What to do When an Old Photograph is Stuck to Glass

Update: There are many DIY articles on the web that will suggest everything from heating, soaking and or freezing your photos to remove them from the glass. If you value your photo DON’T! Either have it digitally restored, restore it to yourself or send it to a conservationist. We often see the aftermath of these attempts and they are rarely fixable.


Have you ever discovered a favorite old photograph stuck to the glass of its frame? It’s an upsetting yet common problem for those of us who like to display treasured moments around our home. The sticky part leaves a nasty mark and any attempt to remove it causes rips and tears. It can be frustrating and difficult to know what to do.

Never fear! It’s possible to restore your picture and have it looking as good as new.

Saving Your Photograph

First and foremost, DO NOT try to physically remove the photo from the glass yourself. This will most likely cause further damage.

The best thing to do is to make a digital backup of the photo that’s stuck to the glass. You’ll need to carefully take the photograph and glass out of the frame and lay the image flat on a scanner – glass and all. The extra layer of glass means it’s vital to scan at a high resolution of at least 600 DPI to capture a sharp image. Alternatively, you can send the photograph along with the glass to us at The Photo Restoration Center and we’ll scan it for you. Contact us to make the arrangements if this is what you’d like to do.

Once scanned, you may be able to simply print your picture immediately onto photographic paper. However, there’s often too much damage for this to look good. If this is the case, again send the digital image or original to us. We’re experts at digitally restoring photographs after they get stuck in picture frames – even if the glass is smashed.

Please note: In this situation, a high-resolution scan is vital for a successful photo restoration. Before you get started, read our guide to DPI and why scan quality is important and use our scan resolution calculator.

Separating a Photograph From Glass 

Trying to physically remove a photograph from glass has a high risk of further damage. As we said before, we strongly recommend you don’t try to do this yourself. It’s very likely that at least some of the emulsion of the original photograph will remain on the glass. The picture may even get ripped beyond repair via digital restoration.  This is why it’s vital you take a high-resolution scan before attempting anything.

Several DIY remedies are suggested online. Freezing your photograph, soaking it in water or heating with a hairdryer are a few of the popular home remedies. The results of these techniques are mixed and depend on many factors, such as the type of paper of the original photograph, age and the development process. A professional conservator may be able to reattach any separated emulsion, but your photo is unlikely to look the same.

What Causes a Photograph to Get Stuck to Glass?

Moisture getting into the frame is usually the cause of photographs sticking to glass. The emulsion coating of the photo reacts to humidity or condensation and becomes sticky. This could happen in a room that’s regularly humid like a bathroom, or where a room gets hot in the sunlight. It can take years to occur or happen quickly, so it’s worth putting in some precautions when framing your photographs.

How to Prevent a Photograph Getting Stuck to Glass

Reducing the exposure to moisture is a good way to avoid precious photographs getting stuck to glass. Be careful when cleaning picture frames. Spray cleaning products onto a rag before wiping, rather than directly onto the frame. Also, make sure your photograph is placed somewhere that has low humidity and isn’t in direct sunlight.

To keep pictures from sticking to glass, use high-quality frames that protect them from light or moisture damage. Frames that include a mount board or acid-free, lignin-free mat are the best as they ensure there’s a space between the photo and the glass. Using Museum Glass® to protect your photo from UV exposure is also helpful.

Is your old photograph stuck to glass? Our experts offer the highest quality photo restoration to fix damaged photos. Send us your original photograph or a high-resolution scan for a complimentary quote.