Copying old photos : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I am working at a Senior Center, trying to make copies of wonderful old photos which the participants have brought in. We have two goals: a collection of 3.5 x 5 small black and white prints for their enjoyment, and a set of good enlargements for a traveling display. The old photos are usually very small, and yellowed with age. My first test roll, Ilford XP-2, processed and printed on B & W paper at a good local lab, resulted in prints which were very grey , with low contrast. Is there some way I can get "snap" into these prints ? Would TMAX 100 do better ? Any advice would be appreciated.

-- Kathy Shearer (, November 19, 1997


Hi Kathy: Well, the purists aren't going to like my suggestions but here goes.

1. Try a fairly fine grain film like TMX-100. 2. If you don't have a light setup then make the copies in full sun. 3. Get as close as you can with the camera, crop closely. 4. Find someone with a darkroom to help and have him/her add contrast to the print, either printing on a higher grade paper or using vc filters, etc. I've read a lot of advice about using color film to copy prints with but that just copies the yellowing too, in this case. Hope this helps. Mike

-- Mike Langford (, November 19, 1997.

The key is contrast control, and that means someone who is good in a darkroom. Find a lab or person who will do custom B&W prints. XP-2 is a rather low contrast film. Use a low speed "traditional" B&W film like APX 25, Pan-F, TMAX 100, or Delta 100, in that order of preference. Tech-Pan can give better results but it's tricky to process.

-- Tim Brown (, November 19, 1997.

The previous comments are fine. I would just add a couple of points:

The lighting is very important, whether you use a "proper" setup or daylight. Put the original on a easel, or something, the camera on a tripod, filling the frame with the original. The light should be nice and strong, to illuminate the whites of the original, but not to reflect off the shiny black parts.

Life is much easier if you can beg/borrow/steal a baseboard with two or four lamps, and a rack-and-pinion column to raise and lower the camera. While we re at it, a macro lens for the camera would be a good idea.

This sounds like a community project, or at least non-profit. In this case, you may find a friendly shop will lend you a second-hand setup.

If any pictures are partially yellow, a yellow filter over the lens might help, so the stain doesn't show in the final print. A picture that is yellow all over doesn't need this.

Automatic labs are probably a bad idea, especially a chromogenic film like XP2. As someone said, a hand-printer can easily increase the contrast of a print, but only within certain limits.

Good luck!

-- Alan Gibson (, November 20, 1997.

This will really offend the purist, yet it will no doubt work better than any traditional photographic approach. Find a local community college, or university (or at a last resort a good production lab with digital capabilities). My experience with digitally restoring photographs has led me to believe that for restoration purposes the computer is godsend. You will also have the ebility to bump contrast and remove troublesome defects easily. I hope this helps. p.s. I suggest that you find the c.c. or university and solicit the help that way. Although the didgital printing and manipulation can be expensive, students attempting to gain credit and experience will do it for a fraction of the price.

-- sean m (, January 12, 1998.

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