Tag Archives: Restoration

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.


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.


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 🙂



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?

Guessing the View

For a change this restoration was without any faces. This is a postcard from the early 1950s.

On its back we have neat handwriting in blue ink and the postal stamp. At some stage the postcard must have served as a coaster, because there is a clear rim of a wet glass or mug.

Not being a photo per say, but a postcard, the paper was thicker, and the print was different. That might well have saved it from total deterioration.

Nonetheless there is quite a bit of mould going on, some scratches, blue ink splotches and the usual fading and change in colour.

As it’s probably hard to see on the big Before and After image, I included some detail images. They show what I tend to find only once I zoom in, and how fiddly this work can be. Sometimes it is hard to fix something 100%, like on the lampshade in the top image. I cloned as much as I could but without a pattern to copy from somewhere I had to get somewhat artistic with it. I copied the right, undamaged side of the lampshade, and flipped it, and used that as a guide for the strongly damaged left side of the lampshade.

Same with the window detail at the very bottom. Impossible to see what is mould and what is leaves and greenery outside of the room. So I was guessing the view  🙂



Bride & Groom 2

One more time the same couple. This photo also had been displayed in a frame for a long time. Apart from the discolouration due to exposure to direct sunlight, the glass panel of the frame must have not been smooth but had a bumpy sort of pattern, because this bumpy sort of pattern got imprinted onto the photo as well. Big sigh!

The pattern gave me real grief! To get rid of that and fix up the colours I worked separately on everything: faces, flowers, dress, suit, background. Quite time consuming, and there are things that just cannot be rushed!

After a lot of TLC this is the result.

Please remember to use not your precious original photos for display! Keep them in a safe place and use a copy only.

https://www.facebook.com/azpictured                  http://azpictured.com.au



Bride & Groom


This 40 year old wedding photo had spent considerable time in a frame. The part of the photo that was exposed to light turned slightly yellow. The part that was hidden under the frame kept its original colours much better. You can see the change in colour best on the grooms arm.

A very good photo, I might add. Perfect lighting, whoever the photographer was, this was a job very well done.

As the original came to me already scanned, as usual there was a lot of dust, especially visible on the grooms blue suit. By now you’ll know that I’m good at dusting in Photoshop 😉

To fix the colours was quite a bit of work, as the skin hues of the bride and the groom are naturally very different. I had to work on them separately and it took some tweaking till I was happy.Now it’s all brought back to its former glory. I hope the original stays safely in an album this time, and only a copy is being displayed.


Good as New

This restoration might just have come in the nick of time.

Mold was present, the photo had water damage, and started to turn yellow altogether .

I fixed the big scratch, all the water blotches, the mold, worked on colour and contrast, and voila …

Pretty little girl on a special day. Taken in the late 1930s. Ready to last another 80 years  🙂


Keep all special thoughts and memores for lifetimes to come

Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future. Mattie Stepanek

I always likes this quote. I first heard of Mattie Stepanek when he was on the Oprah show so many years ago. What an extraordinary young man. So much wisdom and so much grace. His words and thoughts have been an inspiration and have given hope to many people. I know they did for me.

I like keeping important and inspiring quotes in my small collection, to be read when in need of some extra wisdom and guidance. The other thing that gives me, I guess ‘grounding’ is a good word, is photos. I love looking through the old photos of my family. Comparing noses and hair lines. Dimples. Earlobes. Reliving Memories. Memories of people. Memories of places. Of smells. Of occasions. Of sounds. Of words that were said. Of jokes that were made.

As it is with photos, no matter how old: they will be affected by time, in one way or another. No matter how well they are kept, eventually they will fade, they will crack. Sometimes they exchanged hands and moved places so many times that they are ripped and teared and battered and bruised. How do we keep the memories alive when the keepsakes fail us?

Having worked in aged care, and seeing first hand in relatives how age affects the minds of so many, time and time again it was thanks to photos that a conversation could take place. That memories could be shared. That blank spots in the family tree could be filled. Because photos do trigger our brain in a certain way. And suddenly something we haven’t thought about in years comes straight back to us. Like it was yesterday.

With such an important job, photos do deserve to be taken care of. And to be preserved for the future. You see, I am quite passionate about his. This is why I love this part of my job. I give old photos back their life. To inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.

This photo was taken in 1914 in Pennsylvania.


Rowboat Ripples

Another Restoration. Pretty straight forward:  Fix all the visible cracks and rips as well as the faded colour.

This photograph was taken in 1940 or 1941 in Pennsylvania. It shows a happy moment in time, seems to have no cares, but only smiles and summer joy.

To fix the visible cracks and rips was easy, but once I zoomed in there was a lot more going on, especially in the shadows of the photo. I took great care to fix the boat and the water in the foreground. There was also a lot of damage in the trees in the background, where the dye started separating from the paper.

It was not a crystal clear scan, so I chose to use some adjustment layers to bring in a bit more clarity, especially in the faces. I opted for a Black and White image with just a hint of sepia, but not too strong.


On that note …

On that note ...

The motorbike in the restoration I have previously written about has caused quite a stir. Knowing nothing of motorbikes myself, I did some digging and I have found out that BIANCHI was founded in Italy in 1885. From 1900 till 1939 they produced cars and commercial vehicles under the name Autobianchi, but that business was sold to Fiat. From 1897 to 1967 they built motorbikes, and today Bianchi is consedered the world’s oldest bicycle-making company still in existence. There you go.



This was a restoration I did a while ago. This photo was taken in 1939 in the beautiful town of Gioia del Colle in the province of Bari, Apuglia, Italy, famous for its wine and mozzarella. The image was badly ripped and scratched and had a lot of red stains, which I’m hoping were wine stains 🙂 A lot of careful use of the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush Tool was needed to give these young ladies some TLC.