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Archive for December 11th, 2009

Salvaging Old Photos: Gamma Boost

We’re scanning a bunch of really old photographs to assemble a book of memories for Mary’s father. Most of the images are about what you’d expect for old photos: bad exposures, poor focus, and scratched emulsion. There’s not much you can do to save ’em, but one image really surprised me.

Scanned at 600 dpi with the black and white points set to maximize the dynamic range, we got this image (reduced resolution for display here).

Original

Original

The original image is somewhat brighter than that: there’s a figure visible in the upper-left, but you can’t see much more.

After dramatically adjusting the gamma and switching to grayscale mode, her father popped out of the shadows.

Gamma = 3

Gamma = 3

Now, it’s not a great picture, but it’s one of the few we have from that era… and it’s a much better picture than no picture at all!

A similar trick can recover dull gray snow pictures, as mentioned there.

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