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Preserving And Restoring Old Photos Within Photo Shop

The photos above are of my grand mother, Juana de la Paz Maldonado y Ortiz the original was taken when she was a very young adult. The photo was taken in the early 1900's. The photograph was taken in down town Salinas, Puerto Rico or in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The photographer must have been mid range because he didn't water mark his work. The image records the moment and the photographer set the ambience - background, by adding it later during the stage of creating the orininal negative. Mind you all that was done manually back in those days.

I've included an image of the type of camera that might have been used to take the above photo. One inserted a plate, on which the image would be taken. The flash mechanism was a simple one, gun powder, called, Flash Powder back then. The camera essentially was a bigger version of the old box cameras. The lens was the working end of it that was an important factor in capturing the image. One focused the camera by moving the accordion that was set upon a roller mechanism. My sister still has the old box camera my mother used back in the 1920's and 30's. Its a sturdy little thing. Too bad they don't make the film anymore.

In the first photo you can see how time has wrought its damage. The emulsion has cracked and chipped in places and the values have faded. The spots on the image were imbedded within the emulsion of the photograph and I suspect they came about over time as the emulsion degraded.

The first step in the process is to take a photograph of the original image. I was careful to manually set my Sony Cyber Shot to take in the ambient light instead of shining a light upon the image. I also made sure the flash was off. This avoids hazes or unwanted external lighting ruining the shot. I also set the camera up on a tripod to getting my own reflection into the shot. That error often happens when photos are glossy. (I also haven't forgotten to set the camera on macro).

The next atep was easy. Uploading the image into Photo Shop. My version is 7.0 so take into consideration that I am working within an outdated programme.

Instead of jumping right in to the task of doing the work I sit there for a long time studying the image taking in the values and hues and the intricate details. My brain registers what needs to be done and how to go about it.

I then begin the work of restoring the image from the center out. While working I am essentially copy and pasting hues and values to the areas that have been ruined pasting and copying from areas that are in better condition.

I am working with what is called the clone stamp tool. One can adjust the size of the brush within the tool preferences. I work steadily and consistently and I make sure I take lots of breaks in between the work to give my eyes a rest. What is also important is to zoom in on areas that need a lot of detail like the face, hair and eyes and the flowers in the foreground and background.

I often stop to take in more specific details like how the fence is structured and how it is shadowed. The rattan chair was a difficult process because so much of that part of the image was ruined by the cracked emulsion.

When the work has finally been completed to a reasonable point I decide if I want to restore the photo more or leave it at the stage it has gotten to. I often like to leave some of that wear and tear look to convey that its an old image.

When I am ready to finish the work i convert the mode from Sepia to Black and White.

last month I restored over 50 photos that my sister had been keeping in an old album.

The next step is an important one that is part of the preservation process. Downloading the images onto a DVD disk to create a slide show of the restored images. I have also created a slideshow online using Image Loop and have uploaded the slideshow into Face Book to share with other family members. I have also uploaded the images into my family tree online within my Tribal Pages genealogy Web Page. Those restored photos will be around for another hundred years long after I am gone.

Later on I plan to download the images onto DVD disk to give to family members at X Mas.
They will be something to cherish and pass onto my neices and nephews.

Preserving the family history via images speaks to people more than a complex family tree.

Copyright 2009, John Ayes. All Rights Reserved. National And International.

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Tags: Adobe, Ayesart, PhotoShop, Restoration, and, black, mode, old, photos, sepia, More…white


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Comment by Carrie Johnson on May 25, 2009 at 5:28am
Good discussion John. You may want to note though that the original photo will probably outlast the DVD... recopy the DVDs regularly (every few years), NEVER write on them with a Sharpie or other pen except those made for writing on DVDs (Sharpie does make one especially for this) -- the library of congress found this out the hard way... and, if you really want a legacy, print of hard it printed on acid free paper and archival inks... and this point no electronic media has the life of good old paper and ink...

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