Restoration of Old or Damaged Photographs:


Back in the days, when people would carry a picture of a loved one around in their wallet or purse it would often be taken out to show other friends and family. Over the years all this handling would take its toll on the paper image. In some cases, no matter how poor the quality of the original image, it would be cherished to a point that when damage did occur, repairs would be carried out using all sorts of methods, usually Sellotape or some other less than perfect product!

These days of course we live in the digital age and carry everything around on our phones. Perhaps that means our treasured images are less likely to be damaged but it also means less of our family photos are being printed for prosperity. The irony is that there has never been a better time with all the digital software available to use to carry out the work of restoration.

A few years ago, I was asked by a friend if I could do anything to improve the two attached images. I said I would have a go but couldn’t promise on the quality of the outcome. I had done some of this work before, but it had been some time. As you can see the damage was quite extensive and there were even pieces missing from the first image. Some of the work was easy using the spot healing tool etc, but other work such as cloning had to be done pixel by pixel. To do this you have to zoom into your image so much that you actually see the pixel grid appear. This is great but you can easily loose where you are, so you have to go in and out quite a bit. There is not much that can be done to sharpen or bring into focus something that was not on the original. It is possible however, to improve it a bit using contrast enhancements. Since I did this work the tool within Photoshop have improved further and the task is much easier now but each image has its own challenges to overcome.

The work took me a while to do but was worth all the effort. When I returned the finished work back to my friend and her mother, they were both reduced to tears, with a mixture of joy and sadness. This had not been my aim of course but not for the first time in my life, I was once again reminded of the power of a portrait.

John Dadley

I have been a member of the Grimsby Photographical Society since 2016 and now serve as the Honorary Vice President, a position I am proud to fill. I started my photographical journey at the tender age of 10 years old. At that time my camera of choice was not really of choice, it was all we had. lt was the famous Kodak Box Browne. Back in those days, most families had a camera of some sorts and it would be brought out to record momentous family events. you know the sort of things - weddings, new babies, christenings, the kids opening their presents at Christmas, and showing off their new school uniforms at Easter. For reasons of economy (my Dad said), no matter how special the occasion was "two or three SNAPS! would be enough to sum up the event". This meant that the 12- exposure roll of film could last the whole year round and longer in some cases. There was one family I know that had pictures of their daughter's christening and wedding on the same roll of film (sadly processed by the subject after her parents passing some years later). Fast forward a few years, and a few cameras, oh boy has it changed. As much as I love all the new gear and new technology, (Yes I'm a gadget freak). I'm glad to have had a background in the days of film where I cut my teeth not only learning camera and lighting skills but also the processing and development of my images. I spent many many hours in the darkroom trying just about everything there was to try. Serving in the Army for 25 years opened up the world for me and gave me the sorts of opportunities that are hard to come by in most other walks of life. I would hasten to add at this point, that I was not an "Army Photographer" (that is a specialist trade). I was more a solider with a camera! As my skills developed over the years I was able to turn this hobby of mine to good use not only for military purposes but for social use too, recording the ups and downs of service life.

One thought on “Restoration of Old or Damaged Photographs:

  • 10/06/2020 at 8:50 pm

    Another thing to note is that those same photos were still precious, even if they weren’t in sharp focus. I have restored some images in the past, and have thought “How can they attach any worth to this”, faces may have been hardly discernable, yet they have been thrilled when reunited with images of their loved ones and can recognise 9or maybe imagine) every feature of their family member.
    I did some contact prints in the darkroom a couple of years ago using the original 120 film negatives ~ I thought “well, this is a failure” yet they were thrilled and could recognise relatives who had long since died. 🙂

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