Quick Fix for Faded Red Photos -- Updated

Musicvid wrote on 10/17/2018, 4:34 PM

Background

Color film photography turned into a mediocre experience for many consumers because of the things that happen to color prints over time. The marketing gimmicks used to sell us lots and lots of photofinishing in the late 20th century (remember "100 Year Prints: and "Century Prints" anyone?) floated a big promise with little substance for consumer hopes past the ten year mark, if that.

The Quick Fix

Scan 1 shows a typical mid-northern hemishphere daylight scene shot in 1981, and printed by me in all-Kodak processes, and kept in an acid-free, formaldehyde-free album. The destruction of the cyan-red axis is pretty obvious, the lead culprit being leuco-cyan dye. "Leuco" or "leuko" means "invisible," or in this case "missing." It is the inevitable effect of consumer photofinishing safety practices since the 1950's (an in-depth sidebar will appear below at some point). The visible cyan dye that gave your prints those full, rich, colors 40 years ago is now more faded than our memories of the event, which were really pretty accurate.

In Photoshop, Autocolor will set your black points automatically.

This will not work well at all with prints from overexposed or heat damaged film. Simply too much missing color information.

Can be done manualy with Levels and histogram for each color channel in either Vegas or Photoshop. Be conservative, we dont want to crush the shadows, just tame the warm glow. This works, because the losses are more or less linear. Although if someone has a pet curves preset they want to share, I would like to see it.

Setting the Cyan black point in Vegas:

 

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[EDIT] Now that I have my black levels and rgb gamma tweaked and saved to Autocolor, I applied a 1.01 Red gamma curve to tip the upper values back toward neutral. Any more than that would be a recipe for disaster.[/]

Now you're all set. The red-cyan axis is more linear. It is also a bit tipped toward cyan in the highlights, as the prints back then were designed to be (another anti-leuco trick). YThe green bias in the vector is just the grass and trees; 'tis nice to know what you're looking at. There may more sophistocated tweaks using curves, but this is close enough for batch scanning the several albums I hope to reprint this fall and winter.

COMING NEXT

But wait! Why do color prints from 1954 still look this good while everything else turned to crap? Stay tuned.

 

Comments

Musicvid wrote on 10/24/2018, 10:16 PM

In case anyone is watching, the 1954 print is a Kodachrome reversal on an early type of Mylar substrate. The amount of PPD they used in developers those days was causing health problems for lab workers, and the original Kodachrome was gone by 1957.

My first film lab job out of college, Technicolor (1970), was phasing out their KII equipment when I started. It's quite a novel approach to really good color dye technology.

Dexcon wrote on 10/26/2018, 6:10 AM

As the years pass by and color photography - both still and motion - degrades, the color grading methods, like the one that you have developed Musicvid, will become more and more important.

In my case, most of the early photographs taken of my family when I was a child were taken in B&W using a Box Brownie.

Restoration of film footage is, incredibly, reaching a new level with the upcoming release on the BBC of Peter Jackson's WW1 documentary titled, "They shall not grow old" where original WW1 footage - presumably originally filmed at around 16 fps - has been restored in both B&W and then colorized. The results are truly amazing. Teasers have appeared on a number of news programs in recent weeks, and the following link to SkyNews is to just one of them:

Just stunning I think!

But there was color photography over 100 years ago - the Lumiere Brothers in Lyon France (I went to the Lumiere museum in Lyon in 1982). More recently, PetaPixel published the following color photographs from 1909+ under the intro of:

Back in 1909, a super-rich French banker named Albert Kahn decided to create a photographic record of the world using the new color photography process that had just appeared, the Autochrome Lumière. He commissioned 4 photographers to take their cameras to places all over the world. One of the cities they documented was Paris.

The link to these photos is:

https://petapixel.com/2015/12/10/these-color-photos-of-paris-were-shot-100-years-ago/#more-194509

 

Musicvid wrote on 10/26/2018, 5:51 PM

Fascinating. Some of the primaries are uncanny.