Restoring Peter Parker

Old Tintypes

A special challange greets those who want to use computer-assisted graphic enhancement to restore old, damaged family pictures. Here we have an image from a tintype of our cousin's cousin, Peter Parker. The original is about 2.5" wide x 3" tall, and although it is very dark, the details are remarkably sharp. The exact date is unknown, but is sometime during the mid-1800's. There is some writing on the back of the picture (".... 21 May, 18--" and "21 Aug, 18--" and "in Mexico"), but the last two digits of the year are missing. Perhaps Burney has more info on Peter and his dates. If so, I'll add it here when it is available.

Here the image has been put through a brightening and contrast filter to bring out the details. Obviously in a lot of places bits of the picture have been "chipped" off, but we can tell pretty much what Peter looked like from this. But more can be done...

By scanning in the image using a 24-bit greyscale scanner at 400% its normal size, we preserved a lot of detail, and avoided the "jaggies" caused by pixilation when an image is scanned at screen resolution (72 dpi at 100%.) This resulted in an image on the computer screen that was 4 times as large as the original, and let us work on tiny areas at a time to avoid gross changes. The software used was Adobe's PhotoShop LE 3.5.

While the results are far from perfect, this image shows what can be done with just judicious cut and paste of adjoining areas, only three or four pixels across at high resolution. We have left it at this point to avoid overworking the image to the point of destroying the likeness, although more may be attempted later with Fractal Design's Painter 4.0. This version is stored at 154 dpi at 4" x 4.656" to preserve as much detail as possible. The webpage displays it at about 1/2 its working screen size.

This last image is a detail from the end result of a different series of manipulations, still in PhotoShop LE. The chin (which was almost completely gone in the original) is completely restored here, but the right eye was better in the other attempt. The "good" parts can be carefully pasted together to create a final version. Working in a digital environment, of course, allows lots of trial and error without any danger of damaging the original picture.

© 1997 Katherine Cochrane

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