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Most of us have to send a photo to friends and family occasionally. Of course, when mailing photographs, you don’t want them to be lost or damaged. Yes, things happen, and sometimes the postal service loses things,  but there are ways you can make this much less of a possibility. Over the forty years, I have been in the photography business, I have mailed out thousands of photos to customers, sent thousands of rolls of the film (in the day) to labs, and had as many sent to me. During that time, and with all those mailings, I have never had a package lost in the mail.

Here are some tips for mailing photographs.


#1 Packaging

Standard-size envelopes used in mailing photographs include 6×9, 9×12, and 10×13; these are commonly called catalog envelopes and are available from just about any store that carries office supplies (Walmart carries these manila envelopes in packages of five).  I slip a piece of solid cardboard into the envelope, trimming it a half-inch smaller than the envelope I am using.  If it’s the 9×12, I put an 8½ x 11½ inch cardboard in the envelope; a 6×9 gets a 5½X8½.  This is sturdy cardboard that will not bend easily. If you use thinner cardboard that will bend easily, It may work OK, and the cost to mail goes way down, but the qualifier is “may”. with the thicker cardboard you are much better off.

You can also buy ready-made photo mailers that work well and make it easier to mail one or two photos. It is a good idea to put a piece of plain paper (copy paper works well) over the face of the photo. I have had one occasion where the little ripples in the cardboard made a mark on the photo.

#2. Print out an address on the computer.

This makes it easily readable by the post office. My handwriting is terrible, and having it all nicely typed makes it look more professional. To me, being in business, that look is essential.  If your handwriting is better than mine, go ahead, but I would print it if I were you to make sure.

I use a 2×4 stickei inch label that I set up myself, but you can always print it out on a standard piece of paper and then glue it onto your envelope. I also use clear packaging tape to cover the label to protect it from getting wet.

#3. Mark it “Photos, do not bend.”

I have a rubber stamp, but you can mark it (I would use a red marker for this) on both sides of the envelope.

Now you’re ready to bring it to the post office.  The price of mailing envelopes that do not bend easily has increased in the last few years. As of this writing, the cost to mail an envelope like this (6×9 or 9×12 or the larger 10×13 with up to four ounces starts at $5.10 and now varies with where you are mailing it. (it was not that long ago that it was eighty-five cents; well, maybe it was that long ago, and it just doesn’t seem like a long time)

For weights over 4 oz, you can check the calculator at the post office website. https://postcalc.usps.com/

There you have it—some tips to help ensure that when you are mailing photographs, they will arrive safe and sound when mailing. Will this guarantee that something wrong won’t happen to them? No, but it will help get them there unharmed.

mailing photographs with proper addresses

A nice, easy to read mailing label make it easier for the post office to read where your going to send the envelope. 

hand addressed envelope

If you’re the mail person it’s hard to figure out who this person is, much less the address.