Photo Safety, the ISO, and Change


As Chair of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Committee responsible for photo safety among other things, I have a great deal of concern when someone dismisses the photo safety requirements with “we are…not going to keep up with the ever changing ISO certification and labeling.” I have even greater concern when that person is Vice President, North American Sales and Training for the newly relaunched Ahni & Zoe by Creative Memories.

Specifically, what is ever changing?

Here are some facts:

  • In the fifteen years that I have been associated with the ISO, standards have changed relatively little. The essential guidelines have remained the same.
  • Standards are reviewed every five years to address any changes that may have taken place within the industry.
  • Changes that have been made have been designed to make the requirements easier to understand and to facilitate industry compliance.
  • There is no certification since there is no official document or outside organization verifying compliance.
  • Labeling helps customers understand a products performance but is not part of the photo safety requirements.

The basic requirement for photo safety is relatively simple. Products should not harm the photos they are intended to protect.

So, if you’re not following ISO, the question I have is what requirements are you following and how do you know that your products meet those requirements?


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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19 Responses to Photo Safety, the ISO, and Change

  1. Larry Rood says:

    Assuming that the comment is a new one (since Ahnie & Zoe was announced), could it be that since the new company is relying upon others to provide their printing services, and they will have no (or very little) control of the final product, they have to make such an announcement? I share your concern.

  2. Lianne Griffin says:

    Thank you, Dr. Mizen. And I think your question at the end is exactly what Melanie Hall was asking in her original question.

  3. Gracie McDaniel says:

    GS… Really? That is your answer to this question that is important to all who are interested in preserving treasures for our future generations? I am speechless. Thank you, Dr. Mark, for bringing AZCM’s lack of concern for photo safety to the forefront. I know I will be shopping elsewhere!

  4. Amen, Amen, AMEN! I fully agree, Dr Mark, HOW will A&Z prove that we have “photo safe” products??? I for one like the ISO compliance; I KNOW and will be able to fully stand 100% behind the products I sell…. No ISO? I’m not sure I can be confident about what I sell when I’m asked about it’s longevity and safety in preserving family memories.

  5. Chris Resch says:

    I’ve been a CM Consultant for over 8 years & a customer before that. CM’s formula for pages and plastics are well known to you Dr Mizen. I have full confidence their formulas remain photo safe (with the definitions you helped formulate in the written resources I still have from CM ) – lignin free, pH in the range specified acid free, PVC free plastic formulas, etc. I have every confidence that those technical and quality standards you oversaw while employed at CM will continue. I appreciate all the work you did and how you communicated with the field to help us understand.

    • concerned citizen says:

      I guess the question is how do we find out if they are lignin free, have acid free PH and PVC free plastic?

  6. barbara cauchon says:

    No ISO = no guarantees.

  7. Karen Trahan says:

    Thank you for the information Dr Mizen. I looked online and I could not find any references a company that have pages and protectors that comply with ISO. Is there a company out there that does use the ISO standards? If you were to purchase an album and pages after a&z opens, what would you purchase?

  8. Janet says:

    There is nothing mentioned in AZCM about preserving. We all know the CM as most of us know it was about preserving our photos and photo safe albums. Getting them out of the bad albums, etc, etc. Now it’s about the time starved mothers getting their pictures printed and in albums. ISO for AZCM is not important to their mission.

  9. Jeff Goodman says:

    Following ISO standards was much more important in the early days of CM, when many unsafe options were rampant in the marketplace. It was a marketing difference that could be exploited as a selling point. The A&Z customer only needs to know that the products are safe, which they are; and like the majority of competitive products, don’t need the certification to prove it.

    • Larry Rood says:

      I was comfortable with CM, but now that A&Z is no longer printing books in-house and are going to a new supplier for prints (I think), how can anyone know what to expect? However, after writing this I have to say that I have no less confidence in A&Z than any other digital printing company.

      • Chris Resch says:

        The only pictures which will be printed in A & Z are standard 4×6 prints, which will be printed by Fuji on Fuji paper. At the Twin Cities CM Regional Meeting on 10/22, Chris Veit said Fuji said those prints will not fade.

    • Janet Phillips says:

      Thank you, Jeff.

  10. Mark Mizen says:

    My difficulty is not whether or not Ahni and Zoe by Creative Memories follows ISO standards, although that is good information to have. It is saying that you are choosing not to follow them because they are ever changing. That statement is false.

  11. Larry Rood says:

    Chris Resch. So the 4×6 prints will be printed by A&Z in their own facility, was not aware of that. When you say they will be printed by Fuji you mean that they will be printed on Fuji paper using Fuji printers? If so, that is fine. Does anyone know who will print the A&Z books?

    • Janet Phillips says:

      Larry – It was not clarified by A&Z “who” will be printing 4×6 photographs from their up-coming app. It was stated, however that 4×6 photos would be printed on Fuji Archive Paper. Further, A&Z has stepped away from printing digital books.

  12. Karen says:

    As we have been told, digital is pretty much out unless you are talking the app. So, CV actually referred us to Panstoria printing (which I believe, is Utah Printing)
    No books by CM

  13. Rebecca Ramsey says:

    I think that perhaps photo safety is not as big an issue as it once was. When I began scrapping, the main purpose was to get my one-of-a-kind photos into an environment that would prevent or at least slow fading, color shifting, etc. Because many times, once those photos were degraded, they were gone. It was HARD to keep track of the negatives, and expensive to re-print a 10- or 20-year-old photo, even if I could find the negative.

    Now, with digital photos, prints are a dime a dozen. I’m more concerned with protecting my digital files — the “originals” of my photos. If a print gets messed up, I can always print another one.

    I would still prefer to use scrapbook supplies that meet ISO standards, and I don’t see any reason not to continue to follow them. So I’m not happy with AZ/CM. (For this and other reasons.)

    But I do see some logic that might be behind their decision to focus less on photo safety.

  14. Janet Phillips says:

    Help me understand — After doing a bit of sleuthing over the weekend – visiting local scrapbook stores to check labeling of stock on hand from a variety of manufacturers – I found not a single paper, paper pack, sticker, embellishment or album/refill labeled as meeting ISO 18902 standards – or any ISO standard. Many products were merely labeled “Photo Safe,” while others included the words “Acid-Free, Lignin-Free, Buffered.”

    After being told for years that any company could print these buzz words on packaging because the industry was not regulated, I was concerned – until I read the “Pick the Perfect Paper” blog post copied/pasted from this site dtd August 21, 2013. Of particular interest are paragraphs #2, #3, #4 below, and this final comment … “To be completely safe, paper should comply with all of these ISO 18902 requirements. However, from a practical standpoint, high-quality paper that is acid-free and bleed resistant should be all right.”

    “Here is what to look for in photosafe paper for use in scrapbooks with digital and conventional photos.”

    “1. Bleed-resistant – Colored paper should not transfer dyes under wet or humid conditions. Check this one yourself by placing the paper in contact with a piece of white paper. Use a paper clip to hold the two pieces of paper together and place them in a bowl of water for one day. The white paper should not show any dye when the paper clip is removed from the water.”
    “2. Acid-free – Uncoated, white paper can be checked with pH pens. For other papers, you will need to rely on the manufacturer’s labeling. pH pens are not reliable when used with coated or colored papers.”
    “3. Lignin-free – Skip the newsprint and construction paper. These low-cost papers generally contain lignin that will damage photos over time. They are also likely to become brittle.”
    “4. Buffered – Buffering prevents paper from becoming acidic over time. You will need to rely on the manufacturer’s labeling.”
    “5. Photographic Activity Test – Ensures that paper contains no other harmful components. This test is complicated and cannot be run at home.”

    I also noticed that while CM adhesives met ISO 18902 standards, 3M and 3L adhesives met two different ISO standards – both of which were endorsed by this blog. Why are there (at least) three different standards for a photo-safe tape/adhesive – is one better or more reliable than another? How is the average album-maker to know which is most appropriate for their use??

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