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Thread: care of old photos?

  1. #1
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    Default care of old photos?

    i just got an old shoe box of about 100-150 old photos from the early 1900's till 1924, so they are 80-100 years old. anyway, the box has been sitting in a basement for many of those years and the photos are all curled up.

    i am going through them and scanning them, but i am wondering what the best way to help uncurl these photos. im thinking just putting a brick or something on top of them to help flatten them again?

    anyone have any better suggestions? oh, if you are interested in the chapleau area at that time and the austin & nicholson lumber towns i can post some of them to show you.

  2. #2
    GRUMPY
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    It might be a good idea to post this in the photo section also.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Babzz's Avatar
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    maybe try putting them in books with something heavy on top of the book.
    “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself"

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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    The ink might transfer but if you put some wax paper between the pages front and back it might work and it shouldn't stick.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    thanks, i wondered if this may be moved to the photo section by mods?

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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    Never flatten old, curled photographs with force. What will happen is that the emulsion side (the side with the photograph) will eventually develop cracks. If the photographs are particularly brittle, the paper itself may crack. Cracks cannot be fixed on the original and they will be a real pain to deal with if you decide to scan them again. If you must flatten them, I would consult a conservator, especially if these photographs are precious heirlooms. Whatever you do, do not try to use heat, water or any other solvents to flatten the photograph.

    A better solution is to scan the original prints at about 1200dpi, restore the photograph in Photoshop (or other suitable paint program) and make a print. At 1200dpi, the scan should make for an acceptable 4x5 to 5x7 print. Just flatten the photographs temporarily for the scan and then release any force immediately. Use the printed scan for displaying and store the originals in a cool and dry place.
    Oui, non, oui, non, OUI! - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    thank you so much. i was only scanning them at 400dpi, i guess i better change that.

    thanks.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    care for old potatoes?

  9. #9
    GRUMPY
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    personally for old pictures I try to do my scanning at the max.

  10. #10
    GRUMPY
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    You should start another thread and post them.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    400dpi is acceptable if all you want to do is display the photograph on your computer. However, for printing, it is best to scan at a much higher resolution.

    I recently restored an old photograph for a friend that dates back to the 1930's. As I do not have a flatbed scanner at home yet (I have a dedicated film scanner instead), I used a conventional 2-yr old, $150 (when new) scanner at work that normally scans at 200dpi. I turned it up to 1200dpi (it's max) and I was able to get a lot more detail out of the photograph. I was even able to discover a few things that previously was undetectable in the original print - namely the reflection of the photographer in a chrome hub of a baby-carriage. He was hunched down, holding the camera just above his waist - most likely a Kodak Brownie box camera.

    After restoration, I was able to get an acceptable 4x6 print out of the photograph that may have been just as good or probably better than the original when new. The originals were actually smaller - I was able to enlarge them a bit to a more standardized size. I didn't need the *full* 1200dpi to print a 4x6 when I only print at 360dpi (keep in mind that dpi in scanning and dpi in printing are not necessarily measured the same way). However the extra detail that scanning at 1200dpi really makes a difference in restoring the photograph. It is much easier to fix dust, cracks, stains, etc. on a huge scan than on a small one. It also allows much more freedom for adjusting contrast and sharpness for the final print. In addition, if they are the typically small-sized prints like many old photographs, scanning at a high resolution will allow you to enlarge them a bit to a more standardized size like I mentioned earlier.

    Be aware that at 1200dpi, file-sizes will get significantly larger but its worth it. With most scanners, 1200dpi will mean 1200 pixels per inch across and 1200 pixels per inch down. You may be looking at 40+ megabyte files.
    Oui, non, oui, non, OUI! - Henri Cartier-Bresson

  12. #12
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    you know, ive even taken the digital course, 2 of them at soo college, i should know better. i started scanning at 600dpi, but it was taking up too much room. that is a big part of the problem is my comp is older and not a lot of space on it, even when i clear it right out, im still pretty limited.

    most of these photos will be enlarged and scrapbooked in my heritage album. they are wonderful, old photos! they are scratched and stained and faded ... ... i have been running them through paint shop pro 9 and fixing them up, unsharp mask, curves - contrast etc. and so they all blend, im sepia toning them all the same tone as well.

    i guess i need to do a test at 1200dpi (i dont even know if my scanner goes that high?) or as high as it does go. i certainly am looking to bring out more detail and fix them up quite a bit.

    i will also burn them all onto a disc when im done and give a copy to my cousins too.

    thanks for your continuing help!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    edited because somehow this posted twice

  14. #14
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    Checkout external hard drives as the prices have come way down on these, they'll give you all the room you need without having to update your computer.The nice thing about them is once you have what you want on them you can basically just unplug it and take it to whomever and share it with them.

  15. #15
    GRUMPY
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    I always scan at the max that way I never have to rescan it again in the future also as stated on here before it makes it that much easier to while repairing things (scratches marks and what have you). What I find the [censored] though is when you get these old pictures and nobody knows who is in them or what they are of.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    A temporary solution to the storage problem is using a USB stick as temporary storage. Perhaps scanning, restoring and printing one (or small numbers) of photographs at a time instead of scanning all the photographs at once.

    External HD's are also a good idea. I now have three of them just for my photographs. However I wouldn't use them for long term storage. Hard drives are very complicated and fragile mechanical devices. Many hard drives will seize after a long period without use. Also, all hard drives WILL eventually crash. Most will typically work for years but they can crap out in a matter of weeks - the problem is that we don't know when a hard drive will crash. When a hard drive does crash, there is usually no warning ahead of time.

    I find that the best medium for storage of digital photographs is DVD-R - soon to be replaced by Blu-Ray. The problem with digital is that digital data is very fragile in comparison to analog data. If there is a small scratch on an analog data on megnetic tape, for example, its not that big of a deal. The song or film will likely keep playing. If it was digital data on that magnetic tape, the file may have been destroyed or depending where the scratch occurs, the entire tape maybe inoperable, or it may not have an effect at all. If a digital file is damaged, its very hard to recover any lost data.

    Another problem with digital is that digital standards are constantly changing. If your grandchildren find these DVD-R's that you made containing family photos 50 years from now, will their computers be able to read them? Will their computers make sense of the JPEG format? Probably not. Most computers can't read those big 5 1/4 floppy disks anymore - even if you were to find an old drive to hook up to your computer - it probably won't work. NASA can't even read the digital data they saved during their early space flights and probes anymore! To fix this, you must constantly convert and update your collection of digital photographs as standards change. For some, it may just mean an afternoon of work at a computer converting everything. For an amateur photographer like myself, it may mean a few months worth of free time - not to mention a potentially huge expense. Just some of the reasons, why I stick to film instead of going digital.

    I have three versions of every photograph that I make (if I decide to make a print, then perhaps 4 or 5 versions). The original negative, a scanned RAW (Adobe DNG) file, and a post-processed file in Adobe PSD format. Both the RAW and PSD files stored temporarily on two external hard drives (one is an automatic back-up of the other). I eventually burn them to DVD-R and make two extra copies of the disc. If DVD-R, Adobe DNG-RAW and PSD ever become unreadable, I'll have my original negative. Well preserved photographic film dating back over 100 years have held up remarkably over time. Beautiful photographs can still be made from them. I expect the films that I use today to last even longer. Many fine-art photographers are now transferring their digital images to film for these reasons.

    Sorry about being long-winded but the problems that come with digital storage is a serious issue that will eventually bite people in the [censored] - and bite really hard.
    Oui, non, oui, non, OUI! - Henri Cartier-Bresson

  17. #17
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    not long winded at all, i appreciate it! ive heard that the discs dont hold up too well for lasting.

    a usb drive, thats a jump drive or travel drive eh? i have a few of them. ill have to play areound and figure out how to use them for working, i only know how to put something on and bring them to staples for printing.

    thanks!!!

  18. #18
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    Over time, old photos can dry out and become rolled up or curled, becoming too brittle to flatten out for scanning or photographing for restoration. Humidification is the process used by document and photo restoration experts for relaxing (flattening out) rolled up documents and old photos.

    Depending on the photo itself, it is often possible with care to attempt this at home. Building a humidification chamber for relaxing old photos before restoration is quite a simple process.

    Check out the link it has extensive information on document,book and photo restoration and preservation

    http://www.nedcc.org/home.php
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: care of old photos?

    I'm new to the board, so hello everyone.

    As for archiving photographs. You do want to be carefull about flatening old prints. As mentionned before, you can run the risk of cracking the emulsion. Humidification may be the only safe way to uncurl the photographs, but it may shorten the life of the image. Acid is the biggest risk to your images. If the water you use is not ph balanced you could start a reaction that will deteriorate the image. It probably won't happen right away. but you may have 80 years left of image preservation right now. If the water is not ph balanced you may cut that down to only 25 years. Also, even if your water is ph balanced, humidification will open the emulsion to absorb the acid in the environment (shoebox) leading to the same result. (You should also be carefull with wet emulsions as they become very soft and scratchable.

    I definately agree with not changing the original print in any way. Make a digital scan. As for scanning resolution. the higher the better, but every scanner has a breaking point. Even the pro Epson scanners, thought they can scan up to like 3600dpi are most effective at around 1200-1600dpi. When scanning, a 300dpi scan will give you a 1:1 zoom. Lower dpi will give you a smaller image than the original, and obviously higher will begin to enlarge the digital file.

    With prints as old and precious as these, It may be worth your while to buy an acid-free archival box. These are made with acid free cardboard and no glue. If left in a dry place, it would allow for the longest life possible for these prints. Maybe your great grand children could actually hold the originals.

    Sorry for the rant, but I have a passion for preservation of old BW images.
    Hope that helps.

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