Monday, 4 January 2010

Start off on the Right Foot

So, it's 2010 now. This year will see me off to college, my brother moving up to high school, and my youngest brother going into middle school (oh and my sister will be in fourth grade). This year will see me getting a car, a job, and hopefully an income from my hobbies of photography.

The reason I use the plural form of hobby above is one of the topics of this post. I could easily have written this before now (several weeks ago in fact) but I didn't want to spoil any surprises. Recently (at least within the past month) I have been doing photo-restoration work. My focus has been limited to my resources; thus, my field of expertise is currently old family photos, specifically black-and-white ones.

I would have mentioned this earlier, at least in more detail, were it not for the fact I was secretly working on restoring and enlarging some old photos as gifts for my father.

As I was cleaning out a room of my house one day, I came across a bunch of old, unframed photos (as well as a bunch in frames) of family members. There were some of my brother as a baby, some of me as a baby, but mostly old photos of my dad's side of the family, many of whom I never knew. His father, my paternal grandfather, died in the late 80s; his mother's health began deteriorating in the late 90s and she left us four years and one day ago. I never knew my grandfather, and barely knew my grandmother for the person she really was, and so I felt an obligation to find as many photos of them as I could and restore them to better-than-original quality.


My paternal grandfather served as a physician in the Navy during World War II, aboard a hospital ship in the Pacific. He treated everyone, regardless of their nationality, citing the Hippocratic Oath when people questioned his medical care of Japanese prisoners aboard the ship. From what I understand, it was the nature of his service that eventually ended his life, though I'm not honestly sure what he died of.


He was engaged to my grandmother pretty much right after the war ended, a fact I deduced from the date on the back of a photo - 1948, it said; the young couple on a motorboat somewhere on a nice day.

He was awarded a medal by the American Medical Association in 1966 for his good work.

And there was also a photo my dad had never even seen.


The photos you see above are the originals (not original size though). The AMA medal-dinner one is clearly in the worst condition, as it's nearly ripped in half and my scanner isn't really the best, so rips and tears come up almost amplified on-screen. Each image was scanned in at nearly-full-resolution as an uncompressed TIFF file to prevent any artificial (ie jpeg) distortion. The medal photo was also the largest, coming up as a 42MB raw file.

So I scanned in a bunch of old photos. Then I got to work.

Restoring photos is not easy stuff, especially when you're dealing with someone you've never seen before. Sometimes, for instance, I'd feel like the amount of work to preserve one detail simply wasn't worth it, but I knew that wouldn't fly. I zoomed to 750% and worked by 5-pixel segments on much of the photo, going up to a maximum of 20-pixel segments. I used a bunch of different stock Photoshop tools - healing brush, spot healer, burn/dodge, sharpen/blur, contrast and highlighting, and B/W filters. All in all, the following are my basic aims:

• Completely or nearly completely remove evidence of tears, scratches, and creases.
• Remove any splotches, blots, or discoloration.
• Enhance details that have been lost due to damage or were not originally defined.
• If necessary, restore color vivacity lost to fading or other damage.

The latter is quite easy with a black and white photo...just cmd-alt-shift-B, click Auto, and adjust some sliders til it looks natural.

Everything else is actually pretty difficult. The AMA photo, for instance, took six hours of work over three days to get the final, fully restored photograph I am now quite proud of.

I framed these three restored photos and gave them to him as gifts on Christmas. Needless to say, he was speechless.

It was difficult to explain my methods, but the satisfaction of getting the job done is nice enough.

This one still needs some work - it must have been in a frame at some point (none of these were when I found them) and so the color is a little off. It's more noticeable in the original, though, since you can barely tell it's in color anyway!


This said, I want to finally mix photography and income and begin taking commissions for photo-restorations like the ones above. I've not yet thought about what to charge (flat-rate, probably), nor do I have a website set up quite yet (that's my other new-year-thingy), but consider me officially me if you're interested and we'll go from there.

Meanwhile, I might as well put together an official-ish portfolio of my restoration work on my Facebook page. That'll be up in the near future as well.


I really haven't done much in the ways of new art recently. My creative juices were just not flowing over my two-week break that ended today; as of now I'm at school doing nothing (no class til 11) and cannot really think of anything to upload or anywhere I could go take photos...I think I may have taken some over break (of the snow) but they're not particularly exciting...certainly did a fair bit of documenting Christmas festivities (if you're my Facebook friend you already know that) but that's about it.


2010 will hopefully be all I want it to be. For now, though, I'll concentrate on the present now I'm done with the presents...

No comments:

Post a Comment