Tag Archives: digital restoration

Copies Rock

If you’ve been following my little blogging attempts for a while you’ll know that I have a great passion for old photos. Looking at them, talking about them, the people and places they show, and also displaying them. It’s my thing.

While a lot of people have kept negatives and slides from decades ago, and have the printed photo in an album or a picture frame, most would be hard pressed to find that particular negative or slide to have another print made, should their first print get lost or damaged in any way. And the vast majority of people do not even have any negatives or slides, either because they were thrown out eons ago or because their old photos are from a time where there weren’t any negatives. Or the photo they have hanging on the wall in their bedroom was done by a professional photographer, who didn’t hand out negatives or copies.

Displaying an original is not a good idea, because it definitely will get exposed to light (sunlight or artificial light) and very likely get exposed to dust, humidity, to the acids in non-archival frames, backings and matting, or get stuck to the glass of the frame, which happens more often than you might think.

Have a look around your home: if you have any photos displayed – and you should πŸ™‚ – are they the originals?

If they are, I suggest you tackle this task over your next free weekend, and have copies made, or make them yourself. Then you put the copy back up in its frame on the mantle piece and the original photo safely in an archival album. That way your original is not in any danger.

If it is already a copy, well done. Better check you still have that original, or the negative, or the slide, and if not, get a copy of that copy.

To get copies is so easy these days:

  • Use your copy/printer and simply print a copy of your photo. Naturally a copy on ordinary white copy paper won’t deliver a flash result, maybe you want to look into investing in some proper photo paper, it has come down in price a lot in recent years
  • Maybe you have a copy/printer + scanner. Scan your photo, save it on a thumb drive and go to your nearest photo print place. Prints cost next to nothing these days, and if it’s a good photo print place, they will be able to assist you if you have any questions.
  • If you have a fancy camera: put your photo on a flat white surface in a well lit room (no direct sunlight) and take a photo of your photo. You can then either upload on a computer or laptop or take your memory card directly to a photo print place. Or print it yourself if you have a decent printer and want to invest in photo paper.
  • Use your smartphone as you would the fancy camera.

Old photos in particular have odd sizes. Simply print bigger and use some fancy scissors to cut them out, like I did with the two shown in the picture.

Copies rock

Copies rock. I have a whole lot of them of original family photos like that, and I change them around all the time πŸ™‚

 

 


Digital Ironing

It was very exciting when a client hired me to digitize a large part of her collection of her late mother’s fashion illustrations.

Fashion illustration was the main form of advertisement for fashion designers, clothing manufacturing companies and department stores. The designs were not only displaying the styles of their day but also a certain lifestyle.

The collection I worked with consists of fashion illustrations from the mid 1930s, fashion sketches on full double-sided magazine style spreads from the 1940s and 1950s, and lots and lots of smaller ‘practice’ works. Women’s faces and figures, hairstyles, hands, gloves, shoes, house dresses, evening gowns, aprons, underwear, handbags, beach scenes, scenes with children and babies, neatly sketched bottles advertising the benefits of face lotion and powder, ladies’ fashion patterns, advertising for ‘floral seer sucker frocks’ and ‘toddler straw bonnets’. Full page drawings enticing the women of the time to buy dresses in ‘linens, to take you through the summer in cool, crisp perfection’ and beautiful evening gowns which were ’emblazoned with the royal signature to put you in the mood for the festivities of coronation year’.

Did I mention I love my job? I spent many happy hours photographing the vast array of sheets of lose papers of all kinds with overall very little damage. Mostly, the sheets have yellowed with age and there’s always the odd specks and stains. And odd paper sizes. The most damage consisted of creases and folds and bent pages.

My brief was to digitize, not only for safekeeping and convenience of sharing the images with family abroad, but also to enable the client to use some of her late mother’s works to create anything from wallpaper to pillow covers to greeting cards.

For privacy reasons I cannot show you too much of this collection, but I have put together some links for you to have a peek at. They should give you a great idea of the beauty I had before my eyes that day πŸ™‚

Fashion illustration from the 1930s, the 1940s and the 1950s.

As I mentioned the most damage was creases and bent pages. I show you a few examples of what I mean:

DigitalIroning

DigitalIroning2

I call it digital ironing. It may seem like a quick fix and move on, but it’s not. And being me, there’s a lot of fine tuning and coming back to the same work several times because I may have overlooked something. And there’s always the danger to ‘overdo it’ in Photoshop, especially in this job, where the brief was to maintain the original character of the work, so I tried hard to get each image as close to what it would have looked like on the day it was created.

DigitalIroning3

But yes, creases = digital ironing, you get the picture πŸ˜‰

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


For the Love of Beer

Digital restorations of old photographs can be tricky. Some can be outright nightmarish. The more one zooms into the image, the more damage becomes visible. Somehow it becomes quite obsessive to fix ‘everything’ and I have had nights where I’ve been dreaming in pixels after a long session at the computer during the day.

In this beer advertising from the 1950s, the very pretty model with the very elegant hands holds this for today’s standards very unbeer-ish glass in the air, a bit like a chalice. It’s a fine piece of photography, but the 8×10″ print has suffered over time.

Resto

As always, my main goal is to get the digital restoration as close to what the image would have looked like on the day it was printed as possible. There’s a fine line in overdoing it.

In the original, the only things in sharp focus are the hands and the glass, the bottle was deliberately left slightly blurry, and the face of the model was totally out of focus. I did not change that, but made sure I worked very neatly on the hands and glass, which are the main focus.

In the close-ups you can see the damage, the scratches, all the little spots and specks, that needed to go.

Restob

And the fingerprint. It always makes my heart skip a beat, when I find fingerprints on photos. Yes, paper and inks back then were different, but please, please, please don’t ever handle photos, old or new, it doesn’t matter, unless you hands are clean and dry, and hold by the edges only. The white glove thing is a myth, I have attached a link to that here, if you’re interested in reading up on that.

And I have done some research on the beer, which is a fine brew from the Swan Brewery in Perth. You can purchase this very label for a reasonable amount on e-bay, if that takes your fancy.

Love the history part of old photos πŸ™‚

 


Old Fashioned ?

During the January summer holidays I had finally tackled the long overdue clean-up of my studio. New props and backgrounds meant I was running out of space. Oh, the things I ‘found’.
If ever you see a person rummaging through the ‘sales’ box at the craft and art shop, that’ll be me. So many ideas and things to do and create! The kids and I have done lots of little and bigger projects over the years, but there was a backlog. There’s one thing I never run out, and that’s ideas.
As I had run out of space though, these ideas had to be put into action presto, to get some of the boxes empty and ready to take on new and different goodies.
Years and years ago I found this DIY Clock Set in said ‘sales’ box at the craft shop. I have a thing for clocks, and finally, I found a nice use for it.
I measured the wooden clock face and used Photoshop to create the background by incorporating the originals of some of my favourite digital restorations.
Once printed on normal A4 paper, I cut out the circle shape and glued it on the wooden clock face using ModPodge. Once it had dried, I used a paint sponge and gave it several thin layers of ModPodge, letting each dry completely before applying the next. Last was a thin layer of acrylic sealer, just to give it a bit of shine not too much, I’m not a huge fan of the big gloss.
Then the clock motor was put in (it runs on battery) and that was that. It sits on the sideboard in my office now and I like checking the time on this one much more than on my laptop or my phone. Call me old fashioned πŸ™‚

RestorationClock


The Status Quo

A class photo. All girls around the age of 8-10 years old, dressed for their Holy Communion. Very serious faces, they probably would have gotten into trouble for smiling, let alone laughing out loud, on what would have been an important religious ceremony in their family and community. And you just didn’t smile in photos at that time altogether anyway.

ClassPhoto1

There was not a lot of damage, a few odd specks and splatters and it was hard to tell what were specks and splatters and not part of the cobblestone or the wooden gate. I guess as long as it’s only ‘the background’ it can be at the discretion of the restoratorΒ  πŸ™‚

Some minor discolourations from moisture which gave a yellow and blueish tint to some areas. Only minor fine cracking which was only visible once zooming in.

ClassPhoto3

I cleaned up the odd specks and fixed the discolourations. I chose to leave some cracks in the outside white frame of the photo. The aim of digital restoration is, as always, to better the status quo of an original image and create a copy that can be handled, looked at and touched, without changing the fact that it’s original exists in time and suffered from its passing.

ClassPhoto2


Size Matters

1950s? photo, tram in street setting, male figure in foreground

At first you wouldn’t know how tiny it is.

Only the comparison to my camera lens cap reveals it. Why did they make photos so small in the olden days. A logic explanation would be: small paper, less cost for paper, less cost for development, less time …. I tried to find out the facts about this, but I couldn’t get a lead. If you happen to know please fill me in πŸ™‚

TramSize

These tiny photos pose various problems:

One, they are small to scan, small to work on and small to fix, plus there is a danger of loss of detail if I make them larger.

Two, apart from the obvious rips and scratches, it’s very hard to see any damage with the naked eye. The tilting-test shows fingerprints and odd marks but any other damage can only be seen once the photo is in my computer and I can zoom in on it.

Third, apart from the odd outcome when I get the restorated photo printed in the normal sizes of today, these ‘odd’ sizes don’t fit properly into any slip-in albums we can purchase today either, most slip-in pockets are 4×6″, so poor little photos like these fall about and only stay put if its diligent owner attaches it to a 4×6″ piece of scrap-booking paper.

Anyway, there was not much damage in this photo from the 1950s, at least not visible to the naked eye. I fixed some specks and scratches and the fingerprints, then I lightened the shadows just a bit, made the gentleman’s black pants, black trimmings on his jacket and his cap a bit darker, so they stand out, sharpened it all slightly and voila …. πŸ™‚

Before-After Comparison of digital restoration


The Texta Devil

This example shows that photos don’t necessarily have to be really, really old to have something terrible happen to them.

The original photo is from the mid 1970s and it had some creative artwork added to it with a blue texta.

When Mum discovered the culprit in the act she tried to wipe the texta marks off – which didn’t work and just got a lot of fluff stuck on the photo.

Luckily, Mum found me at one of the recent markets that I attended.

The blue texta was removed, all scratches and fluff as well. I turned the image black & white to get rid of the age-tint, but I warmed it up with just a little sepia. Overall despeckled and details sharpenend.

A beautiful memory, soured by this texta devil, has been restored in a good wayΒ  πŸ™‚

img028x


Action Plan – Three – Storage and Cleaning

Action Plan – Three – Storage and Cleaning

Remember when I said: ‘Photographs will fade, no matter what you do. Paper will deteriorate, no matter what you do.’ But you can slow down the process by avoiding their exposure to heat, light, humidity and pollution.

Only way to do this is by storing them properly. Firstly, consider the place:

  • Areas with high risk of leaks should be avoided: this includes walk-in-robes or any cupboards which have a shower or laundry on the other side of their back wall. This also includes any roof space (attic) or areas under the house (basement, cellar, garage), as roofs can leak and cellars can flood in heavy rain.
  • Areas that get very hot and humid, followed by cold, dry temperatures should be avoided: again, this largely means any roof space and under the house.
  • Avoid areas around fireplaces, heaters, dryers etc.
  • A good rule of thumb is storing precious photographs and documents where you are also comfortable, not too hot, cold, wet or dry: usually the living-room, the bedroom or even the home office.

Secondly, think about what to use to store everything: There are many good and save options for storing photographs and documents, depending entirely on your personal preference and your budget.

  • Archival boxes: Boxes can be out of metal, cardboard (lignin free, acid free, un-buffered cardboard) or plastic (Polyester, Mylar, Polypropylene, Polyethylene or Tyvek plastic, but not PVC, which is the plastic with the strong smell, so a box from the Dollar Shop won’t do).
  • Albums: They are the most popular storage medium for photographs. Simple acid-free and magnetic-free slip-in albums are a great option to both keep your photos save and be able to look at them without directly touching them. Again, make sure you choose an album made of Polyester, Mylar, Polypropylene, Polyethylene or Tyvek plastic, but not PVC. Archival storage albums are more expensive than conventional albums, but they can well be worth the investment. They are available at most archival suppliers (and here), some office supply stores and good quality scrap booking places.
  • Envelopes: good quality acid-free, high alpha-cellulose papers that are buffered against changes in pH have proven to be most satisfactory for enclosing photographs and documents. Avoid envelopes with the seam down the center and make sure the glue of the lip does not touch the photo, ideally, just cut the lip off.

Cleaning

Now it’s time to look at the state of your photographs and documents. It is certainly not necessary and not really the idea to make an old document look absolutely new and pristine, however, gentle surface cleaning sometimes improves the overall appearance, and it can also remove substances that could eventually cause damage to the paper or be transferred to other papers during handling.

Just to clarify at this point: When I talk about ‘documents’ I am referring to manuscripts, letters, maps. This does not include newspapers, books of any type or fine art prints, drawings or paintings. I have no expertise in any of those, and I would not consider them for any type of DIY surface cleaning. If you need advice on that, please consult a professional conservator.

Tools for Surface Cleaning

Brush: a clean, soft brush is great for giving dusty photographs or documents a gentle wipe over. The brush used for surface cleaning should not be used for anything else. If a brush was used on mouldy material it should be labelled and kept separate and not used for anything else. Never use the brush wet.

Scalpel: a scalpel with a pointed tip or a craft knife are excellent for picking off little insects or insect excretions as well as rust deposits, as they would be left by rusted paper clips. These rusty stains are not only ugly but could also be an ongoing source of damage to the paper. It is a good idea to very carefully remove them. Needless to say to be very, very, very gentle when using a scalpel on a photograph, you don’t want to scratch the surface.

Erasers: good quality erasers can do wonders. Best would be a non-coloured one, these are available as solid blocks and in kneadable form. These kinds are used for art purposes and are available in good art stores. Ask a shop assistant for help if you’re not sure, as there are many types. With erasers it is important to use them very gently only and make sure to not leave any residues. Again, be very careful with photographs. Generally, I avoid using an eraser on the photo itself, but I have used them on the white frames around old photographs and on their backs to remove some dirt and pencil writing.

Sticky tapes and any sort of glue are a nightmare. Sticky tape can stick things together that are not meant to stick. Old sticky tape falls off but leaves ugly marks and the residue keeps eating away on the materials underneath. Use the scalpel or craft knife to cut away sticky tape that is already loose. Other than that there is not much you can do, resist the urge to scratch it off! Learn the lesson and never, ever use sticky tapes or glue on your documents or photos!

Mildly mouldy documents or photographs definitely need a surface clean. Mould goes dormant in low humidity, so don’t attempt this in sticky Australian summer months when humidity is high: use gloves and a particle mask (from the hardware store), separate all items and spread them out in a well ventilated room, away from children and pets, and let them dry. Mould is dry when not smeary or smelly. Brush off the mould with a separate dry brush, don’t forget to wear your mask. Dealing with mould is a delicate process and requires careful work hygiene to avoid contamination. If you decide you have too many items that are mouldy, consider digitizing them as they are, and then disposing of them altogether. If you are going ahead with the process of cleaning them, remember to check back on them regularly, as mould is often dormant, but not dead, and can bloom again in high humidity. At all times, keep them separate from your non-infected documents and photographs.

This is a big subject, I hope I didn’t scare you too much πŸ˜‰Β Β  Next one will be more fun, I promise.

Coming soon: Action Plan – Four – Digitizing and Labelling

Read the first two posts about Action Plan here and here.

ActionPlanThree

 


I am no Michelangelo

Just finished this digital restoration the other day.

Obviously the original had a few issues, the biggest problem the missing arm of the subject. Then some water damage, the most visible being the stain on the ladies forehead. And a few little rips and scratches.

I was intrigued by the photo because of the blouse, I keep saying that patterned clothing in restorations will be the death of me one day πŸ˜‰ – they can be very tedious, but I never had stripes. I also loved the intricate stitching on the neck. I wanted to bring that detail out a bit more.

First I fixed the little rips and scratches. Then I fixed the arm. When I say ‘fixed’, really, I re-painted it digitally – awww the things you can do in Photoshop …Β  It took a bit of tweaking, to get the folds of the fabric right, I actually hang a shirt of my husband and arranged the arm in such a way that I could see the folds. I am no Michelangelo, he was a true genius with the folds of clothing, but I am happy how it turned out.

Then I took care of all the water stains. I then turned the image black&white, but gave it a bit of sepia, to keep the warmth. I spent a lot of time cleaning up little pixellation specks on the face, and then sharpening the eyes, the hair, the white lines on the blouse and especially the neck piece. I decided to not work much more on the background, to keep it, well, in the background.

Lastly, I gave the image a slight vignette, to darken the edges and draw the eye on the face. What do you think?

MaggieTwo

 


Action Plan – Two – Handling and Sorting

The last post explained how to assess the collection of old photos and documents that somehow ended up in your possession. In this post I will get into details on how to handle your old photos and documents. Most are common sense, but some might surprise you.

  • Have a clean area to work in, ideally near a large window, for light. Don’t sit in the sun and don’t turn on any artificial light. Generally avoid exposing the items to light as much as you can, so if you intend to work on them today, do it, and then tidy them up again. Don’t leave them lying around for days on end.
  • No food or drink anywhere near your working area, please.
  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling any items, and many times in-between (to be using cotton gloves is a bit of a myth it turns out, for which I am glad, because it’s really hard to sort through anything paper while wearing them: ‘Misconceptions about White Gloves‘).
  • Carefully flatten folded photos and documents. There are ways to separate them if they are sticking together. I have read about them, but I’ve never had to use them. ‘How to Flatten Folded or Rolled Paper Documents‘.
  • Hold at the edges only.
  • Remove staples, paper clips, rubber bands, sticky envelopes.
  • If you must write on your items, do so with a light pencil only, don’t press down too hard. Write legible, someone might have to pick up the work after you, don’t make their job harder because they cannot read your notes.
  • Use plastic sleeves when documents are too brittle to be handled without support. They should be enclosed but not encapsulated.
  • Never laminate papers or photographs.
  • Do not use glues or sticky tape to mend ripped items.

When sorting larger amounts of photographs, I find that initially spreading them out on our very large dinner table is the best way to go. Then I might sort them by occasion (wedding), chronologically or even by amount of deterioration eg. all undamaged photos first, then gradually getting worse.

In this initial sorting stage you could just keep everything in large acid free envelopes (cut off the sticky bit, glues and papers don’t mix). Or you could already look into where you will put everything as a long-term storage solution: acid free folders and boxes, and chemically stable plastics. This is a big subject, and I will get into this more in the next post.

I have a couple of high quality archival boxes which fit A4 sizes. With acid free cardboard separators and lots of acid free paper in-between I can easily keep photos and documents sorted, labeled, and separate from each other. It helps to have things orderly, because it will likely be impossible to do everything you want to do with them in one week. I tend to keep photographs and documents separately.

For this task not to get too tedious and frustrating, set yourself achievable goals. Finish one step at a time and don’t be afraid to walk away from it all for a couple of weeks.

Once everything is sorted to your satisfaction, and you found a way to tidy items up properly and store them safely, it’s time for the next assessment: which of them and to what degree do they need a surface clean?