Restoring a Photograph from the 1870s

Bob Rosinsky was asked to restore a tintype photograph from the 19th century. On his blog, he walks us through the process of how he did it. No, we don't watch him change every pixel, but you'll be surprised at the difference between a scanner image of the tintype and a photograph using an ultra-high resolution camera with a macro lens. Here, you see the before-and-after pictures. Link -via Boing Boing

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I preserve photographs and documents digitally for a living, I have retouched photos before but it's my departments policy to preserve a photograph "as is" which means making the digital image look just like the original artifact. I applaud the skill this person used to retouch the image. The end product looks very good. But, I think the personality of the original is lost.
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I did something similar for a friend, she had some old family photos, not sure the age on this pic but it was in pretty bad shape and at the very least 40+ years old.

Here is the link to the original scan:

Here is the link to the "after photoshop magic"

She was so happy she ended up making an 8x10 of it (the original I think was 4x4 and I scanned it in at 1200dpi) Like most here, in the end it comes down to preference, but I always keep the original untouched scan incase a client wants more done, such as colorizing, croping, or some other effect, etc.

The process was similar, I used photoshop 3.0 I think (have CS5 now and oh I wish I had updated sooner!) and a wacom tablet (an older one the intuos 9x12 grapire grey)

-david - My Photography Blog
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@PWMoore - the problem here is a matter of personal taste when it comes to exposure and contrast. With a colour photograph you will always get those who think your choices for exposure and contrast are wrong. With a monochrome image it seems people are even more picky, perhaps because there is no varaition in colour available.

The problem the restorer would have with an image like this is that there is absolutely no detail in the highlights. Indeed there seldom was with a tintype. The fact that the original image has faded and become darker gives the impression that there is detail there, but if you look closely there is none. As such I think the restoration is as good as you are going to get from that original.

One thing I have to explain often to people who think photoshop is the solution to their poor photographs is that you can't put in detail that wasn't there in the first place. In this case I doubt there was ever much detail in the highlights, but any that was there has disappeared over time. There was nothing that could be done about the missing detail in this photograph. The only incorrect choice that was made to my mind (and this is just personal taste) was not to tone the finished image slightly to maintain its vintage character.
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If I was the customer, I would have wanted a print of the entire restoration series. Perhaps the washed out effect was the consumer's choice.

Stunningly good advice. Every photographer should read this.
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Gah, not good! White areas are too washed out, some of the hair and hat details are lost as well as the original after shot colorization. Its all fine and dandy that its preserved but the "life" of the original has been flattened out and lost.
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