Sunday, December 1, 2013

Conserving your photos, negatives and slides – getting the right stuff!

One of the problems with photos and documents is they deteriorate over time, and that’s why we digitise and scan as this captures the image/document in its current state. I often get asked how to deal with storing the family documents and photographs. 
It is best to avoid touching negatives, slides and photos with your fingers unless you handle them with tweezers or cotton gloves or round their edges as the oil from your fingers can damage these images.

 Storing images
Good old black photograph albums are not a bad start, at least they keep the photos out of the light.  Ideally though it is best to use properly designed storage containers made from materials that will not react with your images further.  Some images and documents require neutral pH others require calcium buffered containers, so it is best to seek advice about the specific requirements for your images and documents. Google is your friend for finding out the most up to date information and advice for storing your images.

Negatives stored in purpose designed archival pages
In New Zealand I get my storage materials from either:

Port Nicholson Packaging in Petone Wellington who stock the Australian archival Museum storage systems

or Conservation Supplies

Both these places have excellent information about the materials they have on offer on their websites and offer online ordering and delivery.

The National Library  has information about storing family collections including documents and photo's.

There is also information in this handy pdf produced by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
Copyright Carterworks NZ

Monday, November 25, 2013

An interesting way of displaying your digitized images at a party

Most people know about digital photo frames,but not many people realise a lot of modern TVs can be used in the same way. Recently my dad turned 80. We wanted to do something special for his party. I have been digitizing many of our family photos, slides and negatives.   It was easy to go through the digitized collection and select images to display along with more recent digital photos we had taken to create a personalized digital slide show. It was then a simple matter to load the digital images onto a USB stick and insert it into the USB slot on my parents TV.

The TV's slide-show function automatically displayed each image for 20 seconds.

What surprised me was how much interest this little digital show generated at the party. People enjoyed looking at the images and talking about them.  Many of the images contained family members and friends who were at the party. The TV made a brilliant viewer as everyone could see it easily.  Digitization allowed us to view images from the early 1900s to the present day in one show.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dating historical photos

What age do you think this photo is?
I actually have a pretty good idea of the age of this photo, as it is a photo of my Great grandmother and Grandfather and my Grandfather wrote an important clue on the back, which I will tell you about later.  But what if my Grandfather had not given me a clue, how could I discover the date this photo was taken?   

Dating old photos requires some detective work, you have to look for clues.  Factors such as the type of photographic process used; who the photographer was, when they operated, and the size of the photo are all important clues.  For paper printed photos,  the type of mount and the information printed on the back of the mount also give clues about the age of the photo.  The clothing people are wearing the studio setting, the props and background provide additional information.
Photographic Process : The photo is mounted on card, it has a slight purple tinge to it and it is smooth and glossy.  The photo is a paper based print and not a negative. This eliminates some earlier photographic processes such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes. When the photograph is enlarged you cannot see the underlying paper texture. This means the photo has at least three layers, which narrows the range of print types to either a Gelatin or a Collodian printed out print.  If it is a Collodian printed out print it will have three layers making up the print and the paper fibres will not be visible when you look up close at the highlights and mid-tones (apart from the damage).  Looking at the photo closely, and combined with the other factors it appears the photo is a Collodian printed out print, a photographic process used  between 1865 to 1920.  That is quite a wide range, so we need to look at some  of the other clues.

Photo mount: The photo measures 4 ¼ by 6 ½ inches (10.7 by 16.5cm), and apart from my Grandfather's handwriting on the back it is completely blank.   This size of photo is known as a Cabinet Card, not a smaller carte de visite. Roger Vaughan, an English collector of early photographs, has identified some useful stylistic mount characteristics of these cards which can be used for dating.   Cabinet cards were often blank on the back in the 1900 period, with no printed matter.  This cabinet card has rounded corners, again this indicates it was produced around 1900, because after 1900 Cabinet cards were square with embossed borders. 

The photographer:  At the bottom of the photo it says Frank J Denton and in brackets (Late A Martin), Wanganui, New Zealand. This suggests to me that Denton may have bought Martin's business. Denton is listed on the Auckland City Photographers Database, a wonderful resource which can be accessed online via the Auckland Public Library site. Denton is listed as operating in Wanganui around this time (at the time of my original search, a little later) and Alfred Martin is listed as being in Wanganui until the late 1890s.  I did a search on Papers Past, in the Wanganui Chronicle 1899 and found a very interesting Public Notice:
So I believe Denton had only recently taken over this business when my great grandmother and grandfather had their photo taken.

Clothing Styles: My Grandfather was born in September 1896 and his mother in 1871. She was an assistant teacher. He looks about 3 to 4 years old. My Great grandmother is wearing a masculine styled coat dress with a high collar and the top of her sleeves are quite small and not the large puffy style that was popular in the 1890s, indicating that its a later style.  Consulting a reference on dress styles, in the early part of the 1900s progressive women who were working adopted a more masculine style of dress. Her coat dress was popular in the early 1900s.  My Grandfather is dressed in an Edwardian style. 

It is pretty clear from my analysis that the photo was taken either late 1899 or early 1900 which is confirmed by the clue my Grandfather wrote on the back of the photo:

 "Mother and me at Norsewood about 1900"

Now I just have to work out what they were doing in Norsewood at that time, but that is another mystery to be solved.....

Some useful references:
For photographic processes

For NZ photographers since 1840 - the photographic database link is:
Some links on clothing styles and fashions

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why people don't smile in old photos

Recently the photoblog PetaPixel ran a little article on the reasons why people didn't smile in early photos.  It appears apart for the need to sit still while the photo was taken there may have been other reasons as well.  See below:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kelburn Normal School Centenary dramatic colour photo transformation

I am busy scanning Kelburn Normal School class photos for the Centenary celebrations to be held in May 2014.  In the 1970s school photographers started offering school photos in black and white and colour. I can see why they did both...they were not sure about the stability of colour photographic processes.....this one is from 1977...

It looked a little red...I was delighted to discover that it responds well to a bit of photoshop magic!

For information about the reunion go to or the facebook page  at

Monday, August 26, 2013

An example of an old retouched photo from the Image Permanence Institute

I have discovered a wonderful on line resource  that you can use to help you identify and conserve your photos.  It is called the Graphics Atlas which has been put together by the Image Permanence Institute a New York based research centre.

This online resource includes examples of all different types of early photos, slides and negatives.  Information about the construction of different types of photographs, negative and slides, the sort of damage they typically suffer from, cross sections and close up views of the image are provided. 

Below is an example of an early retouched photograph from the Atlas, proving that retouching and restoration is not a new, and in fact was used in early photographs.

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Reproducing a water colour

A while ago I was asked by a couple to reproduce two beautiful original watercolour paintings. The paintings were painted of their daughters by an elderly Aunt.  One of the daughters, who now lives overseas, had asked for a copy of the paintings that she remembered as a young girl.

As an artist, I think it is important to reproduce colours accurately, something that was quite hard to do years ago when colour print technology was limited. 

Fortunately the watercolour originals were in beautiful condition.  I chose an archival matt paper ideal for art reproductions that resembled the original watercolour paper in its colouring and subtle texture. As I have a fully calibrated scanner, computer screen and printer I was able to accurately match the printed colours to the original watercolour.  The prints were reproduced using my  beautiful high resolution Epson Stylus Pro 3800 printer, which has archival inks. The family were really pleased with the end result.  As a bonus the family now have digitised archival copies of the original artworks which they can share.

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Monday, August 12, 2013

Graduation Portrait

I was really honoured when my friend Maureen asked that I take portrait photos of her and her family following her graduation ceremony.  We did a series of group shots with her family and then individual shots, down at a local park.  This one below is one of my favourite's.... taken about halfway through the shoot, when the family had left, the lighting and the location were just magic, and we just relaxed....

and I didn't even need photoshop!   Well just a little.....

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fascinating detective work by the Independent

The Independent has had a series of articles showing images taken from glass plate negatives that have recently been uncovered in the Somme area.  It is suspected they were taken by a local amature photographer who would have sold the prints from these negatives to subjects to send home to their loved ones.  One set of negatives is particularly interesting as it shows a woman dressed in an NZ uniform, see the story in the following link....
And another about a different image from this time

Restored image

Original image
Postcard images from this era were very popular and like many I have private images that were sent home (England) during this period. This one is of my great grandfather taken in Ypres (Leper) 1917.    It was probably taken by a local photographer and incorporated into a postcard image. 

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Instagram and vintage - they're fun but they are not the only option for your old slides & vintage photos

Recently I have noticed lots of fashion shoots with a vintage or instagram look.  These are great fun. There are now tons of phone apps and photoshop tutorials that show you how to create these effects – which can look great  if chosen well and applied to the right image….
I started to wonder where the idea came from to add these effects...............

I suspect it is a result of home scanning of family photos....
Old colour photos and slides naturally produce this vintage or retro instagram effect because the scanning process just copies the chemical damage caused to the film or print over time.  While some images look nice, others just don’t work.  A lot of people just don’t know how to fix this …..and think their only option is to throw their photos away!

The good news is you have options.  You don’t have to put up with this chemical damage once your images are digitised.  Any digitised image can be colour corrected and restored to bring out the true colours of the original image . In this photo taken in the early 1980s, the original is on the left, the restored one is on the right….

You can also get rid of other unwanted effects - dust, scratches, over exposure, shadow, and even people as in this example from my website which was a Kodachrome slide from the 1960s.

If you have some images sitting round home that look like this…
then give me a call ........they can be saved
Alternatively you can send your scanned photos directly to me via my file up-loader!

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beautiful wedding photos

Often when digitising family collections I do see some amazing photos.  Recently I digitised a rather beautiful set of wedding photos.  Their owner kindly agreed to let me share a few of these beautiful priceless images which she now has captured in a digital form. 

Note these have only been enhanced by conversion to their true black and white.

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Creating a photo wall

Like most people we had a collection of photograph frames given to us as presents over the years.  After having children  I always had the intention of framing some of our family photos and putting these on the wall...

...I read books on hanging artworks to try and give me inspiration.....but getting all the photos together was an ongoing process...... deciding what to hang and how to make the most of the arrangement of the frames my stairwell just got put in the "too hard basket"..... just wasn't happening...

Then recently I saw an article in a Your Home and Garden magazine where the owner of a house had just hung a whole lot of  white frames on her wall...
some had photos in them ...
some were empty....

The designers reasoning was - I have all  these frames  - lets just  arrange them on the wall to look good and I will fill them as an ongoing project.   At last, a solution to my problems! I didn't have to store those old photo frames in a box in the roof anymore - I could just hang them on the wall and over time I would fill them with images of my family.....

Hanging our photo frames proved quite a mission, because over the years we had amassed quite a fact we had nearly 30 frames....fortunately we have a large hallway!   I laid all the frames out on the floor and arranged them so they looked balanced.  I didn't have one consistent wood colour, or even frame colour ....but my decorating experience has taught me that you can mix different woods together and they will work....and gold and black and silver can complement the wood as well.  Using a straight edge, chalk and a spirit level I hung all of them.  It took me three days

Now I have a work in progress that I add to as I restore and add to my family photographic collection.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Scanning Glass Plate Negatives

Recently I was given a number of glass plate negatives to scan.  Their owner thought they dated from the late 1800s but wasn’t too sure what the images were as they were difficult to see.   The negatives had been stored away flat in wads of newspaper...

We have a special tray in our scanner that enables us to scan glass plate negatives with the emulsion side uppermost so the delicate emulsion does not need to be in contact with the glass of the scanner - many other scanners cannot do this. 
Can you imagine my excitment, these images had not been seen for many years! ....What would we uncover?  Below are a couple of images from the collection....

Click to enlarge
Glass plate negatives require careful handling and storing to avoid damage.  To protect these negatives it is best that they are stored vertically on their longest side and in individual archival envelopes. For more advice see
Copyright Carterworks (NZ)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Hidden information - Neville's Discovery

Some time ago I was asked to restore a small photo of Neville's father who was a scout in the early 1900s in Wellington.  The photo was quite small and faded and was taken in Hay Street, Oriental Bay.

I restored the photo and printed it at a larger size.  I was able to enlarge this photo because the original image was quite sharp and I can scan and print photos at a high resolution.  The resulting print showed a lot of the detail not obvious in the original. 

After looking at the print, Neville was surprised to notice an officer's ranking shoulder of his father's uniform.  He said he never realised his father had obtained that rank as it was not obvious in the original photo.

Copyright Carterworks NZ

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Early colour photography

Sergey Prokudin-Gorskii
One of the most amazing collections of early colour photographs is held by the Library of Congress, known as the Sergey Prokudin -Gorskii collection.  These early colour photos were not easily viewable because the images were made up of three separate black and white glass plates which had been shot simultaneously with three separate lenses covered with a different coloured filter-  red, green and blue.  The colour image was formed when the plates were combined in a specialist viewer.  It is believed Gorskii's camera was similar to one developed by Miethe in 1903.   Between 1909 and 1915  Gorskii travelled around Russia documenting the country at the time producing both colour and sepia images. He managed to leave the country with around half of his collection that was later bought by the Library of Congress. 

In 2000 the Library started scanning these images and many have now been restored, using the process of digichromatography. 
One of the striking things about these images is the fact they are so real, yet they document a time that we most commonly see in black and white or sepia. 

View of Vitebsk taken in 1912
Copyright Carterworks NZ

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Portable Scanner
We can now visit you at your place to scan your documents, photos, 35mm slides and negatives!

We have a number of different specialised scanners that enable us to capture images at different resolutions.  Scanners are specialist machines and some are not easily transportable.  While our negative/ slide scanner and book scanner are highly portable our specialist large media scanner is not.
There are a number of small scanners on the market - many of these have inbuilt automatic functions which cannot be turned off and they do not have the ability to be colour profiled. This limits their suitability for photographic restoration.
Recently we found a good solution, a small portable Epson scanner with professional features and we can now scan your photos in your own home. In professional mode the Epson offers all the features required to capture a good image suitable for a large number of restoration purposes.  Our large scanner is used for images that require more extensive work, large negatives and glass-plate negatives.