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Restoring old Photos

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Restoring old Photos

Keeping old photos as a family archive


Restoring old photographs can often bring out hidden details.

Lots of people keep family photos in old albums and rarely ever look at them. Scanning and repairing old photos is a great way to pass on information about the past.

Please note that we no longer offer this service commercially.

However, many other people specialise in such restoration.

Cheerful beach

Cheerful Beach – (Felixstowe, Suffolk, 1939)

Copyright 2002 G.A. Cooper (front middle)

Repairing photos – digital restoration

The original contact print was first scanned at high resolution.

If you are looking to enlarge an old photo, you should work at the highest optical resolution of your scanner.

There is often considerable detail in old contact prints, which can easily withstand enlarging to 10″x8″ or more.

This may produce very big image files, so if you are not wanting a lot of enlargement, you can reduce the amount of detail. This also helps ease the requirements for a quick computer with lots of memory. It’s all to easy to produce huge scan files that cause your computer to slow to a crawl.

Before scanning check the photos for dust and carefully clean them with a soft brush (-clean- makeup brushes are good for this)

Check that the glass on you scanner is clean – no point in adding to your photo cleaning work later. Ordinary glass cleaner is fine, but spray it on the cloth, not your scanner.

Learn what tricks your scanner software can do and decide if they are any use. We use Vuescan (see below) since it works with over 700 different models of scanner and produces excellent results.

Scan as much of the image as you need, and save yourself more work by making sure the photo is lined up correctly.

We always use Photoshop for all our photographic work, and we usually suggest Photoshop Elements as a cheaper alternative, that will do virtually everything you need.

In many ways the old photographs are ‘digitally cleaned’ (scratches, creases, dust and fading) after scanning.

More work is required to fill in missing areas, but with practice it become almost impossible to see where this has been done.

Once prepared, we enlarge and print scanned photos using the same printer and inks we use for our fine art prints.

If you are copying and printing your own photos then do remember that whilst the pigment inks that we use may last several hundred years, many cheaper printers use inks that may only last 10-20 years.

Copy your files on to CDs, and remember that CDs will also probably last a few tens of years. In fact it is quite likely that if you just put everything away for twenty years, the original photos may still be in better condition, especially if they are in black and white… Not a problem for most people, but something to think about if you want to pass on your albums.

One other tip – write down what you know about the photo. In the future you might not be around to say who that man with the hat is, in the back of the picture… :-)

Image restoration resources and info

– if you want to do it yourself

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