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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Preserving photos


Nepper

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Any suggestions for preserving old photos?  As you can see the attached image is getting into quite a poor condition and I'm wondering how best to arrest this process.

 

For anyone interested it's the band of 2nd Battalion North Staffs and dates from somewhere between 1911 and 1917.  I haven't been able to id any of the officers in the picture.

NSRegt band.jpg

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 Good quality digital scanning.  Colour balance adjustment means that faded photographs  can be revivified. There are techniques to digitally iron out  creases and tears- beyond me (O Level Physics-just).  It will be a growing problem- photographs are a chemical solution and chemicals react and alter over time.

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Archivists at two locations have discouraged me from scanning, or rather forbidden it. They permitted photographs, without flash.

 

Keith

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2 minutes ago, keithmroberts said:

Archivists at two locations have discouraged me from scanning, or rather forbidden it. They permitted photographs, without flash.

 

Keith

 

   Modern archive rules.  Generally, the long-term effects of extra  light  from scanning/photocopying/flash photography mean that archivists ban pics. A blanket policy-  covers especially the effects of light on acid wood-pulp papers (That copy of the Portsmouth Evening Argus left in the sunshine-yellowed)   A one-off scan- or,indeed, modern digital photograph for a privately photograph  held  should be  OK- a scanner is  really just a digital camera upside-down.  It's a  judgement call for a private individual- a light-free(-ish) new pic. or further damage to the old from handling.  It is that judgment call that was a major boost for JSTOR-  not only that large pamphlet collections tended not to overlap but also the wear and tear on the originals- damage saved and wider audiences through bunging the digitised versions round the electronic galaxy.  Archives are generally guarding against repeat  copying of the same items. Without the capacity for making digitised copies, much of what we do research from would not be there. (BL has just told me that it will start digitising  newspapers held as "Not To Be Produced" as the original will ineveitably degenerate to  bits whatever happens- it cannot wait for BNA to get it's act together)

 

         To me, the most important thing with any old photographs is to mark who it is on the back in pencil- while those who know are still alive. It is a sad fact that Ebygum and other sites show that there are ,photographically speaking, more "Unknown British Soldiers" due to the anonymity of not writing on the back than there are with CWGC. A great pity.  Perhaps a national "Sort Those Pics Out" week  would be beneficial?

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Try this..............Changed the brightness and contrast, got rid of a few creases..........

 

 

 

Band.jpg

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I couldn't agree more with the comment about pencil notations. I have a number of early  family photographs, taken long before my birth that are almost impossible to identify. Anyone who knew is long dead, and only by trying to match up the few identified ones can I achieve identification in a few cases.

 

I agree re scanning.  The principle makes sense, but sometimes conditions for photography without flash are very difficult.

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15 minutes ago, Medaler said:

Try this..............Changed the brightness and contrast, got rid of a few creases..........

 

 

 

Band.jpg

 

      Bingo- a good example of what can be done- brings back much of the detail if the fading effects of the passage of time can be overcome.  Of course, "best pixel" available is a good rule- the more a digital pic. can be enlarged with good resolution, then the more that can be got out of it.

    I bought recently a real photographic  card of a battalion of KRRC- interesting as a "postcard"-but when digitised to a high resolution, then the  value of the original "glass plate" photograph comes into play- every face really stands out and could be identified individually.  

      A small factor that is often overlooked-   many plate-glass photographs are actually better to use as scans-as they are  capable of magnification and yet still have the fine detail.

     Now-get that pencil out and mark the back of the pic.- including any scan print-outs!!

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53 minutes ago, keithmroberts said:

, but sometimes conditions for photography without flash are very difficult.

Not for me it isn't, I made a stand for my camera with feet that will span an A4 page.

Place the picture on a flat surface in front of a South facing window, preferably on a

 cloudy day, and start firing, done all our local newspapers from Aug 1914 to Dec 1918,

nearly 4000 newspaper photo's on file, and loads of pictures people have lent me, the

picture owners have been delighted with a copy of them when I've tarted them up.

Also it is possible to use flash without causing any real damage, I have a small piece of

folded paper in the camera case, it fits over the flash, and diffuses the light so it won't

burn the picture, but gives enough illumination to capture a good image.

Any things possible if you put your mind to it

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If you decide to go for professional conservation, it might be worth asking the local Record Office who looks after their photographs for them.

 

Failing that, there's at least one photograph restorer on this list (I've used her, but she's in Kent). They won't be cheap, but they will spend a lot of time and skill doing the work.

http://www.conservationregister.com

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11 hours ago, voltaire60 said:

a scanner is  really just a digital camera upside-down. 

Ultimately the way the image is captured in terms of the sensor, but the problem with a scanner can also be the contact with the glass plate, particularly if the photo is in poor condition which could leads to parts of photo adhering to the glass when you try to take it back off the scanner.  I've not tried it for this application, but at home we have an anglepoise lamp that uses LEDs for the actual illumination. Setting that up to light from the side would probably work quite effectively (and with less risk of capturing reflected light off the photo) and is also a relatively (thermally) cold lightsource which should also help reduce any further damage while you're doing it, though they do produce some UV light, but the elngth of exposure you'd need for a photo I doubt that would be too problematic.  With a camera it's also harder to capture at a specific resolution as you essentially have to work out the appropriate distance from which to shoot to get a specific PPI.

 

If yo do go for the touch up route, always keep an unaltered master, or use RAW which always allows reverting to the original shot settings.

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DU- Thanks for the post, which I found most informative. Personally, I have not heard the reason of adherence to the glass of the scanner as a potential hazard. It does beg the question of how one stores a damaged photograph properly anyway.- ie If it might stick to the plate of a scanner, then it might stick to  anything else as well- such as an "archive" quality plastic sleeve.

    At a pure guess (this is in your professional world)- Some scanners for archive work, therefore must come with either a modified type of glass-either the glass itself  or some coating on it-rather like the different coatings on camera lenses. I'm guessing that there are scanners in your world which have glass that cuts out some of the more damaging types from the spectrum, or coatings that do the same. I must admit that "non-stick" glass is a new one!!

    

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For what it is worth I have scanned hundreds of World War 1 era photographs without any adverse effects. 

 

The main reasons being;

 

I can “blow up” the images and see them in greater detail

I can then store the original and reduce any “handling”

I have been told that eventually the images will deteriorate completely so I will have retained the original in some form. 

I have improved/repaired some damaged photographs which I didn’t find easy but that is down to me. 

 

Regards

Derekb

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Provided the photos are in reasonably good nick, they're unlikely to come to any harm (though there's always some risk).  However if the layer that actually "contains" the image is damaged it can get sticky.  This photo for example was fire damaged:

3721628304_415b3a1013_b.jpgEnlargement of fire damaged photo of peal board marking first local band peal by David Underdown, on Flickr

It does indeed tend to stick to the folder it's kept in (fortunately another copy of the print has come to light).

 

Archives tend to prefer not to touch the surface of things like that, and flatbed scanners aren't used that much.  Either a camera based system will be used, or something like this https://www.zeutschel.de/en/produkte/scanner/farbscanner/os-16000-comfort.html where there is no actual contact between the scanner head and the object being scanned - you just see a beam of light passing over the object.  When scanning bound material which can't be opened flat these can be used with a v shaped glass or perspex piece that gently flattens the page to help get a good image, but conservators may rule that out for particular objects depending on their condition.

 

Conservators prefer to reduce the risk of damage as much as possible, they know they're the ones who will end up spending hour upon hour doing repairs otherwise, see the last couple of posts on The National Archives blog for the type of work they can do http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/bringing-two-19th-century-rail-plans-back-track/ and http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/preparing-highly-fragmented-book-digitisation/

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17 hours ago, Medaler said:

Try this..............Changed the brightness and contrast, got rid of a few creases..........

 

 

 

Band.jpg

Very nice.  I think it'll be a case of rigging the camera to get a good shot and processing the RAW image

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Nepper,

 

Glad you approve. I use free software called GIMP, and this actually only took me about 10 minutes. I did chicken out with the top right hand corner, though it may be possible to do something with it. I will admit that I only did a "quick job" to show you something of what is possible.

 

The advice I would give is to get the clearest sharpest photo of the original that you can, and at the highest resolution possible. You can actually manipulate individual pixels with GIMP, though I didn't do that here. The erasure of the creases is simply a process of copying adjacent good bits and pasting them over the bad bits.

 

Altering the tones is easy enough. Copy the image you take into greyscale (make that the first thing you do) and then decrease the brightness and increase the contrast. There is an amount of trial and error in it, and its all very subjective, but It is actually great fun to do.

 

Warmest regards,

Mike

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