Thursday, February 13, 2014


What you see above is the first step in my restoration of the Castle Wine and Berec Battery calendars.  Below are the finished prints.

These calendars are so large they can’t fit on a typical flatbed scanner.  Large format scanners cost well over $10,000 and that is not an option for me.   Fortunately, they lay flat and I decided start the process by making six overlapping image files for each calendar.

The next step was to fit the six pieces together and make a rough composite by masking out the worst spots.  In this step 
I ignored the text and background (those parts would be completely new creations based on the originals).

At this point I could focus on Joan’s repairs (right shoulder, water marks) and enhancements (make the skin tones more uniform, lighting hot-spots, dress color). 

The large photograph of Joan in Berec Battery was a much simpler repair than in Castle Wine, but the Berec product illustration need special attention. 

I wanted to improve the appearance of the batteries but not so much that they would stand out as “new and shiny” in an obviously vintage image. 

This balance is important to keep in mind.  In the case of these calendars, they were printed with 1970’s (or earlier) technology using color halftone and offset lithography presses.  Today they look inherently soft focus, splotchy, and flat finish because they were mass production illustrations, not fine art photographs.  Other degradations were caused by mechanical wear, aging, oxidation, spills and other contaminants that affected every part of the illustrations. 

I had to search for the fonts used in these calendars, and I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for.  Fortunately I found a very cool web site named myfonts that accepted small “unknown” font samples in .pgn format  .   myfonts made free font recommendations or suggestions/substitutes.   I paid $30 each for two fonts ($60 total).  They aren’t perfect matches, but this has to be the internet at its BEST!

I employed many other techniques and considerations on this job that I won’t go into now except to touch on the notion of customer expectations.  My finished image is a major improvement over the original, and customers like that.  (On the other hand, conservators often hate restorations.  They want the original item, warts and all).  It is important to note a photo restoration is not a photograph but more an illustration or a treatment.

However “perfection” is in the eye of the beholder.  My image has flaws due to my techniques, due to problems in the original production, and due to age and storage conditions.  It is difficult to address all these concerns without changing the basic feel of the image. Additionally, these calendars were meant to be viewed from a few feet of distance instead of a few inches.  I hate to admit it, but as I look closer the picture gets yuckier.  You could say the same thing about the Jumbotron at any sports event.

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