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Old negatives with broken glass

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  • Gewuerz
    Thanks all,

    i have a lightbox (5500°K). i think it's a good way with 6x6 camera.
    Or i test with scanner. I will ask a conservator for help.


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  • curvemeister
    Good suggestions from everyone re how to reclaim your broken negs.

    Whether you scan or photograph the broken ones, you can easily use the clone tool or healing brush to get rid of the cracks.

    One thing to look out for is that it is a common error with these old negatives is to treat them as if they had the same contrast value as modern film. The result is a very harsh look that does not match what would have been seen 100 years ago. In general, they have a much higher contrast ratio because they were intended to be printed using Printing Out Paper, which has a much softer dark end (toe) than modern papers.

    So if these are very old negs, print them soft, particularly the shadows. This does not apply to the more modern emulsions that were in common use in the 30's and later.

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  • Mike
    Years ago, before digital photography, I worked on trying to save the image on a glass plate that had been dropped. When it hit the floor, it hit kind of flat so the vast majority of the 10K or so pieces kind of stayed together, and it was emulsion side up.

    We ended up sliding a very thin sheet of metal under it, then placed it on a large contact printer that we had. We moved all the bits as close together as we could, then made a contact print.

    You could kind of see the image through all the cracks, but it was not all that good. We played a little with trying to retouch a print, but that was worse. Now that we have digital, I think that one could do that by selecting each area, then moving them together, but the more pieces, the more work. However if the image was worth it????

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  • Cameraken
    Hi Gewuerz.
    Welcome to Retouch Pro.

    10x8? (Full/Whole Plate was 8.5 x 6.5)
    If these are 10 x 8 then they are quite unusual and the quality should be outstanding.

    Usually when these break it is one clean break across the center or a corner.

    The best way to scan them would be with a dedicated neg/tranny Pro scanner. (Microtek Scanmaker 5 would scan them.)

    Alternatively you could use a camera but you would need to place the neg’s on a light box. A light underneath the neg’s is necessary to give the full range of tones in the negs.

    A very good SLR type camera will be required to get even close to the original quality.

    The fact that they are broken means that you can shoot the bits separately, which will effectively double the pixels.


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  • Craig Walters
    welcome to RP, gewuerz.

    i see no one has responded to your post, so i thought i'd suggest and ask. how badly are the broken ones? can you place them together and take a picture of them? you might need to put them on a backing to do this, preferably black.

    if you're looking to actually paste the glass back together, i dont know of a good answer here. you cant reheat them and fuse them back or you'd lose the image. i would think putting them on a flat surface with a black background and taking another picture would be the best start. then, i'd see if there were any conservators that might know what best to do here. there are glass glues that would hold them together. you'd want to be very careful with such a glue and not get it on the film plane of the glass. but even that is going to leave a mark, a crack.

    that crack, though, can be digitally removed in the image file once you take a picture and load it into the computer.

    perhaps one of the professional photographers here can suggest a good way to take the picture once you have the glass pieced back together.

    i wish you luck.


    Leave a comment:

  • Gewuerz
    started a topic Old negatives with broken glass

    Old negatives with broken glass


    i have from my grandfather any glass-negativs (8"x10"). Many glass-negativs are broken. What can i do with this ? I wish these repair and retouching.

    Thanks for help!


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