I recently had a very nice lady contact me about restoring several photos that had come to light about her families past. It must have been heart lifting for her to have discovered the photos. I met with her at a local restaurant so we could review her discovered treasure chest of old photos together.

It was an amazing story of how they came to light and I was glad she elected to go with someone who was local to her because we could meet in person and discuss her prints together. The stories of the photos are important to me because it puts me in a frame of mind where I can take ownership of the work that I will perform on them.


FIRST we reviewed each and every image, came up with the appropriate file name to call each; this was important because if she handed the digital files off to a relative, the file name is the first part of the image that can tell them who was in the photo.

SECOND I handled her images wearing gloves and placed each into a separate glycine envelope as my client placed a Post-It with an image number on the back each. These little pieces of paper matched up with the file names I recorded in a Login Sheet I have in my computer. Each image is evaluated for what issues it has and we made a plan for how far I would take each. Picture restoration is not just a hand-off and expect a brand new image kind of process.

THIRD she selected two images that I could further retouch. The rest of the images she just needed clean scans of with minor touch-ups (included) so that they could be printed and shared with friends and family.

I find the process of restoring photographs is really a joint process. I try to get my clients involved with the process because you can take any image as far as you want but it can take many, many hours to get it to look really good. Ultimately, it will never look brand new but it can be a huge improvement. Taking the journey together is important because at some point during the restoration process, the client can say “that looks good enough” and I can stop the meter. Or they can say, “I like where this is going, what is the cost for going another 30 minutes on it?” So what I do is with my client, we evaluate each image that will be retouched and figure out what the problems are with it and what the goals are for it. I’ll give an estimate and then we see how far I’ve gotten with the time allotted. I give the client an update at the end of the time allotted and we review the image to see if it needs to look any better and how much more time that will take (and the costs associated).

Size was also important, she only wanted to be able to make 5X7″ prints. This was important because I could have made the wallet size prints very large but with large scans comes more visible detail (and flaws) which makes them longer to retouch and obviously more expensive. Every scan I do comes with some clean-up time. The bulk of my customers come to me with only one image they need scanned and retouched. In this case, there were many images to scan and my client just wanted retouching on two of them so I gave her separate pricing for each service and included high resolution versions that she could print (or have printed), a set of small (web size) images for sharing, and a PDF contact sheet that could be emailed to friends and family.

Your old pictures are never going to get any better looking!

Scanning is really the best way to preserve them. You can box your photos and send them off to some mysterious location and hope they all return or you can work with someone local who will work along side you and figure out how good each image needs to be.

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