Photo processing envelope

Photo Processing

Not film camera to printed images!! I mean digital image processing!

Since the first known photograph of a human was taken in 1838, we have been capturing images of our families. Digitizing and preserving these images is a very important part of genealogical research. I cover scanning and digitizing images in another post, and will explore here how we process those images once we have them in digital form. 

Do we preserve them as we found them and scanned them, or do we digitally manipulate them to try to recapture the scene that was in front of the camera? 

I suggest that we do both. 

We should correct them as much as possible while also preserving a copy of the scan showing the image as we found it. As with everything in genealogy – document – document – document!! 

The rendition of early color photographs was not always accurate, and we have a fairly good idea of what the original colors were.  While I oppose colorizing monochrome images or “fixing” body images, I am okay with well-documented restoration of the original photographs scene.

Tools for photograph processing

I use free tools for most of my work. They tend to be more straight-forward to use with few unneeded “bloat” features and most are supported by helpful enthusiasts. 

I have spent the time to learn how to use (the unfortunately-named) GIMP photo editor and the XnView Multi Platform image viewer / processor. I use GIMP for custom processing of individual photos. The learning curve is somewhat steep, even with the many good tutorials available online. XnView is a very powerful batch processor, automatically cropping, sharpening, rotating, and converting many photos with one command. 

It is, however, often a good investment to purchase a program to perform a specific set of tasks.

One that you may find to be worth the modest investment is RESTORE Imaging Software from Vivid-Pix. It is worth the modest time it takes to learn, and if used judiciously, can enhance the experience of revisiting your ancestors through photographs. It also does a good job on documents, making them easier to read. There’s a free trial, so give it a try!