Let us take a look inside an old photograph album. There are some treasures in here and most in need of some photographic repair. It contains postcard style prints from photographic studios in the 1920s, smaller more modern prints on thinner, fragile paper. Some are sepia-toned and others just plain black and white.
The chemicals used to develop the black and white photo of this age and some tinted sepia which contained silver. This silver is still present in these photos and you can see it when you tilt the image against the light. Some angles show the blacks as being a bluish tint. In some cases of restoration scanning, this type of photo causes dense blue casts and the silver reflects light from the scanner creating difficulties for the restoration. Where you need to see the detail most, in the dark and shaded areas, it is just a sea of blue reflections. Evidence to correct this is noticeable in old galleries today where each photo tilts forwards hanging in its frame improve the viewing angle and reduce the effect.
In the photographer’s studios in 1910 – 1920 they may have used powder flash guns or depending on the set up natural light. The cameras still used relatively long exposures times which caused the subject to be become blurred on film. It would only take a blink at the wrong time or a wriggle and a ghostly blur would occur. In some group portraits, this is evident where eyes show much paler and greyer than everyone else’s, or where the focus appears to be very soft on just one person’s face. Powder flash would go some way to eliminating this as would flashbulbs when they were introduced nearer 1925-1930.
When I examine these old photos sometimes this has to be explained, as these details cannot be realistically put back in or be recovered when they were never there in the first place. The great thing about these early photos though, is that they were often taken on larger format film which holds a great deal of detail. If you own negatives then it is these that can yield a superb reproduction, as do the prints taken from this type of film.
In the next post, I will be taking a look at close-ups of these photos and finding out what restoration work is involved.
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