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  • ami Creates

Photographic Restoration: Preserving Memories For Future Generations

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

By using a combination of traditional and modern preservation and restoration techniques, the memories stored within a damaged image can be endlessly enjoyed by family, friends and future generations

When a photograph outlives its creator, it carries all the weight of that person’s memory, continuing to tell their story when they are no longer able to. An image can go on reciting its story for a great many years, but like its creator before it, time will inevitably take its toll.

The digital preservation of a photograph not only guarantees the longevity of the memories stored within the image for generations to come, but also allows those memories to be shared and enjoyed in the present day. Most families have large collections of photos they would hate to lose, but storing the originals can be fraught with problems. Colour slides and negatives can undergo colour change, black and white prints can fade and discolour, and all forms of photography can be lost or damaged. Photographs hold the key to unlocking important and emotive histories that have the ability to transport us into our ancestors’ shoes and enjoy the events of the past. Through meticulous preservation techniques including digitisation, photo retouching and archiving, we can ensure treasured images will stand the test of time.

The Art of Restoration

Similar to a master art conservator conscientiously restoring a beautiful oil painting, removing layers of dirt and touching up damaged areas of paint, digital retouching can rectify problems that we wish had never occurred. Modern software allows the restoration of images to the highest levels of accuracy and sensitivity, equipping us with a vast arsenal of tools that can remove dust, scratches, tears and general aesthetic damage. With particularly old imagery, the damage can be far more extensive and requires the rebuilding of facial features, clothes or background objects.

“As lovers of photography in all its forms, we hope for every image to remain pristine forever, but as damage is sometimes inevitable, we are glad to have the skills and software to bring those memories back to life,” says Jordan Brooks, one of the team of curators at ami Creates. “Physical slides, negatives or prints from years gone by are often one of a kind and once lost, could remain lost forever. That may result in an entire memory of a person disappearing.

“Being able to restore an image and preserve it for future generations is a real gift.”

The first stage of restoration is to scan the photograph to create a high resolution digital version – white gloves and masks are worn at this stage to stop any finger prints or water vapour degrading the original image further. The scanned file is then imported into digital editing software.

“Lighting and colour correction are the basics of digital restoration. Once you have those in place, you can start to repair any damage including rips, water damage or sun damage,” says Jordan.

“The most common issue we see is colour fade. Reds in images degrade faster than the yellows and blues, and quite often the greens disappear quickly so you are left with an image that can look very pink. We will restore the colours back to how they would have looked, making sure we are as sensitive to the original as possible. If there is a tone to the image, for example, we wouldn’t want to lose that authenticity because it has the potential to make the image look as though it was taken yesterday. Restoring without over-restoring can be a fine line and we have to tread very carefully to achieve the right result.”

Keeping Your Images Safe and Searchable

Once the image has been preserved in its digitally restored form, an equally important stage of conservation is the process of accurate and tailored archiving and curation. Through meticulous archival techniques including contextual research, date correction, facial recognition and keywording, curators can guarantee that the image will be safe and retrievable for many years to come.

Sometimes a photograph’s journey through time adds character to its story in a similar way to a much-loved fable, changing as it is shared from generation to generation. But, when the original story needs to be preserved, there is no safer option than ami Creates’ restoration service.

“When you show a client a restored image there's often a gasp followed by a moment of silence – they often disappear into their own thoughts for a short space of time – and occasionally there are tears,” says Jordan. “Physical photographs are a tangible way to transport memories, and when you give people back those memories, it is an incredibly rewarding feeling.”

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