Common Photo Damage: Photo Stuck to Glass

photo stuck to glass

Common Photo Damage: Photo Stuck to Glass

It is always devastating when a precious photo is damaged. You have a moment of shock after discovering the damage, and then feel an immense panic to “fix it.” While there are some forms of photo damage that can easily be fixed, a photo stuck to glass can be a tricky problem to solve.

How does this happen?

A photo gets stuck to glass because there is a lack of airspace between the photo and the image. When moisture gets behind the glass, the photo emulsion will become gelatinous and adhere to the glass as it dries. This type of damage can happen over time or instantly. It depends on the level of moisture, paper chemistry, and other conditions.

A common culprit for moisture is spraying a cleaner directly onto the glass of a frame. The cleaner follows the glass into the bottom of the frame and slips behind the glass. This can also happen if the frame is improperly sealed and is exposed to fluctuating humidity (i.e. a bathroom, a home without air conditioning, etc).

photo stuck to glassShould I DIY a solution?

A quick online search provides removal methods that include freezing the piece, heating the piece with a hairdryer, using professional chemicals, lighter fluid and more. As a professional photography and photo restoration studio, these suggestions give us heartburn. We do not recommend a DIY removal no matter how fantastic the method seems.

The first step is to digitize or copy the photo. If you do not have a copy of the photo stuck to glass, make one. We recommend bringing the photo to a professional to digitize, but you can try to do this at home. A professional will work through the glass. It is always important to create a backup of an image before doing anything to an original. If glass debris or dust is caught between the image and glazing, bring it to a professional. We can safely remove the debris without causing further damage to surface. From there, we can restore the photo and create a new image for you to enjoy.

The most important thing to remember is to not pull on the image. Once the emulsion is cracked or torn, you have fewer options. It is easier to work with the image untouched and fully stuck than it is to restore a partially stuck and torn photo. You further run the risk of leaving emulsion on the glass or losing a portion of the photo forever. There are times that it is possible to remove the photo and a professional with a thorough knowledge of photographic chemistry can help you achieve this based on the type of photograph you have.

How can I avoid getting a photo stuck to glass?

The easiest step is to eliminate exposure to  humidity and moisture. It isn’t easy in the Mid-Atlantic area, but humidity is one of the worst causes of environmental damage to  photography and art. Here are a few steps you can take to keep your art from getting stuck:

  • Spray glass cleaner on a cloth. Never spray cleaners directly the glass. If you need to clean your glass, spraying the cleaner on your cloth and then wiping the glass will help keep it from running down into the bottom of the frame and seeping behind the glass.
  • Use a mat or a spacer. Creating space between the photo and the glass is important for the health of your photo. It keep the emulsion away from the glass and protects it from becoming stuck.
  • Have your piece professionally framed or refitted. A pro can seal your piece with conservation methods to keep moisture and humidity from affecting your art.

If you have a photo stuck to glass, don’t panic. There are ways to prevent and conserve your damaged pieces that don’t involve lighter fluid. Learn more about the common types of photo damage here.