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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How to Save Water Damaged Photos

Yesterday, the Metro Detroit area experienced it’s second-heaviest calendar-day rainfall on record.  Heavy rains pounded the area on Monday leaving most freeways flooded.  The Michigan State Police have urged drivers to avoid area freeways.
More rain is expected today.

Thankfully, we were spared from any damage but as I scroll through my Facebook  feed I see many friends and relatives have flooded basements.  They’re beginning the recovery process, trying to salvage countless treasures and belongings.  They’re facing a daunting task & asking “where do I begin?”

I pray that you never need this information but if you ever do need help recovering from water damage there are some great resources available. 

Safety First!

Take caution when dealing with a flooded basement!  To be safe, always assume that water in a flooded basement is electrified. Call your electric company to have your power disconnected.  This article recommends to have your electrical meter removed from it’s socket. Items with pilot lights commonly found in basements (hot water heaters, furnaces and heaters) can have pilot lights that can be put out by standing water. This may allow natural gas to escape into your home creating a risk of explosion.  Call your local gas company to have your home’s natural gas turned off, too.   More great information here:  What to do if you basement floods.

Rescuing your photos

The key to successful photo recovery is to act quickly.  You don’t want the photos to dry out or grow mold.  If you have things that need to be done before you can attend to your photos you can freeze them as a temporary step to prevent further damage.

Yesteryear Memories, a company that specializes in digital restoration, has lots of information about this on their website here:  Tips for Salvaging Water Damaged Photographs.

More great information from The Image Permanence Institute with support from Creative Memories.

A lesson to be learned:  Protect your photos!

It is time to get organized! 

*Getting on my soapbox
SCRAPBOOK your photos!  Those beautiful memories deserve to be displayed, loved and have their stories told!  Don’t worry!  Scrapbooking doesn’t need to be time consuming. There are many styles of albums, including very easy to use pocket styles which allow you to simply slide those photos in.  Be sure to jot down some important details and include this on the page with your photos.  Things to include the date and names of people in the photos as well as some of the stories that might not be evident from the photos.   I can hear the rumbling now…it’s ok, not everyone loves their handwriting…don’t get hung up on that!  It’s part of you and it will be treasured as much as those photos!
Trust me! 

OK – so I understand not everyone wants to scrapbook.  Please, at the very least, organize your printed photos. Store and protect them in items designed for photo storage, making sure they’re photo safe & acid free.  Scrapbook.com has some great options available for organizing your photos.

If possible – store you photos where you like to live.  Basements and attics are usually damp or humid and not ideal conditions for long term storage.  If you do have to store items in your basement keep them off the ground and the more valuable your items are (to you) the higher up you should store them.

Backup your photos!

I think it’s safe to say that people are now taking more photos than ever.  With all the smart phones, ipods and tablets out there so many people have a camera with them at most times.  I also think that, besides sharing via social media and email, these massive amounts of images aren’t being organized or stored so they can be shared in the future.

It’s a daunting task! 

My preferred way to store digital photos is the Historian program by Panstoria


Historian is the updated version of Memory Manager that was offered by Creative Memories.  You can easily store and edit photos, video & audio files.  You can also sort photos into different categories – the way you would in real life, making it very easy to locate specific photos.

A great option to help you back up your digital photos is Picture Keeper.

Backup Mobile Photos Wirelessly with Picture Keeper

Backing up your photos can be as simple as plugging in a Picture Keeper back up device & it will automatically find your photos for you!  There are other products available including an app that will help you to wirelessly back up your photos on your mobile device to your computer!

If you store your digital photos on your computer you want to back these up on a separate device.  That way if your computer crashes you won’t lose your photos.  External hard drives (EXHDs) are a great option – but, like most items these can fail, too.  I back up my EXHD with a 2nd EXHD.

Online storage sites are a good option, too.  By storing your images at another location you will (hopefully) keep them safe from theft, fire, floods & other disasters.  There are many options available & this article has a review of 38 online backup sites.

Print your photos!

Technology changes at the blink of an eye.   Last summer when we were visiting the National Archives my 9 year old son was marveling at a display of an old camera and film and was excited to share a story one of his teachers told his class about how they used to take pictures and they would have to wait a long time before they got to see them.  They actually had to send away for the pictures!   We bought our first digital camera somewhere around the time he was born (2004) and he had never known anything except for digital photos in his lifetime.   I do send away for prints but all he’s ever known is being able to instantly see the image that has just been photographed. He’ll never know the joy of picking up a pack of photos from my local drug store & rushing back to the car to pour over them in the parking lot – blurry shots included. Smile

Think back to all the ways photos and technology has changed just over your lifetime!! 

These are just a few of  the things I remember:

My Dad had a camera like this – he would peel the film from the print.



Who knows what’s coming next & what we’ll be using in the future!  Print your photos and enjoy them now!

There are countless places to have your photos printed.  Here are some of my favorites:

York Photo

2 apps I use to get 10 free prints each month from my mobile phone:


I’ve used both of these & they are very convenient.  The prints are free but you will need to pay for shipping & handling. 


For those dealing with the flood and who have lost items, I hope it’s just “stuff” that can be replaced!



  1. Lisa! You were perfectly placed in my "how to repair water damaged photos" search bc I'm from the SE Mich area that was flooded last week! I'm saddened over many losses but couldn't part with my old family albums. Thank you for all these resources! I'm pinning your site and will pour over it to get my pix fixed! You were in the right place at the right time! Thanks again!!

  2. I'm so glad I could help, Pat! Hoping you didn't sustain too much damage - that was one heck of a storm!

  3. When our house flooded, there were old photos in the basement I can never recover. I wish I had made copies and scanned them. You offer some great advice here. Once you lose them, it is too late to do anything.

  4. They’re beginning the recovery process, trying to salvage countless treasures and belongings. They’re facing a daunting task & asking “where do I begin?”mold remediation

  5. Wise tips! People should pay heed to those, especially those who are in charge of home maintenance. You can't let the floods contaminante all the things that have been extensively built, much less wash them all away. Thanks for sharing! All the best to you!

    Sharon Strock @ StormChamber

  6. Specialties: water damage restoration anaheim Whether it is a leak, a major flood or resulting water damage mold,

  7. There is much valuable information and I have gained much knowledge. We can save water damaged in
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    by getting much help from this post.