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Scanning an ambrotype

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  • Scanning an ambrotype

    A client sent me a 2x3 inch photo to restore. At first glance I thought it was on black glass. I scanned it, and got results similar to one of our tintype Challenges (ok, maybe a little better, but those were Challenges).

    However, I held it up to the light and I see it's actually on dark brown glass that you can see through with a bright enough light.

    My question is: I don't have a transparency scanner. Has anyone who does have a transparency scanner run across one of these, and if so did you notice a difference between scanning in reflective or transparency mode?

    I'm wondering if it's worth a trip to the lab to get a transparency scan made, or if the information I'd get would be about the same as I have now (not much).
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  • #2
    Sounds interesting Doug.

    My gut feeling is to always go with a transmissive capture where possible.

    How were these images originally displayed? Was a print of some description made off the glass? Say some bromide or pmt paper exposed via a lightsource with the glass sitting on the paper?

    Can this be simulated with modern photo prints and exposure if the transmissive approach does not work?

    Can you try placing white paper behind the glass when reflective scanning or perhaps even taking off the lid and introducing some sort of bright but diffuse backlight?

    Just some random thoughts, they seem a bit crude to me so I hope that one of the experienced restorers speaks up.

    Stephen Marsh.


    • #3
      Disclaimer: I don't have any experience with this type of image.

      That being said, if the glass appears to be free of major defects (i.e., flat and the color is even, not blotchy), I would try scanning it as a transparency. Of course, I have a transparency lid on my scanner, so it's a bit easier (and cheaper) for me than going to a lab to have it done. However, I think any amount of light that you can get through the glass will only help bring out the details in the image.

      Before you bring it to a lab for scanning though, I'd try Stephen's suggestion of white paper behind it. If the glass is as dark as you say though, I'm not sure how much reflected light you'll get off of it.

      Good luck!



      • #4
        The lid of my scanner is white, so I don't know how much difference a piece of paper would offer I'll try leaving the lid up, though.

        The image appears mirror-like from the front, like a tintype. The glass is very dark, as I first thought it was opaque black.

        Luckily I can get a respectable restore from what I already have, though low in details (but it's 140 years old, so whatever I get will be acceptable). I was just hoping someone could try one with a transparency adapter to see if there's more detail to be had.
        Learn by teaching
        Take responsibility for learning


        • #5

          Without the trans lid on your scanner, it is just going to give you a reflective scan of your image. Not going to do a very good job.

          One thing you can do is to place a BRIGHT lamp above your scanner (with the lid open ), defuse the light as much as possible so there are no hot spots, then scan the image. This sould give you more to work with. You need a bright lamp for this to work well.




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