Photo Enhancement & Creative Imagery


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What goes into a restoration?

Posted on January 24, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Did you ever wonder what goes into restoring a photo? 

Watch how this too-dark snapshot was transformed!

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Why Digital

Posted on July 17, 2015 at 8:00 PM

Before Photoshop, changes were made directly on photos and negatives.  Chemicals, inks, paints, airbrushes and small paint brushes were often used.  Manipulating photos was a skilled craft using artist tools and darkroom tricks of the trade.  Retouching was commonly thought of as "airbrushing" as images were usually edited and enhanced with thin layers of paint.  And, it wasn't that long ago!

With digital restoration and retouching your original photo, most often your only copy, remains intact and untouched.  After creating a high resolution scan, all work is done non-destructivly on a digital file allowing unlimited options for enhancement or repair.  Digital changes can ALWAYS be reversed or adjusted.  Can you imagine if they couldn't?

Note:  Even with careful conservation, your photos will continue to deteriorate over time.  Digital files are a great way to share and safeguard your memories for future generations. I recommend digitally archiving ALL your photographs, preserving your originals, using local services (after verifying your collection remains onsite and isn't shipped overseas).  They won't worsen and are easily organized, labeled and ready for repair if needed.

* Image from unknown original source on Pinterest shows extreme humorous before and after airbrushed photo from an episode of NBC's sitcom Seinfeld.  Used without permission through fair use as a related pop culture reference.

No To Just Copy and Flip - The Jacket

Posted on June 14, 2015 at 12:45 AM

One of the most widely used tricks in repairing portraits is the copy and flip.  Missing an eye, part of the mouth, an arm or a leg?  Just copy the good side and flip it to use on the other side - easy peasy!  Um...No. 

Unfortunately, people are NOT purely symetrical.  Do you stand with your arms and legs a mirror image of the other?  Are your eyes exactly the same?  Are your ears identical?  No, of course not.  Many how-to videos and tutorials utilize this trick, sometimes for no reason, the outcome looking unrealistic and somewhat off.  I've even seen the subject ending up cross eyed!  I recently saw a video where this technique was used on a jacket (again, let me stress for NO reason as the slight damage could have easily been repaired) with perfectly symetrical lapels, shoulders, collar, none of which lined up with the original photo!  Using an extreme example, I'll show you why this needs to be used smartly, in portions, always modified and never as a final result.

Here's a restoration where the client wished to remove an unknown woman from the only picture, a small photo booth one, he had of his grandfather as a young man.  First I enlarged the image and then cropped it into a standard 5 x 7 size focusing on his head and shoulders.  Then I made my repairs.  The background is somewhat abstract, so borrowing from other sections and blending them together I was able to cover up the woman.  So far so good.  Now to the more difficult part, where her body was in front of the plaid jacket.  Obviously something needs to happen there.

So, what happens when you copy and flip?  Well, it looks kind of strange.  Even moving the shoulder down to line up with the original slope still isn't believable.  Who has creases occuring in the same places on their clothes?  Not to mention the plaid is going in the opposite direction.  There's a tool in Photoshop that will allow you to warp, but this one solid piece has too much going on.

In order to create the new portion of the jacket below, I copied several different sections and warped, manipulated, faded and blended them all together to create a background, even using portions of the jacket that I had already cropped out.  The lapel for the right side was a copy of the left, but altered to line up with the original photo, have a different slope, be thinner and angled away and then placed on top.  To finish it off, the original shadowing was built up and blended. 

The end result?  You don't even notice it.


Photo Organization - Back It Up NOW!

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 7:15 AM

I almost lost ELEVEN YEARS worth of personal photos and all my scanned and restored family history ones.

I should know better, right?  After all, I work with photos, I know about photo organization, I've heard the horror stories..... you just never think it will happen to you.

I stored everything on an external hard drive to free up space on my computer and laptop (the programs I use are extremely memory intensive and I needed the room!)  I'm not trying to make excuses, but in the process of moving everything from one computer(s) to my new one and reorganizing, working, etc, backing up data kind of got lost in the shuffle and put off. 

I got used to accessing files off the external drive.  But then it started acting strangely.  I immediately went out and bought another to transfer files over. 

Not everything made it. 

I lost five years worth of Girl Scout stuff (thankfully not the photos!), quite a few miscellaneous projects, two thirds of my digital scrap booking supplies, and all of my completed and in progress digital scrap book pages.  Sigh.

So, dear reader, where do YOUR irreplaceable photos, movies and important documents live?  Is there only  the one copy on your computer, your phone, your tablet?  What if your phone or tablet broke, got lost or was stolen?  What if your computer crashed?  What if there was a fire or flood? 

Remember the Rule of Three:

  • Computer copy
  • Back up copy (external drive or similar)
  • Off site copy (burn data to disks, USB, or similar)

Back it up.  Do it NOW.

Photo Organization - Digital Files

Posted on April 27, 2015 at 3:20 PM

The coolest thing about digital cameras is the ability to take as many pictures as you wantTo some readers this might not be a big deal, but if you grew up PAYING for both film and developing - it is!  For many of us the camera was reserved for special occasions, and you kept ALL of your photos, be they blurry, off-center, bad lighting, poor composition, long forgotten scenery or duplicates.

Unfortunately this hoarder mentality makes it hard to delete anything.  I am so guilty of this.  It's especially hard to delete pictures of my child, even the ones of the back of her head!  Ideally, only keep the best and get rid of the rest.  You really don't need twenty shots taken within ten minutes of the same thing or any that didn't come out well, unless it's all you have - again, guilty (thanks church lighting).

Several thousand photos later, there's a problem.  They've taken over the computer.  After a little research, I organized all of my photos by year, then month, then event, and created a tidy library structure neatly contained in one file.  I even labeled the month folders with numerical prefixes like so: 01 - January, 02 - February, 03 - March... great job, right?

WRONG - I couldn't find anything!  When I went looking for Girl Scout camping pictures, I couldn't remember the year or the month.  Same problem with choir, ballet, school activities, movies, and everything else.  So, how to store digital photos easily and logically?

My new system still uses year, month and event but things are separated first.  I now have a folder for Girl Scouts, one for Ballet, School, Sports etc. etc.  If you have more than one child, I would recommend a main folder for each, but still keep a "By Year" folder for family.  Make sure to create main folders for Vacations, Holidays, and special events too.

Folders are broken down by year (or grade), then by month using a different labeling system.  The folder name is still numerical, but a little bit longer to give more information, for example: 201208_Aug_bowling lives in the 2012 folder.  With this system, the numbers automatically place the files in chronological order, the abbreviated month because it's easier to read, and a brief description tells me exactly what is in there without opening the file.  The year is there in case the folder ever gets moved "accidentally".

Having a file structure in place helps to find things, but pictures take up a lot of room, so make sure you have the additional storage needed.  Plus other methods of back up - just in case.

Sample photo I don't need but can't delete!  Note:  I cleaned it up for this post, but it's still not a good picture (shhh, I have many that are much worse).