Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Do I scan the negative or do I scan its print?

At Carterworks we scan and digitize thousands of colour photographic prints, slides and negatives.

When it comes to digitizing colour photos from certain eras it is better, if possible, to scan the negative. Why is this?  If you scan a colour print and compare it to a scan of the negative used to make that print you will notice differences between the scans.  This difference is particularly obvious in prints and negatives produced circa 1980s - 1990s.  These differences are not due to scanner settings or the type of scanner.  We know this as our systems are colour controlled.  To illustrate this point we scanned negatives and their corresponding prints from our own collection.

What we found:

1. Scans taken from original negatives have a greater colour range than the scans of their corresponding colour prints. Some of this difference can be explained by the limitations of print technology and inks at the time of printing; the remainder can be attributed to environmental exposure and the unstable nature of colour photography.  Another reason is the addition of black in the shadows at the time the print was made. Black was added to  made the print images look sharper but this  means information and colour is lost in the shadows.  The negative does not have this loss of detail.

Scan from original 1990s negative

Scan from original 1990s print.  Use of black
in the shadows reduces photo information.
The photo scan has a pink colour cast

2. Prints often have a distinctive colour cast.  This is caused by a mechanism employed by the chemical photo labs in the past to "improve a photo" which was to add a wash of whatever the dominant colour was in the image being developed.

We first discovered these differences when we scanned in a series of photos we took in the early 90s of  Art Deco buildings in Napier, NZ.  At the time the images were shot many of these buildings were predominantly painted with a soft pastel neutral background of white or cream and colour was used to pick out the building decoration. We noticed that a lot of our prints of these buildings had a colour cast which was in the same colour range as the buildings trim.  However this colour cast could not be seen in a scan of the corresponding original negative. These colour casts are obvious when compared to the original scan of the corresponding negatives, see examples above and below..

Scan from original 1990s print note the blue green colour cast

Scan from 1990s original negative

Scan from original 1990s negative
Scan from original 1990s print note the blue colour cast

What if you only have photos? 

This is not a problem.   We will produce a high resolution scan of your photos, remove the dust and scratches, correct any colour casts and any photographic print texture using Photoshop and other specialized editing tools as we have done in the restored example below....

Original photo no negative available with
red colour cast.
Final image corrected in Photoshop

Copyright Carterworks

Friday, May 26, 2017


I am pleased to annouce that Kelburn Normal School's Centennial history book is now available. Jo from Carterworks was responsible for image digitisation, restoration and retouching.

Kelburn Normal School - Celebrating 100 Years is a brand new 150+ page, fully bound, hard-cover photographic book charting the school’s first 100 years (1914-2014).
Using previously published historical information, newly sourced personal memories from some of the thousands of pupils who have passed through its doors, and hundreds of photographs from the school and national archives, it’s a fascinating look back at Kelburn Normal School.   
The book is chock-full of images of the school and its pupils from the past 100 years. Is your child, parent or great/grandparent within its pages? Many have already found theirs!
Priced at $70, the Kelburn Centenary Committee is selling the book at cost, with no profit for the school. Postage ($7.50 in New Zealand) is additional, or books can be picked up from the school’s office for free.
28th June: A new shipment of books has just arrived so if you have not already ordered now is a good time to place an order at https://www.kns100book.co.nz/
We hope you enjoy looking back over the first 100 years of Kelburn Normal School.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Unusual marks on an old photo

Recently I was asked to restore a photograph that had some unusual fine white pin marks on each corner.   I have not seen these types of marks before....

The full restored photo

Enlarged pin mark

The marks remind me of crop marks used by print designers when laying out publications either to indicate page edges or where to crop an image. I am wondering if these marks were added by the photographer to assist the picture framer. So far my research has not been able to confirm this. Have you seen this on any of your old photos do you know what these marks indicate?
Copyright Carterworks NZ

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Wonderful wedding photos

Wedding photos are always wonderful!

In the last couple of weeks I have restored a number of Edwardian wedding photos for different clients.  The images featured in this blog show an extended family as well as the bridal couple on the verandah of the family homestead....

Below are the faded originals which contain multiple fine scratches, stains, spotting etc. The real challenge with a restoration like this is to remove the damage while retaining the detail of the dresses.


Copyright Carterworks NZ

Friday, April 7, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Scanning Lantern slides

19th Century Magic lantern
 projector Wikipedia

Some time ago a client approached me about digitising a collection of early lantern slides.  Lantern slides are squarish glass slides that contain a mounted photographic transparency and are designed to be displayed in a magic lantern projector. Magic lantern projectors date back to the 17th Century and use a concave mirror at the back of a light source to direct the light through a lantern slide onto a lens which is adjusted to display the image on the slide onto a wall or screen.  Early lantern slides were hand painted images, then later the slides were printed using either photographic or photomechanical processes.

Lantern slides are positive images made from a negative. The image is mounted on a glass plate and covered with a glass cover which is taped at the edges. Lantern slide shows were either for entertainment or educational purposes. My client's slides dated from the 1920s and were black and white photographic images her Grandfather used to illustrate a presentation he made to the Nelson Literary Scientific and Philosophical Institute.  The slides and talk were about the hill tribes of Assam in north east India where he lived for some years.

Oridinary scan of image captions
Scanning the slides involved a two stage process - a reflective scan to record the image surround which contained important image captions and a second transparent positive scan.  In the second scan the scanner light is transmitted through the slide in the same manner as a magic lantern. The combination of shining light through the slide; the fact the slide sits directly below the scan head with no additional scanner glass and the auto focus function, enables a very clear high resolution scan.  Lantern slides are encased in glass so it is important to identify the emulsion side to get a clear scan.  Like glass plate negatives Lantern slides need to be handled carefully with gloves to avoid fingermarks and breakage.

Slide Scan
Final image

Final image
Final image

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Friday, March 17, 2017

Chemical damage of photographic prints

Sometimes I receive photos to restore that have suffered from chemical damage and it is one of the reasons why it is so important to capture a digital copy of a photo before it deterioates further. Chemical damage includes a whole range of reactions - two common ones being silvering out and sulphiding.

Silvering out is caused by chemical breakdown of the silver used to form the image in 19th and 20th century photographs.  The silver reacts with atmospheric contaminants such as hydrogen sulphide and peroxides leaving a bluish or green tarnish in the darker areas of the photo....

Scan by Carterworks showing silvering

Sulphiding is where this reaction causes the photo to change from black to brown and create overall fading.

Scan by Carterworks showing sulphiding

Over time these chemical reactions lead to a loss of photographic information or unsightly distortions and marks on the image.   Luckily both these images were captured in time and have been restored by Carterworks.

Restoration by Carterworks

Restoration by Carterworks

The National Gallery of Australia recommends that photos should  be displayed away from direct light, ideally behind UV glass and in temperatures of around 21 C and with a relative humidity of 50%.  They also recommend that photos

be mounted and framed or interleaved and stored with archival quality chemically stable acid-free plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester. Archival paper products should be neutral pH, unbuffered and lignin, sulphur and peroxide free. One sure way to determine if something is archival quality is to check if the material passes the American National Standards Institute Photographic Activity Test (ANSIPAT) .


In NZ you can get these archival storage materials for your photos and documents from:-

Conservation Supplies (online and in Havelock North) http://www.conservationsupplies.co.nz/
Port Nicholson Packaging in Wellington   http://www.pnp.co.nz/archival-storage/

Copyright Carterworks NZ