restoring old black and white photographs : LUSENET : Darkroom Technique : One Thread

Hi: I am trying to create a family photo album for future generations. Have got my parents old photo album and a lot of the photos have faded. We believe there is a process for re-washing? photos to bring them back to original. Any help appreciated. Thanks in advance.

-- Brenda Harfield (, April 23, 2002


Brenda: Unfortunatley, there isn't much that can be done to an original paper print that is faded or stained. Fading can be caused by several factors. UV is the common problem with color images, and is the main reason most color processes are not archival. Fading in black and white images can be contributed to improper development processes. Henry Fox Talbot produced images in the 19th century. Some of the originals now only contain his ink signature at the bottom of the print. The entire image has faded away.

You could digitally recreate the images as a preservation alternative.

The best way to do this is to scan the images at high resolution and add the missing density with a program like photoshop. Once you are satisfied with the results, output the file to a film recorder which will create a high resolution negative. Once you have the negative, you can produce high quality photgraphic prints. Any prints produced should be printed on fiber paper. This is very important. Resin Coated or RC paper is very common in the industry. It is not archival. If you want prints that will last, you need to have them printed to archival standards. That means fiber based paper. Of course, if you preserve the negative, you could make less expensive prints whenever you want.

Unfortunately, none of this comes cheap. You could scan the prints at most self serve places like copy cop, but you need to know what you're doing. It is essentail that you obtain a high res scan, or it won't be of much use for print. When I have high res scans done, I am lucky to get more than a couple on a CD. They are large files.

If you have photoshop, you can save quite a bit of money editing the scans yourself. Since the files will be pretty large, you will need to have a comercial quality computer system to manipulate the files. The standard home computer probably won't be able to handle it. But then, if you own Photoshop, you probably own sufficient hardware as well.

When I was in the business, I remember film recorders in the $20,000 range. It was a while back, but I imagine a good film recorder is beyond the standard household budget. (certainly out of mine). You will have to pay for the film recording. No way around it.

On the positive side; There are services around that will do all of the abbove for you. There are an endless stream of options available. Photoshop retouching can be done for a price and many copy service companies. Loading images to CDs is also pretty common.

This is probably more information than you bargained for. Anyway, I hope it helps.


-- Don Sigl (, May 28, 2002.

Hi, There are many companys out there today (including mine) that will do all of this stuff for you, that is, scanning, manipulating, and printing on archival paper. We also include the image back to you on a CD with nothing what so ever done to your orriginal photograph. Satisfaction garenteed! A nominal fee of $25.00 per hour, and most photos with the kind of dammage that you discribe would take about 30 min. Feel free to contact me for a more detailed estimate. Good Luck, and what a wonderful gift you will be giving you family!

-- Andrea Luplow (, December 27, 2002.

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