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QUESTION: I have some old photographs which have been laminated using that stick plastic lamination found at most stationary stores.
I tried removing it, but that just made things worse.

My question is, will this ruin the photographs over time?

Most of the photographs are I think polaroid films.

ANSWER: Hi there!

Polaroid made roll film as well as instant film, so I'm not sure which you mean.
A photo would help, but if you're referring to instant film ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_film ), then yes: attempts at removing the print from the casing will likely damage the resultant print. The only way of "safely" removing the photo is to physically cut it out of its casing.

If it's a print that has been laminated or "sandwiched" between two pieces of transparent plastic, then you might try a hair dryer, or try using a towel with an iron as described in the following tutorial:

http://www.ehow.com/how_2377646_extract-laminated-document.html

In either case, you're likely to damage the print and I'd advise leaving it as it is; that would be the safer bet. Heat and sunlight can both affect the pigments on a print and cause them to fade.

I hope that helps. Please feel free to post a follow-up or another question.

Happy shooting,

Akshay.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for replying!
Sorry for the vague details... I am ignorant in this area.

The photograph is basically just covered only on the one side with the stick plastic.
I guess I should just leave it as it is like you said.

So is it mostly just heat and sunlight which will cause the most damage?
Is the lamination relatively less damaging?

Thank you!

Answer
Hi again!

Please, there's no need to apologise. It's wiser to seek expertise than to inadvertently destroy a print that has sentimental value.
Yes, I'd say leave it be. If its only covered on one side, then the laminate layer has most likely been applied using an adhesive. Attempts at removal will probably result in damage. The laminate plastic layer should serve to protect the print from physical damage anyway.   
There are several different lamination methods, so it's difficult to say whether the process will be damaging our not. What is inadvisable is the heat based lamination that is used to protect documents or certificates, wherein the paper is sandwiched between two pieces of plastic. Thus usually serves its purpose for thinner paper, but for photos or thicker paper it can create air pockets or if the seal is incomplete it can allow moisture within and retain it, creating an ideal habitat for fungus.  
Heat and direct sunlight (they usually go hand-in-hand) are indeed damaging to photographs, but just how much will also depend on the kind of ink and paper that has been used.
Prrsuming there's no direct sunlight, a print on photographic paper done in a good lab will last you a few decades without any fading. Your "old" print will last for years to come if it is taken care of.
A print using an inkjet, in comparison, will last a few years at most. This also depends on the quality of ink you use among other things, but speaking generally, inkjet prints fade quickly.
So in summary, don't remove the laminate and if you're going to frame the photo, make sure it's on a wall or area that doesn't receive direct sunlight.

Happy shooting!
Akshay.

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Akshay Singh Jamwal

Expertise

I'm a professional photographer and I can answer questions questions relating to SLRs (35mm or DSLRs) and general photographic technique. I'll be happy to share my knowledge with anybody who's looking to learn or is just plain confused about something. Questions about studio lighting, studio flashes, and flashguns are also welcome. Questions about theory (e.g. colour theory, guidelines behind composition, depth of field, etc.) are welcome as well. Digital photography also involves some amount of post-processing using an image editing application such as Adobe Photoshop; a program that I am proficient with. I cannot answer typical generic questions, viz. "Which is the best camera?," as the short and sweet answer to questions such as those is "There is no such thing." Furthermore, there is a lot of literature available on the web pertaining to the same. Also, please do not ask me for camera recommendations based on a budget.

Experience

I have been passionately taking photographs since I was 13 years old. In totality, I've been involved in photography in one way or another for over a decade. I've used various cameras (and lighting equipment) over the years, including but not limited to Minolta/Konica Minolta, Nikon, Canon, and Mamiya.

Education/Credentials
High school degree.

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