New photos for old

I am so delighted that I was born in an era when the digital revolution has swept through the world. As a young child, I yearned for imaginary technological tools that simply did not exist. My own children cannot imagine a world with out the internet and mobile phones, yet these things have only really become accessible to the public in their lifetime.  Advances in technology continue at such a rapid rate, and so much is possible now – it is just so incredibly exciting.

One of the things that has grown along with internet availability, is access to data, which used to be hidden in corners of attics, covered in dust. I refer here specifically to family records of births, deaths, marriages and a host of other information which can be used to reconstruct family histories. Previously, this research was time consuming, expensive and the data was extremely difficult to find.

With increasing availability of historical information, there has been a paralleled interest in retrieving family photos and capturing the information that goes with these images. But unless multiple copies were made of the photo (which was probably expensive), only one person can have the photo in their possession at any one time. Family disagreements often result in one part of the family losing access to their photographic history, perhaps for ever. Making digital copies is the obvious solution – and that way many copies can be made.

The world of photography has been a dynamic one indeed. Not too long ago, only the well-heeled could afford a photo or two in their lifetime. Nowadays we think nothing of capturing thousands of images which we can also tweak, edit and alter with ease.

A family portrait

A family portrait with and without annotations

One of my many hobbies is to use the superb software that is now available to restore some of these images of yesteryear. There is nothing more satisfying than taking an image that has a corner missing, or has been creased, or written on (why did people write  on those rare family photos I wonder?) and ‘restoring’ it.

Each photo brings its own set of challenges. I have done photo restoration for a number of friends over the years and it is worth doing, just to see the joy of a precious photo returned to its ‘original’ condition which can then be shared with the wider family.

Sailor man

Sailor in uniform

But I sometimes wonder if this ‘restoration’ is not a form of information loss in itself! A photo which has become dog-eared and perhaps written on by great auntie X (and now we can see how beautiful her writing was!) has a story all of its own.

But of course, a digital scan of a photo is just a copy and this does not affect the original photo. So perhaps it does not matter? What do you think? Would you prefer to have both the original and the restored version, or do you think the blemishes detract from the image and can be ‘lost’ without concern?

Mother and child

Mother and her baby (does the colour change add or detract from the final image?)

The other thing that is so easy to do now, is to change the faded or discoloured colour of photos. Would you prefer to see the original colour kept, or does the effect of time become a distraction that should be ‘fixed’ if possible?

Perhaps this is a personal decision and everyone will have a different view? Or perhaps family history/photography bores you mindless and you simply would prefer that someone else in the family made these decisions 🙂

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9 Responses to New photos for old

  1. scrapydo says:

    I still think about the old photos and if I must clean them up. I love the old look and to think of aunt X writing on it. Makes it more precious!?I photo copied the writing and pasted it into my album under the photos.


  2. adinparadise says:

    I love the sepia look, Madoqua. It certainly adds to the charm of old photos.


    • Madoqua says:

      You are right, there is something about those colours that help preserve the ‘oldness’. However, some photos do not ever become sepia coloured. It must be due to the type of photo and/or the processing methods.


  3. Photo restoration is something that is essential if done correctly. Images should not look cut out and stuck down on new backgrounds, everything should be seamless and if you have any doubt if the photo has been restored then perhaps it has not been restored properly. Sepia photos were either sepia because of aging with years of tobacco smoke, oil lamp smoke, pipe smoke, open fires and sunlight and dirt or they were tinted sepia in the first place. Images always were natively printed black and white.


  4. ndjmom says:

    Restored to me means bringing it back to it’s original condition. However the slight aged sepia is very pleasing also. I always ask customers if they want the reprints in BW or in sepia, its their preference.


    • Madoqua says:

      Your comments about the customer requirements are very valid. I do agree that restoration means taking it back to the original (which includes the colour). If the photo never was sepia coloured, then making it that way is an alteration!
      I mostly do photo restoration for fun and family, so it does not really matter too much 🙂


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