I today found a photograph in my loft, approx. 12" by 20" in size, which was stored in a tube, but unfortunately rolled very tightly to a diameter of less than one inch. It appears to have been stored like this for the best part of fourteen years.

It was quite difficult to unroll it without creasing it anywhere, due to it's tendency to stay in this closely rolled shape. I would like to frame it, but there's no way to do that the way it behaves right now.

What can I do to re-flatten it properly? Time is not an issue to me, I don't mind if it takes a long time, but it would be really nice to get rid of that spring effect it currently has.

  • What material is the photograph on?
    – dpollitt
    May 20 '12 at 15:37
  • 1
    @dpollitt The back has a printing saying "Kodak Professional Endura Paper". It's not a glossy photo but has a matt finish (I hope that's the right term for it, I'm not a native speaker).
    – takrl
    May 20 '12 at 16:27
  • Scan it then print it out in a convenient size on flat paper? That might allow you to fix white and black levels, contrast, blemishes, etc, in the process. May 20 '12 at 22:52
  • @Olin Thanks, but that's not an option in my case. The photograph contains signatures by quite a few people, so this is not just about the image, I really need the original ...
    – takrl
    May 21 '12 at 8:19

Try this. Get a sheet of flat wrapping paper bigger than the photo, a broom handle or dowel, and some sticky tape. Partially unroll the photo and place the unrolled part, photo side up (assuming it was rolled up with the photo on the outside), at one corner of the paper, at a 45º angle (so the corner of the wrapping paper and the edge of the photo form a triangle).

Place the dowel along the edge of the photo, then carefully roll it back on itself, along with the wrapping paper, around the dowel - you are essentially using the dowel to help you roll the photo back on itself. Make sure you are not damaging the photo paper as you roll. You may need to help the rolled part of the photo unroll.

Keep rolling until the entire photo is rolled back and the wrapping paper is completely wrapped around it, then tape the wrap in place.

The wrapping paper will keep the whole width of the photo in place; if you used, say, an elastic band, the corners would be constantly trying to roll back. Leave the wrapped photo for a couple of weeks to give it plenty of time to 'settle'. It will probably not make the photo completely flat, but it should be flat enough to frame.

  • +1 Thanks, this sounds like a self-built version of the De-Roller that @Itai suggested. Is there any particular reason for the 45° angle in your description? If the right thing to do is just storing it rolled up the other way around for a month or so, I can't see why the 45° angle would be of significance ...
    – takrl
    May 21 '12 at 8:51
  • The angle just makes it a little easier to handle the wrapping paper. Rather than having to make sure it's rolling up correctly along the whole length, you just have to get it started at the corner and it takes care of itself. May 21 '12 at 9:20
  • Ok, that clarifies it, thanks. I'll give it a try ...
    – takrl
    May 21 '12 at 9:26

If you have a photo that's been stored tightly rolled up for a few decades, you run the risk of unrolling the photo with techniques describe above, which often happens with old photos that are dry and brittle.

If you to unroll in that condition the photo emulsion will often crack, which results in jagged gaps between the cracks and destroys the photo and really makes it difficult to scan or photography with a digital camera.

Since the photo is so brittle due to dehydration, the photo needs to be treated in an environment in which the photo will be subjected to a slow increase of relative humidity over the course of several days. In doing this the paper and emulsion will become much more relaxed as the photo slowly absorbs the higher levels of moisture found in the treatment chamber. It's a slow process but when done right you can see the rolled up photo slowly relaxing and unrolling every day during this treatment.

It can't be rushed as you're apt to still get emulsion cracks, but must patiently await the photo relax. One relaxed you can then slowly unroll the expanded photo on to a flat copystand board, and if need by use various techniques to get hold the foto in a flat state for scanning or better, using a pro grade digital camera with a macro lense (flat field) to get maximum sharpness with near zero distortion.


Try a Beifand De-Roller. See the convincing demo here.

Consider how long a paper-roll stays rolled and seeing how this one works so easily, it should work for pretty much any rolled print. You may find other option by searching for De-Roller or De-Curler.

  • +1 Thanks, I've never seen this apparatus before. But since it's a one-off thing for me (I hope), I'm probably going to go for the manual approach ...
    – takrl
    May 21 '12 at 8:52

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