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Photo restoration questions

Barb Pelton

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Apr 14, 2002
The Show Me State
My husband and I have "tinkered" with photo restoration for a few years. I have done a little of the hands on, and he prefers the digital. Mark has become pretty adept on PhotoShop, and his restoration work looks better than what is being offered at the local photo stores.

We've been doing a few things for customers here and there, but since our trip to the PMAI/PPFA show, I think we are ready to become a bit more serious about it and advertising it as a service.
(what a learning experience for us both).

We have a Epson 4870 scanner, the Epson R1800 printer, and Mark scoped out some new equipment at the show, but that comes later.

We plan on doing much of the work in house, but sending out other work (scan and send files), but my real question is pricing.

I'm thinking a straight labor charge of $40 per hour, plus a charge on each print based on size and type of paper. Am I on the right track?
We charge $60/hour for the restoration, but we often greatly underestimate the time needed to get it just right, so that, in reality, we end up charging closer to $40.

On top of that there is a charge for each print (competitive with the drug store counter prints). We archive the restored images on CDs for a few years so that the cost for an additional print done two years from now will be the same.

Because going over the magnified image to correct spots and blemishes or cloning creases and tears is so tedious, we generally do the work on our “days off” so as not to get interrupted.

And, if they want the restored image on their own CD, we hit them up for another $3.50 for an integrated PC/Mac format.

But, yeah, it sounds like you’re on the right track.
Depends on your market, but we charge $75 per hour plus prints. It is very time consuming & we warn customers up front how many hours they will be looking at. Usually, we stay between the $75-$150 price. Derek doesn't do any "hands on". He is stictly digital. Good luck. Wish I could offer more info, but framing is my forte. Derek is the photo geek ;) .
The local service that I use charges for scanning (based on size), computer time ($90.00/hour) and additional prints. The first print is included in the other costs. They made the transformation form the areas preeminent photo lab to the digital world fairly seamlessly.

The stuff we do in-house* (limited to size capabilities of the scanner & printer) is $15.00 for the scan, $60.00/hr** labor and a per print charge dependent on size. Some folks want a scan only service to get a digital file of the image for safekeeping. We offer this with most vintage photo framing jobs.

*My employee has a full traditional darkroom and digital photo restore lab in his home.

**rarely achieved

If you don’t mind unsolicited advice and you don’t already own it, try to get a copy of <u>Professional Photoshop: Color Correction, Retouching and Image Manipulation </u> by Dan Margulis. It may be out of print by now, though.

There is very little about filters and gimmicky stuff like a lot of the peripheral Photoshop books have. It is almost exclusively devoted to using Curves.

I thought I was pretty good before I read it.

I wasn’t.
Keep in mind that I don't do this yet although I'm very proficent with Paintshop.

I think a per hour charge is a horrible way to price anything. I know plenty of other trades do this but I don't like it and I think in this case, it should be avoided.

Somebody who is new at this will likely take longer and probably won't do as good of a job as a veterian. So why on Earth should it cost more for an inferior product? You should know how long this project will take and shoot them a concrete price.

Customdigital works this way. I think you email them the image and they send you a price. Thats the way professionals do it.

Don't hem haul around. Shoot them a price and learn to adjust your prices if its not proffitable enough.

If you don't see a problem here, just look a thread about a "rant". Thats why you don't say, "well tell you the price later." This is major peeve of mine and you can rest assured that your customers won't like it either.
Jay is exactly right about this. You don't want to spend eight hours on something & be stuck with a beautifully restored photo of someone's great-grandma. But most stuff doesn't take that long. An hour or two unless there is severe damage & you have to reconstruct missing pieces. But always, always discuss this up front with the customer. And it's not a good idea to quote them a price & call them later & tell them it took you four more hours than expected. You should know pretty much by looking at the photo how much time you will have to invest.
It's wise to start out with the easy stuff and outsource the hard stuff. It's hard to beat the service and prices of a place like Digital Custom. http://www.image-edit.com They make it easy to quote a price.

If we decide to keep a job in-house we mentally charge $1:00/ minute. We always quote a fixed price.
Scanning is $3.50
CD burn is $6.50
8 x 10 is $7.50

An aside to this subject, I've found that Epson printers are not very compatible with Photoshop. There are some translation problems with color. I'd look into a HP printer. Since I switched, I've been getting great results.
I think the pigment inks are much better in the Epsons than the options. It would seem to me that the "translation" problems is between your monitor and your printer and not Photoshop and your printer.
Ok... on the same note, I have had no problems with my Epson 9600 printer and Photoshop. I have had no translation problems and possibly those you might have had might have been more a result of the working space than the printer. The working space such as: AdobeRGB and sRGB and prophoto, etc. Also known as the profile. These tags should be the same all the way thru the process or you will get a different color range (gammut) on the screen and on the final print.... things won't match.

Of course, I also had no problems with my older HP desktop printer for casual printing. It finally just wore out.
Seth, I couldnt disagree with you more about HP's verses Epsons. Color managment is such an important element of quality digital printing. I use an Epson 7600 with the epson profiles printed thru photoshop with great results. As stated your monitor calibration is also very important.

It is possible that you got lucky with your HP and if it works for you don't change. But in large format digital printing Epson is clearly the way to go.
Early in this venture, Mark found out that there was too much variations in the color of the output and the color of the original. He had to calibrate the monitor, and now his color is spot on.

I know he was very interested in looking at HP's at the PMA show though, and brought back a lot of prints to compare....he's always looking for the next upgrade.

Lots of good info here --keep it coming. Thanks Bill for the title, will look.
in my former life I worked on computers and I learned that which one is the best is a subject that you will never ever win..So best to not take sides or even make a suggestion considering this matter.
What I would like to know is where did you learn this art form of conservation. I am not talking about the computer generated repro's. I am talking about using the pens and the naked eye. Is there such a book available? are there mentors out their on the subject? I really want to learn how to do this. I am assuming that this is something that can be learned and therefore taught. Can't see any reason why a person in my neck of the woods would have to send their work off to DC and pay such high prices. I would probalby offer it as a free service for those who wanted it framed. Can't see framing a picture that looks bad. Had one in the other day. Spent at least 8 hours on it cuz I didn't know what the heck I was doing. Cleaned it up pretty good though. Just luck on my part I am sure. Told them right up front that I would be willing to TRY and clean it for free if they would have us frame it for them and they agreed. A sale I would not have made if it were not for this..Was I right..who knows..who cares! I thought of it this way..they trusted me with a valuable piece of art and for that I was very grateful and humbled and wanted to do my very best for them and to have them say "WOW". It worked!
Are you talking about conservation or restoration? And are you trying to clean up photos or paintings or both? I'm not sure what pens you are refering to. Photographic retouchers use brushes on prints and on negs, never pens. Pens wouldn't give the fine control necessary to do the job and the only pens I ever heard of with dyes were a disaster and ate away the emulsion of the print! (True horror story from one of my mentors who tried them!)

I understand you think you are trying to help by cleaning and fixing the art that comes in, but I can't help but feel that if you don't know what you are doing you probably shouldn't be trying this. You don't know what the long term effects will be of what you attempt. I wouldn't want to assume that kind of liablity!
For charge out we have found it much easier to promote fixed price points (digital only). This makes it easier for the customer to get an idea of what they are in for at a glance which is more likely to bring the work in.

If you want to see the price point they are published in our price list available for download from our website ( www.imageland.co.nz).
Like I say " I hate the words " I can't "
The only cleaning I am doing thus far is what anyone could do out there. Remove the dust and any debris that can be removed safely. Not using any pens or dyes or inks or paints or anything like that yet. Want to but....
I am afraid I don't know the difference between resotation and conservation. A photo comes in..it has specks all over the little girls whit dress. The specks are black and look like its under the paint itself ( part of the paint ). Looks really dirty and grundgy looking..Nothing short of a solvent will loosen this stuff up. I am guessing here cuz I haven't tried any form of solvent on it.Only know that a general brushing won't work.
I want to be able to get rid of all that mess and give her back a photo that will resemble what it was when it was taken, or at least free of all that stuff. Now I don't know what category this would fall under..restoration or conservation or just plain ole cleaning. ?????
to restore something isn't that meaning restoration? As in putting back what ever has been missing to it's original point of being? Sometimes one would not have a clue what to put back? but I am thinking that for the most part some paint might be missing here and there and the color of the paint could be put back because of the surrounfding area color would clue you in??? So if there is a streak right down the middle of a white dress. I would imagine something of white color would be proper. Conservation....wouldn't that be to keep something as is..as in preventing it from happening??? Like laqueor on a photo to prevent it from damage..so one would then put some on a photo after first removing what scattered amount might have been there in the first place???
I don't know..so any of you have a swing at this..go ahead and jump right in there.. I am not afraid to say I don't know and this is a learning curve for me here.
I for one really do appreciate the time given to me on this matter by you guys.
Another vote for Digital Custom.

I job it out to Digital Custom. I feel that I can be more profitable with framing. However offering the service does bring me many framing jobs. I know several graphic designers locally that could do it for me, but I find that Digital Custom simplifies everything from the ordering to billing process. The local graphic designers weren't set up with pricing and had no set turnaround time. Everything is spelled out at Digital Custom and they guarantee their work.
Trapper, this isn't a matter of "can't". It's a matter of don't because what you are describing doing can cause more harm than good. I never use a dry brush on a photo to clean off dirt, mold, etc. Like I explained in the other thread you started, photographic emulsion is very easily damaged and a brush can leave minute scratches on the photo that will, in the long run,provide an area for more dirt to collect and mold to grow. If you look at the photo in the right light, you will problably even be able to see the damage left by the brush.

I'm not sure what you mean by paint.
Only older photos that have been hand painted to make a black and white look like color have paint on them and that paint is a very, very thin layer of oil paint that has soaked into the surface and bounded with the emulsion.

Maybe you need to read up on what a photograph is and how it is made before you attempt any more "restoration".
Like laqueor on a photo to prevent it from damage..so one would then put some on a photo after first removing what scattered amount might have been there in the first place???

Ok trapper, this is entirely wrong. If this is what you determine to be conservation, you should not be doing any touch ups. I don't want to sound mean, but this needs to be clear. Photography is based on chemicals, if the wrong chemicals are combined they can eat away each other and damage the piece even worse.

laqueor is not great, it is not something that I know conservators to use. They do not want to add anything to the artwork that will affect the appearance or the chemical make-up of the piece. They will clean pieces, but they may need to wash something in a bleach solution or a soap solution. They want to do the minimal amount to the artwork they possibly can.

Even spot toning photos can be hard. The tones can be tricky to match. If you use the wrong one it can look like a marker was used. How do you get spot tone of if you make the area the wrong color or too dark? You should know this before you even think of doing something like this. You would need to rinse the photo in a water bath so all of the dye/spot tone comes off. Then you get to start again when it dries. These are things you can't wing.

It might be better to do the digital thing. this way you are not harming any artwork. You provide the service that you wish and the person can store the origianl for safe keeping.

Do what you are best at, pay for what you dont know. Or you will pay with problems and even worse time.

Good luck

Wayyyy back in the olden days of film and darkrooms, when you decided to learn this process, you took classes in developing and printing. The more advanced classes taught touching up photos using brushes with a couple of hairs in them and photo dyes. These were applied right to the finished photo to remove any spots. It isn't for the faint hearted and takes some time to learn to do it right. Look around at the colleges in your area to see if anyone is still giving darkroom classes and check them out. One of the "oldtimers" might take you on and show you how it's done. Otherwise, stay away from it.
So annel how would you clean it if not with a static free brush air gun perhaps? Never have had any ruined yet??? But I haven't done my home work on this yet either..They make a pen for remob=ving mistakes you make along the way...its called a dye remover???
Patrick do you know what the bleach and soap solution is???what parts of h2o to how many parts of bleach etc...
Like I say it was Diane who took the classes not me..! I learned with computers to never say "never" There is awlways a way to do something, I am just searching for the right stuff before going on. All I have done so far is to brush things off as to clean them and I am learning that using a brush is not the right way. I havce learned that even the emulsion can be replaced..least according to these ads. But it may be all hype.!
For every yes I find I also am finding equal amnounts of no's...can't win. So I think I will settle into one and go with that.
What ads are you talking about refer to replacing emulsion? Never heard of this process, not for photographs at least. I have heard of the dye remover pens. I know some people who have tried them and damaged their photos. They are basically an ammonia solution which can damage some types of photos.

And that brings up another thing to consider with photos, the question of what kind of photographic print are you dealing with, silver halide, inkjet, platinum, bromide, daguerreotype? What works on one kind might destroy another. There are dozens of types of photos out there and lots of new printing processes coming out all the time.

As far as cleaning photos goes, I use a white cotton photographic glove to gentle dust them. I have tried a static brush and quit when I noticed little scratches on the photo. I remove dyes when I make a mistake by putting a damp cotton ball on them for about 10 minutes then removing it and letting the photo completely dry before working on it again. Wet emulsion is the most easily damaged of all! :eek:
Hi Trapper,

I am a paper conservator, not a photographic conservator as this is a very new and very specialized field. Although I applaud your enthusiastic willingness to do everything and never say no, in this area it just will not work. There are some things you really have to go to school and learn. This is why I only do the bare minimum to photographs - tear repairs and minimal minimal touch-ups using watercolor and tiny brushes. And not even that for many things. I know that I don't know enough. Unless you're willing to go to "conservation school", and there is a new photograpic conservation program in Rochester I believe, it's better to focus on the digital end of things. With a reproduction, a mistake isn't fatal.

As Anne so wisely reminds us, there are many many kinds of photos and photo based processes out there and unless you know enough about the chemistry, supports and media, terrible, unexpected things can happen. "There is nothing so bad we can't make it worse" is a very useful guideline when deciding whether to do something or not.

And remember not to give away whatever hard earned skills you do have. Unless it is for a true charitable cause it is disrespectful to yourself and to others who must earn a living in this difficult world.

If you are interested in the photographic conservation program let me know and I'll track it down for you.

Best Wishes,

Actually you do use bleach in certain photographic processes. If you are going to make a Sepiatone. It is the first step in sepia, a two step process that you do to a photo after it has been printed and dried.

And in color you also use bleach, bleach-fixer is the second solution a color print goes thru in tradtional wet color darkroom. It removes the developer and bleaches the highlights.

Never mess with the emulsion of a photograph if it is wet. Specially if it is glossy or a cibachrome (Ilfachrome Classic). It is as Anee said easy to scratch. There is more lee-way on the satin, pearl, matte semi-matte finishes.

Don't do it if you don't know it. You think you are helping, but when they want to get all their money back and possibly sue for you ruining property? That is bad business, it will cause amny headaches in the end. Stop doing this stuff if you don't know.

Ok this is the best use of an old product if you can get your hands on one. If you need to clean dust off of a regular photo paper, Cibachrome, and even the digical prints there is one devise that will do it-scratch free for all. Remember way back when, when they had vinyl records? Well you know that old school wooden block with the crushed velvet (think that is what it is?)? Well if you have one take it out and put it to use. Use gently and remember there is a direction to pull, it works wonders. This comes from a top secret source, a man that has created many items for framing. So keep it on the DL

Anne, I know. I thought that might lead him astray, but he has got to learn.

I think the answer here is one of two things, computer restoration or conservator. Nothing else. That simple.

No I didn't think they were painted? I am a person who takes everything litterally. Use a solution of bleach to clean with means just that to me...!
Solution means parts of..what part h20 to what part bleach..etc...All you guys have been very helpful to me and I thank you for your time. I am learning a lot and each one seems to take on a different aproach. What I have learned mostly is I haven't a clue what the heck goes on. A lot more complicated than giving it a saturday night bath in the tub with a bucket of borax..ha!
SO For now I think I will take all your advice and lumo it into one pile and not do any of it on a customers photo untill I have learned the trade well enough to take on a customers photo.
To not get myself anymore confused I am going to latch onto one person and one person only for advice concerning this matter. This is not my expertise, and after I delve into it some more, may not want it to be anyhow. Busn.seems to be more my calling.