Canada has a special preservation center for photographs, it's a special building where prints and films are kept in the dark at 0 degrees and 25 percent relative humidity. Experts claim that images kept there should last thousands of years.
But they now have a big problem to solve. The latest trend in photography are inkjet prints and the quality of these prints is much worse making them harder to preserve. Tests reveal that prints made by printers like the HP Photosmart 475 only last for 42 years. In some more dramatic cases like with the Epson Stylus Photo 870 and 1270 the prints already started to lose their colours after only 2 months.
Traditional color prints have an advantage over inkjet prints. Dyes that make up images in traditional prints are suspended in three layers of gelatin, well below the surface.
Photo inkjet paper is generally coated to prevent the printer ink from soaking into its base, which would create a blurry and discolored photo. But that coating usually leaves the ink sprayed by the printer directly on top of the print, where it is vulnerable to light, humidity, pollution and scratches.
The life of color inkjet prints has also been hindered by the origins of the technology, which was mainly intended for printing things like pie charts, said Nils Miller, a scientist at Hewlett-Packard. “The initial emphasis was, how do we get bright colors on plain paper,” Dr. Miller said. “Permanence was not really on the radar screen yet.”
Mr. Reilly and Mr. Wilhelm agree that a big leap for inkjet printing came with the development of inks whose coloring agents are pigments, which are suspended particles, rather than chemical dyes. Mr. Wilhelm says his tests have shown that pigment inkjet printers from several makers now offer better longevity than conventional color prints.