Dunedin Family History Group

Otago and Southland related research

Storing, Restoring & Reproducing

From the November Meeting

A huge turnout of members heard guest speaker Matthew Bray speak on photo restoration and reproduction. Matthew is one of the managers at the Cumberland Street branch of The Warehouse Stationery.

Matthew began by explaining the definitions of restoration of photographs and digitising photographs –
Restoration Definition

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Photo restoration is the practice of restoring a photograph which has been damaged by natural, manmade, or environmental causes or simply affected by age or neglect.
Digital Photo Definition
Digital photography uses electronic photo detectors to capture the image then digitizing and storing as a computer file ready for digital processing, viewing, digital publishing editing or printing.

Matthew explained that by restoration and digitising photographs you are preserving an important part of your family history to continue on the memory for the next generation. If left un-restored the negative or picture could end up un-restorable and future generations won’t have that vital visual link to their past.
Causes Of Deterioration
Environmental factors such as temperature, humidity and sunlight affect photographs more than any other factor. Cyclic conditions (high heat and humidity followed by cold, dry weather such as you would find in an attic or basement) are especially bad for photos and may cause cracking and separation of the image from the paper. Dirt, dust and oil are also big culprits of photographic deterioration.
Damage’s To Photographs which you may not have considered –
• Most glues contain substances such as sulphur and acids which will cause your photos to deteriorate.
• Do not use rubber bands or paper clips to hold photos together. Rubber bands contain sulphur. Paper clips can scratch the surface of your photos or negatives.
• The worst place to store your photographs is in an un-insulated attic or basement. Constant high temperatures and humidity in the summer and low temperatures and humidity in the winter can cause your photographs to become brittle and crack.
• Dampness can cause photographs to stick together.
• Insects and rodents like to feed on photos.
Do not display important photos in your home. The glass can stick to the emulsion over time. Sunlight will cause your photo to fade. If you want to display a precious photo, then have a copy made and display the copy!
Regular envelopes, zip-lock bags and other things commonly used for photo storage aren’t always safe for your photos.
Do not write on the back of your photos with standard ball-point or felt-tip ink pens. Unless it is marked specifically for use on photos, most ink contains acids which will eat away at and stain your photos over time. If you must mark a photo and don’t have an acid-free photo marking pen available, then write lightly with a soft lead pencil on the back of the image.
Matthew then showed samples of photo-safe glues and tapes which are for sale at The Warehouse Stationery. They are also available in the archival section of your favourite photo or craft store.

Restoration
It all starts with a SCANNER – This step is critical, since it ultimately determines your restoration’s potential. Needless to say, try and use the best scanning equipment and software at your disposal. Everything else being equal, flatbed scanners usually provide much higher quality than similar sheet fed scanners.
Scanner Process
Resolution – In general, use a dot per inch (DPI) resolution of at least 400-600 DPI for prints, The chosen scanning resolution will depend on the sharpness and focus of the original images. Try experimenting with different settings so that you can see what the image looks like on-screen.
Precision – Scan at the highest bit depth possible: 16-bits per channel or 48-bits in total colour depth, if available. This way your digital original can withstand more retouching before it begins to show signs of degradation.
File Type – Save the scan as a TIFF I JPEG file to maximize detail preservation.
Colour vs. B&W – Saving black and white photos as grayscale image files can preserve disk space, but this isn’t the only consideration. A colour scan can sometimes make the restoration process easier – even for a black and white image – since colour makes it easier to identify and remove stains which aren’t native to the photo.
Photo restorations require many interpretive decisions, so careful judgment is a critical aspect of the restoration process. Before you even touch the photo, ask yourself: what do you hope to accomplish, and which aspects are of highest priority to improve? Do your restorations maintain the original mood of the photo?
So how can you break out of that rut and get your photos off that hard drive and out into the world? If it helps, think of those digital images you’re storing by the thousands as the modern equivalent of the film negative, and think of your hard drive as an old shoebox. Back in the golden days of film photography, you would never just develop your negatives alone and then toss them in a shoebox. You would have them printed, you would put them in an album, and if they were particularly good you would have them enlarged and framed so you could display them in your home. Which is, of course, exactly what you should be doing with your digital photos.
Photo Kiosk Machines allow you to select the pictures by using data storage devices and printing your images.
Share – Share your photographs with other family members. Modern technology allows easy sharing via Facebook, Pinterest, Flickr etc. (Copyright is a consideration and this is the topic of the DFHG ‘s February meeting).