Most of us find ourselves having to mail photographs to friends and family occasionally but worry about losing or damaging our precious memories through the mail; of course, they 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 thirty-four years that 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 is how to mail photos.
I send photos to customers in either 6×9 or 9×12 catalog envelopes available from just about any store that carries office supplies (Wal-Mart carries these manila envelopes in packages of five). I slip a piece of solid cardboard into the envelope. If it’s the 9×12, I put an 8½x11½ inch cardboard in the envelope; a 6×9 gets a 5½X8½. This is sturdy cardboard that will not bend easily. You can also buy ready-made photo mailers that work well and make it easier if you’re mailing 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. I print out an address on the computer.
This makes it easily readable by the post office. My handwriting is terrible, and it also looks more professional. To me, being in business, that is important. If your handwriting is better than mine, then go ahead, but I would print it if I were you to make sure. I use a label I have made up myself and a 2×4 inch stickie label, 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 $4.80 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, how to mail your photos to help ensure that they will arrive safe and sound. Will this guarantee that something bad won’t happen to them? No, but this will help get them there unharmed.
A nice, easy to read mailing label make it easier for the post office to read where your going to send the envelope.
If you’re the mail person it’s hard to figure out who this person is, much less the address.
This was helpful.
One question: is it safe to have the sheet of stiff cardboard touching the photograph (not only placed behind it)?
I have had an issue where the cardboard caused marks on the photo from the little ripples of the cardboard, so it’s a good idea to cover the face of the photo with a piece of plain copy paper. Thanks for the message, It reminded me to update the post.
This is GREAT information. I am a professional photo organizer and like to send archived old photos to clients as gifts. My question about the card board: where do you purchase this for 5×7 photos? I see “card stock” but that doesn’t seem as study. Any tips for ready-made or made-to-order card board from Office Max, Staples or any other sources would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.
Thanks for your comment; I cut my own from cardboard I get from labs and other assorted boxes, but if I were sending a large volume, you could get it from Uline; here is a link to 5.5×8.5 inch cut cardboard: https://www.uline.com/Product/AdvSearchResult?keywords=5.5×8.5%20cardboard I see that they are out of stock on it now, but I would assume it would be available in the future. I ship 5×7 prints in 6×9 envelopes with the 5.5X8.5 cardboard.
Thanks very much for this info. I’m mailing some photos from the 60’s, and feel much more confident now that they will make it there safely.
Can I send photos in cylinder.I have some large photos.??
Tess, sorry I missed your comment, and you have probably mailed your photos already. I have mailed in tubes before, and they work well, just as long as the tubes are heavy enough not to bend easily.