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The Virtual Vintage Image
  The Virtual Vintage Image

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Tour the Digital Darkroom



Case 1 - A Civil War Era Tintype

Includes: Masks, Brightness and Contrast, Color correction, Cloning, Sharpening, and Composite Images



Case 2 - Color Photo

Includes: Blurring, Color balance, Brightness, Saturation, and Cropping



Case 3 - Albumen Print/Getting images in the computer

Includes: Flatbed scanners, Copy stands, Slide Scanners, Color balancing, Editing the image



Case 4 - Notes on Scanning (brief)

Getting the best scans out of your flatbed scanner.



Case 5 - Clone your Ancestors! (brief)

Using cloning to repair image damage.



Case 6 - Red Eye Reduction (brief)

How to get rid of those annoying red eyes in your family photos



Case 7 - Scanning Resolution

Can't figure out what to set your scanner for?  Have we got the (re)solution for you!


Useful Links

Digital Restoration of Images from Vintage Photos

Last Updated: 2/10/03

Update: Well, you haven't seen anything new here for a while, but we're working on some major changes in the background.  We have also gotten our own photography site up; check it out at Hankins-Lawrence Images.  We're also getting set up to do a monthly newsletter, so keep an eye out for more news on this coming soon.  If you would like to receive our newsletter, please send an e-mail to [email protected]  (If you don't use this link, please put "Subscribe" in the subject header).  We're also going to do some site reorganization.


Why a site on digital restoration of images from vintage photos?

My experience in digital photo restoration has come about as a combination of my own interest in photography with my wife's extensive work in genealogy.  We've recently had access to some of the family photo albums, some dating back to the 1860's, and a number of loose photographs.  The photo albums are in various conditions, some from the early 1900's are in good condition, and the photos can be slid out of the binders for scanning, others are fragile enough that removing the photos or placing the album on a flatbed would damage the albums.  The photos have been quite variable, ranging from looking like they were printed yesterday to wondering what (or who) the remaining blobs on the photos were actually pictures of.  So we undertook the scanning or digital photographing of the images, to be able to store, print, and distribute the images from the original photos.  In addition, having the digital images allowed us to edit them when necessary due to deterioration or damage, to help restore the digital image closer to the image of the original photo.  What follows in this site is a brief description of some of the equipment and techniques that we have found helpful to restore some of the older images.  Hopefully this site can act as a starting point for those with similar interests.

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment. . .

Before we delve in, let me mention a few words about the goals of this site.   First, this site is aimed at the archiving and restoration of images, not the original photographs.  For archiving and restoring the original photos, it would be worth learning about photo conservation and restoration.  That being said, there are several other issues to preserving the images.  If you wish to keep an archival (as close to the original as possible) image, you will want to make a copy of the photo and store the unedited image file.

This site is primarily devoted to the restoration of the images closer to their original appearance (as you'll see in Case 1, 140 years can degrade a photo). My goal is to help you find the signal in the noise (to slip into engineering jargon for a second) by recovering as much as possible of the original image. In many photos there are more details of the original image than you may see at first glance.  From an archiving standpoint, one reason why I like the editing software I use is that changes to the images are automatically applied to a new image - the original file is not altered in the process.  From a restoration standpoint, the software I use and many other graphic editors are very powerful tools for helping to minimize the impact of degradation of an image, and providing a more viewable image to print and to share.

Speaking of sharing, copying a file is cheap.  So, for important image, have more than one copy stored in more than one location.  That way if the original photo is destroyed, or your hard disk dies, etc., you have other copies of important images.  Allow me to emphasize:  BACK UP YOUR FILES.  Prior to moving my site, my hard disk crashed.  Fortunately, everything essential was backed up, but I lost several gigabytes of scanned photos which were yet to be backed up as they had not been edited.  These were my own slides, so I have the originals to rescan, but a lot of scanning hours are now down the drain.  It would have been worse had it been something that couldn't be restored.   As time permits, I will add further further hints on archiving the files.

One final issue.  My wife, the genealogist in our family, tells me that there is a controversy on the newsgroups about whether one should use film or digital images to copy original photos.  Both formats have their advantages and disadvantages, which I am quite purposefully not going to get into here.  However, if you're reading this site, you can probably guess which way I would lean on the subject.

OK.  I'll get off my soapbox now.

Site Organization - I have organized the restoration section as a series of case studies dealing with specific issues in image restoration.  Each case study uses a specific image as the example demonstrating the techniques.  The index to the left will give you an overview of each.  Click on the image to go to each study.  Cases 1 and 2 are meant to cover the basics, and really represent about 90% of what I do to restore images.  Case 3 is mainly meant as a brief survey of ways to go from photograph to computer image, although I show step-by-step how I edited the photo.  More recently I have added two brief (some might say mercifully brief after the first 3 cases) cases dealing with specific fine points of image restoration.  Case 4 provides a few details on scanning difficult photographs, and Case 5 deals solely with using cloning to repair defects in the images.  Future work will most likely be similar in structure to Cases 4 and 5, i.e. brief topics covering a particular point, assuming you have already gotten the basics from the first cases.

As of July '01 I have added Case 6, which briefly deals with red eye reduction.  This last case is an issue directed at modern photographs (which can still be valuable family treasures), and deals with image improvement instead of image restoration.  While not strictly in keeping with the rest of the case studies, it is a common problem that is easily addressable, and worth taking a few minutes to look at if this has been an issue for you.  

Prior to starting the case studies of the photographs, I suggest taking the tour of our "digital darkroom" (though I fear the term is getting somewhat cliche).  In this tour I go through some of the relevant hardware and software we use (or have considered using) for image editing.

Please feel free to contact me (Bill) should you have any comments or suggestions.  I will continue to expand this site as get time, energy, and inspiration.  Parts of this site are here in response to questions or comments I have received, and I am always willing to consider other ideas.

Before the fun stuff, a few administrative details:

1)  This site is viewed better without much light behind you!  Screen glare tends to obscure some of the details of the photos posted.  In general, it helps to have a low level of light in the room, the monitor's contrast turned up, and the brightness turned down to see details across the entire brightness range of the photos.  You should be able to see 15 shades (from pure black to pure white) in the gray scale below.

2) Please respect the copyright of the images on these pages.  Please do not publish or distribute any of the images on this site without the express permission of the site author.   Thank you!

THIS SITE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION:  Check back from time to time as I continue to expand the site.


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since March 19, 2001.


Tour the Darkroom