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The Calhoun County Gazette of Calhoun County Alabama presents local news, sports, and features of interest about the area. It is dedicated to the people of Calhoun County and to others who would like to know more about us and the great opportunities for travel, fun, and business in our region.
 Feature Story 

Your family photos are your history and when they are gone, they're most definitely gone.                    

Saving Your History in Photos
By Norman Morrison

 
         There is a monster in your closet eating away your precious photos, and itís so sneaky that you donít even know it until itís too late.
            If you are like most you have family photo albums or maybe even a shoebox or two full of old photos. Chances are that youíll be shocked when you finally get around to viewing them again.
            The strangest thing is that the photos taken of great great granddaddy during the late unpleasantness seem to be holding up better than the later ones taken in the latter half of the last century, but then, thatís a factor of humidity, mold, and sunlight.

                       All pictures are subject to the processes of time. Your old black and whites develop spots on them which is actually mold, whereas your color prints fade or get a reddish cast. There is very little you can do about your original prints unless you have a close relative named Kodak, but you can save what you already have by saving them to some other medium.
            These days, anyone with a computer and scanner can save the photos to a CD, and even have some moderate success at restoring old pictures somewhat. However, scanning is tedious in the extreme, and digital restoration is nothing less than a very time consuming and technically demanding hobby. Everyone isnít cut out for it. And all the while the photos continue to fade.
            If family history is important to you, or if you think it might become important some day to you or your progeny, now is the time to save it.
            The first thing to do is to take stock of your old photos and decide what is worth saving. Do you want to save everything or just a few? Did you find a picture that you cherish above all others that demands special treatment?
            As in most things, there are levels. It need not cost a fortune to save the bulk of your pictures to CD with basic correction built in. Then, there are pictures that you may want a little more correction. Then, there is the photo that you would like to get restored to hang on the wall. In this case, the sky is the limit for pricing. Itís all about what you are willing to accept in the final print. There are people who do nothing else than restore old photos for a living, and some are very very good, and also very pricey. If you demand only the very best, you can find it.
 


    
On the left find a picture directly from the shoebox circa 1959. Notice how it has developed the reddish-orange cast? Actually, this picture held up pretty well compared to many from that era.

    
On the right see the aggressively restored version. While not perfect, it is much truer to the original. This picture could be printed to paper, if desired.

    
One nice thing about digital restoration is that no changes are ever made to the original.

             A good compromise is for you to go ahead decide to save your pictures and get them scanned at a high resolution (photo restoration demands high resolution copies) and put on CD. That way, your CD pictures are as good as the day they were scanned, even though the originals have continued to deteriorate.
            After your photos have been saved, you have several options. You could leave your CD as is and use your clunky computer interface to view your pictures, or, much better, they could be imported to an electronic photo album. Some of the better ones look almost like the real thing on your monitor. You can even annotate your pictures and put music with them. CD photo albums make excellent Christmas presents for your extended family.
            You can also get new prints made very inexpensively from your digital copies, or you can spend more and get professional prints.
            The main thing is to save those pictures as soon as possible. One day youíll go for a peek at the family album or shoebox and great aunt Nellie wonít be there any more. Whatís worse, mama and daddy, or the kids may also be only a memory. The only way to avert this is to be a good man or woman of action and save your history! (Then let the kids worry about saving the CDís when the next new thing comes along!)

      The editor of this article is very serious about saving family history to digital media (CD's) and restoring
old photographs. See his GetCalhoun web page for more information about contacting him... 
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