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Restoring a Photograph from the 1870s (topdogimaging.net)
152 points by Muzza on June 30, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I guess I see the loss of the added color as unfortunate because it removes some of the meaning which the artist and the portrait sitter felt was important to express - the vitality of the person depicted. Keeping in mind that the Civil War was so recently passed and the degree to which disease and violence could cut life short - that someone would pay more for such an upgrade is unsurprising.

Without the color, it tends more toward being just another black and white photo and more easily ignored - and that was clearly not what the artist and patron had in mind.

I suppose we should probably repaint all of those greek statues too...

If you are interested in what some people believe they would look like restored here are some photos:


Well, what is the reasoning behind not doing this? Other than that our image of a marble statue is unpainted.

Mainly that it would look like ass. Authenticity is overrated.

This was cool right up until the "and then I just fixed it in Photoshop" glossing over.

Sounds like at least a day's work, and this guy seems like a top-notch pro. How much could he charge for a job like this? $500-$1000? more?

He said the touchup work was 4 hours, so I'd imagine getting the original in, then printing afterwards, and the original consultation would probably be yeah, about a day's work. Not sure on what this sort of work carries as a charge, but a few hundred $ doesn't seem unreasonable if you really need the pic.

Perhaps there was a discount for allowing him to use the photo in the blog post? Also, I'd say that $500-$1000 is comfortably in the "want" (rather than need) range for something like this.

Agreed in this case, it's probably a want. I wasn't suggesting this person paid $500 - the post I replied to was asking what this sort of procedure might cost, and I was replying in the general sense.

Interesting to think how many tintypes may be out there still, and what can really be done with them. Even just using the camera and strobe like he did, without the hours of touchup work, seems to do quite a lot of good. Perhaps that's a cheaper service people could offer over the 'scanner' solution.

>Even just using the camera and strobe like he did, without the hours of touchup work, seems to do quite a lot of good. Perhaps that's a cheaper service people could offer over the 'scanner' solution.

Most good labs offer this service. Sadly, most also charge as much or more to take the shot as they do to scan. Often labs will charge based on digital resolution and ignore the ease or cost associated with obtaining that image.

If you were able to shoot prints in RAW and then again with the same camera and position only in IR you could automate a lot of the dust and surface scratch removal with minimal loss in fidelity [1].

Really, a modest investment in time and available consumer technology could allow an enterprising individual/company to outfit themselves very well for performing print archival/restoration at reasonable rates.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_cleaning

Can't be that much. Maybe $200 tops, it isn't as difficult as it is time consuming.

Interesting tip on using a flash and a super fancy camera. Having done this (actually I usually use sunlight not flash but if it's not a perfectly clear day outside the consistency of flash is useful), he should have mentioned you need to set the camera a great distance from the image to minimize perspective distortion.

The blurring of the background is abysmal and destroys the notion it is a restored photograph. Even if the client demanded this, the restorer should have refused. As it is it makes his work look shoddy. I give him the benefit of the doubt it was not his decision. If it was his decision to blur the background that much, for shame.

The conversion to greyscale was also ill considered.

The loss of curls in the hair is a pity.

I quite like the effect on Wikipedia's restoration of the Billy the Kid tintype mentioned in the article:


They have some other candidates for restoration if anyone wants to give this a try (though obviously the main thrust of this article was how to get the original image capture right, rather than the digital retouching stage):


I would have also considered layering a wet layer/mount to fill in some of the scrapes when using a LED scanner. There are other side effects but they are a lot easier to control if you can keep things relatively flat (might require a lot of fluid in some cases but it works wonders).

Macro shots are another good way to pull out detail though I find my scanner does a better job in most cases (scanning 2400 to 3200 DPI helps, more is usually overkill for most mediums). The use of a polarizer is a great idea though.

There are offshore companies that will do 'photoshop work' for $5 or $10 per image. As excellent as his skills are, most clients do not understand the difference.

TL;DR version:

1. Take a photo

2. ...

3. Photo restored to amazing clarity!

I was just looking at something similar but probably not as old:


Only 4 hours for that kind of quality work. Very nice! I'd imagine that he can charge more.

Doesn't the new Photoshop have a "Dark-magic" option that does this? ;)

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