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How To Enlarge & Reproduce Old Family Pictures

Alison Sherrow

"A photograph 

is the pause button 

 of life."

-Ty Holland

I have boxes full of old family photographs.  Some are very old, like the snapshot above of my grandfather's brothers, my great uncles, out on the farm when they were little boys.  I love the hats they are wearing and I wonder if they were borrowed from adults to take this picture.  The brothers were both long gone by the time I was born and I only know them through family stories.  And yet seeing this photograph, where it is displayed in my studio space, I feel like I get to meet them everyday.

 

If you are like me, you have old photos that you would like to display in your home.  I am going to offer some tips on how to reproduce them and make them larger for framing on a wall!

There are two ways to make a copy.

  • Take a picture
  • Scan

A picture can be taken with a DSLR or a phone.  Either way, I suggest using a tripod and the timer setting to reduce movement of the camera while making the exposure. 

Indirect natural light will produce a better outcome than using lights, unless you have full spectrum lighting.  Most light bulbs produce a yellow color cast that will cause extra work later on if you decide to do any editing to the photograph.  If your analog picture has a shiny surface, making a copy outdoors in full shade will render the best results.  

If the analog picture you wish to copy is curled, use a small piece of double sided tape to temporarily adhere it to a flat surface.  Or, place glass from a small frame on top of the picture.  Glare and reflection will make this tricky, so use this method as a last resort.  Editing later on may help to correct any unwanted elements in your reproduction. 

Using a DSLR:

  • Keep the camera lens parallel to the analog picture.  Turn on the camera's viewfinder grid.  If the edges are not parallel, the photograph will be distorted.
  • Turn off the flash.  This will only cause a glare or a hot spot on the photograph.
  • Set the camera to the largest size and quality photo setting in RAW or JPEG.
  • Bracket.  Take a photo using the camera's automatic setting, then take a few on the manual setting with a low ISO (100 or 200) and try different apertures.  Adjustments can be made later on a computer. 
  • Use the camera's timer or a remote release to keep the camera steady for the exposure.

Using a phone:

  • Download a good camera app.   I recommend VSCOFootej Camera or ProShot
  • Set the tripod and phone as close to the picture as possible.  
  • Turn off the flash.
  • Use the largest image size. 
  • Position the camera parallel to the analog picture.  
  • Use a timer to keep the phone steady for the exposure.

Using a scanner:

This is my preferred method.  I used a scanner to copy the photograph above.  A scanner will generate the highest quality copy.

  • Place the analog photo in the center of the scanner bed to avoid cropping the edges.
  • Set the scanner on a high resolution setting.  (600dpi or higher)

Using an online service:

With this method, you will need to mail your picture to a service that will scan it for you.  A few to check out are:

Scan My Photos and Process One

 

What's next?

At this point you can crop and edit your photograph using a camera editing app for your phone or computer.  I used photoshop to crop my reproduced picture.  I scanned the picture at 600dpi which still resulted in a high resolution image after cropping out the white space of the scanner bed.  Note, the higher the resolution, the larger the print size.

    I added some contrast, reduced the saturation, and then added a rustic visual texture.  Here is the end result:

    I also cropped the image to remove some of the foreground and I straightened the horizon line in the background.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the original is a very old photograph that is creased and not tack sharp.  I wanted the age to show so I didn't try to remove the fold in the lower portion of the image.  The blurriness also attributed to the feeling of age, so that was not corrected either.   

    Most photo editing software will also have the option to add a border to your photograph like this:

    This is a nice option if you are using a floater frame in which the edges of the photograph will be visible.

    Print your new photograph at home or use one of the many online printing services that are available.  A few places to check out are:

    Shutterfly, Amazon Print, or Snapfish

    I am pleased with the end result.  This photograph of my great uncles will stay in my studio space.  A guest room, where visiting relatives stay, is also a wonderful choice to consider for displaying enlarged family photos.  

     

     

       

       


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