Re: Pencil markings on back of photograph #belarus


Carlos Glikson
 

Diane Rabson asked about a way to read illegible markings in pencil on the
cardboard back of an old photo, other than photocopying techniques that did
not work. These lines are not strictly of a genealogical nature but I am
sure more than one of us has had similar problems.

One suggestion would be to scan the back of the picture with a home or
office scanner, or at a shop. This generates a graphic file, which usually
is saved with extensions such as .gif, .jpg, .bmp, .tif. If the photo back
is scanned at a shop the file is carried home in a diskette or CD. Take
advantage of the occasion to also scan the front - you will be preserving
the picture by using the scan and not the picture in the future.

Opening the file in the PC with a graphic software such as Photoshop,
PaintShop Pro or other graphic software products enables to modify the
image. The following steps may also be done at the shop by anyone used to
these simple adjustments, or at a friend's PC if you do not have the
software or find this difficult. The technique will vary according to the
scanning and displaying softwares used, but basically it consists on playing
around with different parameters at both stages, to try to bring the
illegible markings into greater evidence.

Scans may be done for normal surfaces or for reflective surfaces, and the
graphite in the pencil may look differently in the results. Other
parameters such as brightness and contrast may be tweaked both in scanning
and in displaying. Try different scanning settings and save them.

One adjustment that often gives better legibility results is gamma
correction when displaying the picture. It alters the values sent to the
monitor or printer and makes grays dimmer or blacker according to the
situation, helping many times to distinguish traces with color value very
close to the background values, making them difficult to read. You can do
gamma correction to a certain value, and then do a gamma correction of the
resulting picture again. Experiment for better results.

Be sure to work on a copy of the file and not the original file, just in
case you save the modifications and alter the original. In that case you
would have to re-scan if the image you saved was not readable. Working with
a copy allows to always have a good original file to make copies >from for
new tries.

Hope this helps,

Carlos GLIKSON
Buenos Aires, Argentina
e-Mail cglikson@ciudad.com.ar

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