserve your family portraits. Even AI knows that there are problems with modern photography. Again I asked AI about the difference between average printing and professional archival printing. Here is the response:

Amateur and professional archival photo printing differ in several ways, including the quality of materials used, printing technology, and the level of expertise required.

Professional archival photo printing typically uses higher quality materials, such as acid-free and pH-neutral paper and pigment-based inks, which are more resistant to fading and deterioration over time. Professional printing also employs advanced printing technologies, such as giclee printing, which produces finer details and more accurate color reproduction.

In contrast, amateur archival photo printing may use lower quality materials and printing technologies, which can result in lower quality prints that are more prone to fading and deterioration over time. Additionally, amateur printing may not always take into account the best practices for archival photo preservation, such as using acid-free and pH-neutral materials and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Overall, professional archival photo printing requires a higher level of expertise and attention to detail to ensure that the final prints meet archival standards and will last for many years to come.

What Materials Are Quality Materials?

So, AI says one problem with our modern photography is low-quality materials. I asked it to describe what quality materials mean for photo printing. This is what it had to say:

The quality of materials used in photo printing can vary greatly and can have a significant impact on the final print’s appearance, durability, and longevity. The following are some of the key differences between low-quality and high-quality materials used in photo printing:

  1. Paper quality: High-quality paper is typically acid-free, pH-neutral, and made from natural fibers that are free from impurities. This type of paper is more resistant to yellowing, fading, and deterioration over time than lower-quality papers that may contain acidic compounds and impurities.
  2. Ink quality: High-quality inks, such as pigment-based inks, are more resistant to fading and produce more vibrant, long-lasting colors than lower-quality inks, such as dye-based inks. Pigment-based inks are also more resistant to water damage and smudging.
  3. Printer technology: High-quality photo printers, such as giclee printers, use advanced printing technology that produces finer details and more accurate color reproduction than lower-quality printers. They also typically offer a wider color gamut and use more advanced color management systems.
  4. Protective coatings: High-quality prints may also be coated with protective coatings, such as UV-resistant coatings, to help prevent fading and damage from environmental factors such as sunlight and humidity.

Overall, the quality of materials used in photo printing can have a significant impact on the final print’s appearance, durability, and longevity. Investing in high-quality materials and professional printing services can help ensure that your prints look their best and last for many years to come.

Our Process at Masterpiece Images

We care greatly about your family portraits and the memories we create for people. I am happy to report that we follow every recommendation AI gives to have long-lasting photographs. We have our own giclee printer, we use the highest quality paper and pigmented inks, and we provide 3 coats of a protective, UV-resistant coating. Our prints are rated to last at least 120 years. That is why we feel it is so important to not just offer digital files. We want your portraits to last.


Ryan Hadley

About the author

Ryan has been a professional photographer since 1995. He is currently a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) as well as having received several awards for his portrait photography.

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