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 A YFL QUICK NOTE - Writing on Photographs

Everyone gets the urge to put some kind of caption on a photograph, but many of us have been horrified to see someone actually write on the front of the picture...in ink!  What to do?  Here are some suggestions:

  • If you must write on a photograph, never write on the picture face.  Always write on the back with light pressure.
  • Do not use a ball point pen or you may see embossing lines on the front.
  • If the photo pre-dates the 1960s, a soft lead pencil works well and will not harm the photograph.
  • If the picture was made post 1960, a soft lead pencil may smudge due to the plastic coated paper.  In this case, use a soft tip film marking pen.  Make sure to let the ink dry thoroughly before stacking pictures together.
  • An easy technique for identifying people in a group photo is to trace their outlines on light paper, number each person on the tracing, and use the number key to list each person's name (and other interesting notes).  Then keep the tracing with the photo.
  • As you are doing your captioning, be mindful that your handling may put dirt and skin oils on the picture.  These can cause degradation of the photo over time.  Wear gloves if possible, or clean the picture when finished with a photo cleaning solution.

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