This photograph - which has faded with time - provides the ghostly image of a Westland helicopter from HMS Endurance back in the late 60's. The crew are in foreground...
Last month I was contacted by a friend who wanted to know if I could restore an old photograph. It was special as it was one of a very few of her parent photographs but it was faded and in an overall poor state. To make matters worse it was also a small picture and so getting a great result was always going to be difficult. Nevertheless I said I would give it a bash and see what we could get, but no promises!
So she sent me the 3inch by 4 inch picture which I received in the post the next day, I opened the letter excitedly and then said “oh dear” (well words to that effect).
The first scan – step one of the photo restoration. The image was scanned on an Epson D750 scanner. This excellent scanner provides amazing results for photographs and can be used for negatives, medium format and 35mm transparencies (we do not use it for the latter as we have other dedicated hardware). The image was saved as a tif file for working purposes. It is easier and more accurate to manipulate than an already compressed jpeg though it is a considerably larger file (65mb v 3.5 mb!!!!). We always start with tif files – and lots of BIG hard drives.
The original picture after the first scan. Saved as a jpeg for this blog and reduced in size by 90%. This picture is already showing visible recovery and improvement from the faded original.
The effect of the fading caused by light can be clearly seen with the central area which was exposed and the darker framed area which was protected. The actual size of the image was probably a little larger than you are seeing on your screen.
At this point I was feeling I could provide some kind of result for Elspeth but there was still much to do – and so on with Adobe Lightroom. I prefer work in Lightroom these days compared to photoshop. An ancient incarnation of Photoshop used to be my weapon of choice but Lightroom has developed (pun unintended) so much so that it is now easier to incorporate into the workflow and, provided I am careful, does not lead to the bouncing beachball of death on the Apple computer.
Pretty much the final result after lots of colour, contrast and clarity adjustments, adjusting individual pixels and removing dust speckles and scratches.
Ultimately I was very pleased with the way we pulled the picture back and achieved a most acceptable result. We printed the images at three levels one step under and one step over exposed plus what we thought was the ideal. We did this because what we see on the screen will not necessarily be what the printed photograph looks like. We are in partnership with a Cardiff based company for our photo printing. It would be uneconomical for us to do this ourselves, the equipment and dyes are expensive and there is a great deal of expertise required so we do our bit and they do theirs. The results were excellent. The target printed image was, in our opinion, the best result but the under and over exposed prints were not far off the mark and also quite acceptable.
At the end of the day we had provided a good restoration and displayable prints of a badly faded small photograph.
Elspeth was very happy with the results – and really thats what matters!
Our thanks to Elspeth for allowing us to share this story and the photographs.