Scanning Old Photos


I spent much time last night on the phone talking to far-flung members of my extended family. All part of my current project, scanning old family photos and posting them on my photo site. Many of these pictures were from when dad and the aunts and uncles were kids and I wanted to let the family know the photos were up and could be viewed now.

Most of these photos have been in an old, crumbling album that was in the family for who-knows how long… After both mom and dad passed away it fell into my hands. A couple years ago I was concerned about the safety of these old pics so I transferred them all into a new album with acid-free paper and so on. Not an easy task, as somewhere along the line someone had either taped or glued many of the photos onto the pages. How does one recover from that? I looked everywhere on the net for some advice but found nothing directly related to what I was going through, so I opted to leave well enough alone and simple cut each pic from it’s mount and slipped them into the new sleeves.

Over the fourth of July weekend, with the bad air (I live in California and the forest fires rage nearby) and the heat (we’re looking at 100’s!) I opted to stay in and start this project. I probably got about a quarter of the way through the black and white photos, scanning each at 300 dpi. I probably could have gone higher on the resolution, but I don’t think it would make much difference. After that step, I opened each in Photoshop and started a restoration process: Duplicate the image onto a new layer for spotting and cleanup, then duplicate that onto another layer for levels adjustment and any burn and dodge to even out the photo. I saved that and then exported the photo to a jpg for posting on the net. This step showed me that the brightness of each photo was exporting too dark, so I added an additional step of adding a brightness adjustment layer in PS to compensate. I’m assuming that exporting from the original file in 16 bit gray level to jpg in 8 bits was the culprit here. No problem, adjusting the brightness by 10 or 15% lighter seems to work and saves the original at the best quality for the time being.

Almost every photo showed signs of wear and time. Many had scratches and spots, wrinkles or cracks and the evidence of fingerprints and the aforementioned tape. I chose to deal with these in Photoshop by using the spot-healing tool on the spots in the open areas and the stamp tool in the tight spots. I tried to be very careful not to change the the feel or look of the original image. My levels and burn/dodge were done to even out the faded places and the poor printing of the original.

All in all, I’m happy with the results so far. The scans look good, the old photos are safe, the family are getting to them and we may even figure out the who/what/when/where of a few of them. I’ll be adding more photos to this gallery as I get them scanned and cleaned up…


I slept miserably last night but awoke to cooler temperatures and an overcast sky.

After breakfast at Alice’s, Cathi and I drove Granite road to look for a photo opportunity. Not far up, I pulled to the side and got out with my camera. The skies were dark and dramatic, the rolling hills clear of oil wells, if but for this short stretch. On our way home, we stopped at the grocers and did our shopping for the week. Once home, I opened up the windows to let the house air out and to take advantage of the cool but slight breeze. These cooler temps are a nice reprieve from the sudden turn to summer we’ve had of late. I washed the patio down while Cathi put some brownies in to bake. The laundry’s almost done, the dogs are quiet and ready for their nap and I’m settling in for the afternoon.

Yesterday I stumbled on a blog website for WFMU with over a hundred versions of Stairway To Heaven posted. I sampled a few, downloaded a few others for the iPod and my drive time listening this week.


I’ve enjoyed using the beta version of Adobe Lightroom so far. It’s changed my work flow. Before, I used to load shots into Photoshop one at a time and do my editing there. I’d have to have multiple shots open in PS to do any comparison, clicking one forward, then another. Now I load the whole shoot into Lightroom, pick the shots I like, do my processing, then do an export. Each shoot is organized by date and, if need be, by subject. Exports are put into a folder inside the original shoot folder. The exports are copies of the original pictures with the nondestructive edits made inside Lightroom, usually at a lesser quality, about 90 percent on the Lightroom scale. I still edit on occasions in Photoshop, usually adding an Unsharp Mask to the photo. I’m not entirely happy with the sharpening available in Lightroom. Nor am I completely comfortable with the b/w processing, though I still have a bit of learning to do with the program. Often I’ll just do my b/w’s in Photoshop, I’m more comfortable there. I like the options of using specific RGB channels to isolate for my b/w. However, I was messing with Lightroom today and there looks to be some options for b/w that I was not aware of and I’ll have to make a point of tinkering with. So far the program looks good. I’ll need to purchase it when it becomes available.

One thing about Lightroom, using it has made me more disciplined when it comes to organization of my pictures. I have a whole year’s worth or more of shots that need to be cataloged and added to the new library, all of which also need to be organized by dates. Over the time that I’ve had my camera, and been doing PAD, most of my library is only organized by picture number…