AncestorNews: Finding the Details in Old Photos
I have some exciting news to share with all of you. Last week, I received a copy of my book Finding Your Roots Online (Betterway Books, $19.99). I’m so proud of it, and I hope you find dozens of ancestors using my techniques. You can order the book at www.familytreemagazine.com/store/display.asp?id=70583 or by calling (800) 448-0915.
A friend of mine will be traveling to Denmark this fall to do on-site ancestral research. While preparing for her trip, she ran across a postcard-sized photo taken in Denmark that showed several men on board a fishing boat. An X on the photo marked her grandfather. Because the picture was on the dark side, I asked her to scan and e-mail it to me to see if I could work some digital magic. Later that day, I called her and asked her if she noticed her grandfather was holding a child in the picture. She answered no. Hidden in the deep shadows of the old photo was a child who was most likely my friend’s mother.
Losing photo details in shadows is common. But simple image-editing software techniques can help reveal what’s hidden. The first step is to scan the photo into your computer at 1200-dpi resolution. The file will be large, but you’ll be able to see details in the photograph more easily. In fact, when I saw my friend’s photo at a high resolution, I could see much more detail than I could in the original photo.
Once you have the photo loaded in your imaging software (such as Adobe Photoshop Elements www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/main.html, Jasc Paint Shop Pro www.jasc.com or Microsoft Picture It! pictureitproducts.msn.com/default.asp), put the software to work using automatic fixes. For example, most programs have an auto contrast enhancer or a “slider” control to adjust color contrast and brightness. Don’t be afraid to play with these controls until you’re happy with the results. In the case of my friend’s photo, simply adding more light via the contrast control helped immensely. (Be sure to make a backup copy of the digital file before you start adjusting the photo.)
For more suggestions on fixing old photos, visit these sites:
• Enhancing Pictures Digitally
• Fixing Faded Family Photos
• Basic Lessons
• Editing a Too-Dark Photo
Correction: The American Genealogical-Biographical Index, referred in last week’s column, is not one of Ancestry’s free resources. Ancestry hosts a free version of the American Biographical Library, which contains more than 75,000 full-text biographies.