Just thought I’d share a little personal project on which I recently worked. My late grandmother was one of the world’s original pack-rats, and the good side of this was ending up with a pile of old family photos and correspondence. Sadly when you tack decades onto the average photo, the results are not great, and some are more well-worn than others. Still, it’s quite neat no matter how weathered to see images that stretch back to your great, great, great, great grandmother! And I had to count to be sure I was right about that number. Long story short, that’s given me a lot of practice restoring old family photos.
Now the one I’m sharing today is not of the five generations ago variety. This is a photo that I came across the past week, my mother’s kindergarten graduation. As you can see, it was not in the best shape. Worse than a few creases and dust spots, this one had significant staining. Tell me, how is it that stains are always on an important part of an image? Look at all that space at the top, why weren’t the major stains there? This is definitely Murphy’s Law at work!
I had my work cut out for me cleaning this one up. The stain on the left was not just a change in color but actual damage to the paper. One lucky point though, no damage to any of the faces! Yet, it was involved repairing those gowns without making it glaringly obvious that I was borrowing bits and pieces from other parts of the photo. The big positive here is that the children were all wearing similar outfits. My Frankenstein-esque approach to rebuilding a portion of the photo would have been much more difficult in that case, but still possible.
And there we have the finished product. Finished is relative. As I’ve mentioned before, I do find myself re-working images later. Sometimes it’s something that bugs me later, but more often than not, it’s that my skills in Photoshop have advanced and I decide that I can improve upon an earlier effort. That’s one reason I always keep an untouched scan of all my old family photos. That said, I’m quite happy with how this one looks now, so I don’t foresee retouching it again anytime soon.
I do my best when I do these restorations to keep the patina of the original photos. I don’t want them to look like they were taken yesterday. That’s half the character in vintage pictures. In fact, I rarely go out of my way to remove every single spot on the image. I only remove the damage that distracts me, but I do take care to make sure the faces in particular are free of dust and scratches. Ultimately, it’s those parts of the photo that people are really viewing.
I personally like the warm tones, and in this case worked to preserve some of that coloring while removing the yellowed stains. Do you also feel that the charm of photos from yesteryear is that they have retain the feel of their era?