All Restored Images have completed the process below. They are High-Resolution files that are large enough for just about any conceivable licensing need.
Unrestored Images represent a special licensing opportunity, though there are additional costs involved. These Unrestored Images have never been published or seen by the public. They represent a unique licensing choice that can set you apart from the competition.
Some images can be restored in as little as 4 hours. Most require between 12 and 20 hours, though there are times that 2 or 3 people working on different aspects of restoration may represent the total of 100 hours in labor.
The Archives scans all of its source material on a Hasselblad Flextight X5 film scanner or a Epson Expression 11000XL flatbed scanner. Whether glass plates, negatives, transparencies or prints, the process of digital imaging starts with the scan. Our intention is to capture the highest resolution necessary, based on the output size.
Digital imaging is a general phase used by all of us who push visual data around in the form of pixels. The Archives uses Photoshop as the primary tool to repair, enhance color and generally get the most out of an image. We approach an image in the following methodical steps:
Repair and remove any scratches, tears, and dirt or surface abnormalities. This is done with the use of the cloning tool and (our favorite) the healing brush, as the image is carefully reviewed pixel by pixel.
After the cleanup is completed, we evaluate the image by looking at its tonality. We identify which tonal values need to be isolated. Once they are identified, masks are made. There are varieties of ways to make mask in Photoshop. Using color range to isolate an area is a good starting point; another is manually-created paths. Then tweaking the mask, we can add more to the mask or punch holes in it to reveal the picture behind it. Feathering the edges is always important. Sometimes we will use an individual channel as a starting point as well. Other then the initial cleanup in noted above, masking is the second most time-consuming step in the restoration process.
Using the mask, we create adjustment layers to correct specific areas in the image. The ones we use most often are Curves, Hue & Saturation, and Selective Color. Since color is subjective, we believe that it is important to maintain the look and color balance that is natural to the period when the original was created, including the lens and the type of film used.
It is important to maintain integrity with what the original would have looked like. This approach is the heart and soul, the human touch, which represents the creative artist's hand.
Once the image appears finished on the monitors, we then have to tweak the colors value and saturation so that it prints the way that it looks on the screen. The ink and media combinations can render the values substantially different than how they appear on the monitor. In addition to those challenges, it is at this point that we do our sharpening and/or alter the look of the film grain. Both of these steps are done with Photoshop, niks filters and Alien Skin. This is the final proofing and printing process.
In 1992, Milton Greene’s son Joshua, who is the President of The Archives, was working in Los Angeles as a visual consultant on a film project. The techies he was working with convinced the director to scan original negatives and transparencies as a way to capture the images for the film. Normally, this was accomplished by making prints large enough to be filmed by the camera crew. In the process of manipulating the images digitally, the techies used exciting new software named Photoshop. This software allowed the removal of surface scratches, fingerprints and general years of damage.
When Joshua saw that this digital environment and software allowed faded, washed out images to be bought back to life, it changed his life. He decided to start a company dedicated to the preservation of photography.
All traditional photography is finite. Silver prints last 150 years, platinum prints last 200 years and resin coated prints last 5 to 25 years.
Resin coated prints are the most inexpensive and common format used by the consumer and commercial photographer. It is the least expensive film, paper and chemical combination. It was what you got when you go to your 1-hour film process. I am sure that many of you have pictures in your home that over time has slowly faded and starts looking purple. Sometimes it could happen within 4 years and other times it could take 30 years. When was the last time you look at your parents or grandparents wedding photos?
Films and negatives are another matter. At the turn of the century, films were glass plates with an emulsion on them. Their lifespan is between 100 to 200 years depending on the environment they are stored in. In the 1800, acetate was incorporated as a film base instead of the glass. Not only did it make the cases lighter for the photographer and there assistants, but also made it easier for photographers to travel and shoot on location. The black and white acetate based films if processed correctly would have a life of 150 to 200 years. Though this caveat of good processing was rarely successful because of the need for running water to give a long washing cycle, which is the key to the films longevity.
So it is not uncommon to find black and white glass plates or films that have discoloration that appears around the edges and works its way around the center.
There is a wonderful book entitled “The History of Photography” (published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1964; written by Beaumont Newhall) explains the process of color reversal film better than I ever could. I had taken the liberty to incorporate his explanation below.
In 1935 subtractive color films were introduced which eliminated the necessarily of making more than one exposure which could be used in any camera. The first to be announced was Kodachrome film, invented by Leopold Manns and Leopold Godowsky in calibration with the staff of the research laboratories of the Eastman Kodak company. It is based upon the 1912 invention by Rudolph Fischer of Dye-coupling.
The top emulsion is sensitive to blue light only. Beneath it is a layer of yellow dye which absorbs the unrecorded blue rays, allowing the red and green rays to penetrate to the 2 emulsions beneath it, one of which is sensitive to green rays only, and the other to red. Thus, upon exposure, a simultaneous record, in latent form, is obtained of the three primary colors in the scene. The film is first developed to a negative and then, by reversal processing, to a positive. During the second development, Dyes of the complementary colors of yellow, cyan and magenta are formed in the appropriate areas, and the Silver is bleached away.
To answer a demand for film which the photographer could process himself, Ansco brought out in 1942, its Ansco-color film, which was followed by Kodak’s Ecktachrome film; in both of these dye-couplers were incorporated in the separate emulsions.
Color film which was introduced around the 1940s was extremely unstable, especially the early versions of Ectktachrome film, E2, E3 and E4. Ecktachrome film is made up of an acetate base and 3 layers of color, cyan, magenta and yellow. What would happen as the film oxidizes the yellow layer would fade away. The magenta would also fade, though at a slower rate leaving the cyan to mixed with the fading Magenta. This would leave you with a positive transparency that looked purple. Skin tones would go white due to the loss of the yellow and millions of color values would be lost from the image. The lifespan of these Ecktachrome films could start showing signs of fading as early as 20 years after the image was taken. The E4 processing was more stable then its first 2 counter parts. The current version of Ecktachrome used today, which was developed in the late 70s or early 80s remains the most stable.
In the mid 40s Kodak developed a completely different type of film base and process method for the US military. This top-secret product was Kodachrome. After World War II a version of the film base was introduced to the public. It was only available as a 35 mm film and of course it was the subject of one of Paul Simon’s favorite songs. Kodachrome remains one of the most stable color reversal films in the world. In the late 80s Kodak could no longer keep the processing a secret due to the monopoly that it had control over. They were also faced with another major problem, the Kodachrome processing plant in Rochester New York had killed all life in Lake Erie. With these 2 facts they were pressured to re-design the formula for the film base, figure out how to process the film in accordance with the EPA and make the product available to the competitors. The Kodachrome of today still has those “nice bright colors”, but doesn’t have the slick wet edgy look that the earlier deadly version did. Though it still remains the most stable color stable film.
Color negative film is a different story. It is considered to be quite stable and reliable. It is also the least expensive film and most widely used by the amateur and consumer market. It those orange films that you get back from your one-hour photo place. There have been many versions of color negative film, there lifespan like there black and white cousins vary greatly based on the quality of the chemicals and the length of the washing time and they to will show signs of discoloration starting around the edges then towards the center.
Timeline of Early Photography
Note: Mr. Eastman realized that there were two types of photographers other than professionals. One type was a person that would shoot landscapes, architecture and vistas. The other was the person who likes to photograph people in the form of family snapshots. Both types still drive the market today.