Editing Historical Images

I’ll admit it: I’ve been having a lot of fun. I had a moderate amount of experience using Photoshop coming into the class, but most of that experience involved slightly editing pictures or creating images from scratch. The tutorials have been really helpful in expanding my skill set in a not-so-intimidating way.  This week I played with two things extensively: first, I tackled the engraving tutorial created by Dr. Petrik, next I tried my hand at coloring an image. While I’m not entirely satisfied with any of these attempts, it was a great start.

[Image removed]

I started with the engraving above. This image is one I collected while I was working on my MA thesis. The engraving is one of the only images we have of the church buildings that housed dual (deaf and hearing) congregations on West Eighteenth St in Manhattan for forty years. The buildings were sold (and almost immediately demolished) in 1894.

Anyway, the image above is pretty clear, but I intentionally cleaned it up as you can see below:

[image removed]

I heightened the contrast to emphasize the details in the engraving and created a clean black and white image. Next I cleaned up the edges of the image – removing the sky and border shading on the top, right and bottom of the image. For me, it’s a cleaner image and something I could use in the creation of a header or something. I contemplated removing the buildings to the left, the sidewalk and bush to the right- but I liked that those features gave the image some context. I could have also removed the shadow that stretches across the face of the building, but let it remain for the same reason.

Next I wanted to try editing an photo:

[Image removed]

This is one of my favorite photos from my research. It is a rare casual photo of prominent deaf community members- in this case they seem to have been promoting a biking club they founded in the city. Given the clarity of the image and my interest in the topic, I decided to work on hand-tinting the image and I was surprised with the results. I spent some time cleaning up the image – removing some dust spots and smudges from the scanner.

[image removed]
Hand-tinted and modified image of Hodgson and Fox.

But I admit, I had too much fun with this. I wanted to emphasize the men and their bikes by coloring them alone- and found myself with a new appreciation for the photo entirely.  I was surprised to realize that Fox (the jaunty fellow on the right) has a cigarette perched on the corner of his lips. A minor fact but I’d missed this detail every other time I looked at the photo. The process of coloring their clothes got me thinking about fabric and color choices a great deal as well – what colors would have been popular at this time? Would Fox have color-coordinated his socks to his tie, as I did?

Because I couldn’t stop myself, I’ll also include a fully tinted image:

[Image removed]
A fully hand-tinted image.

These images are by no means perfect – I would want to spend a significant amount more time adding shading and details. A closer inspection revealed that there may be a pattern on those socks- something I’d like to highlight if I make another pass at these images.

Overall, as with everything, a new means of presenting information can also call up a host of new questions. Still, I’m enjoying the process.

This week I commented on Amanda’s and Beth’s blogs.

One thought on “Editing Historical Images”

  1. Jannelle-

    Wow, I am amazed at how much better the engraving and the photo look after editing. It is interesting that colorizing the photo brought out a detail that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. So much detail gets lost in many of the scanned or microfilmed copies of documents and I had never thought about using something like photoshop to restore detail that could be otherwise easily missed. These examples are impressive–great job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *