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Retouching photos of microfilm reader screen

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  • Retouching photos of microfilm reader screen

    I am trying to get some help on retouching photos taken from microfilm reader screens (ca 25 x 20 inches). I am doing this for genealogical research, looking at old documents, which are usually microfilmed as negatives (white writing on greyish-black background). I have attached SampleA.jpg which is the original photo (from the public Archives here in Luxembourg), 1360 x 1020 taken with a 1.5 megapixel camera (reduced to below 100K for this Forum).
    I am trying to get the best possible 'normal' image, i.e. black writing on white background, to decipher in detail on the screen, print out and add to my genealogical records.
    I have just started using Photoshop ELEMENTS (which has a few less options than the full-blooded Photoshop) and would like advice on a number of problems:

    Generally, at what stage is it best to do following steps:
    - Conversion from RGB to greyscale and/or bitmap.
    - Inversion (from negative to positive).

    Which tools to use:
    -Burn midtones on the negative or dodge midtones after inversion to positive?

    Adjust levels as RGB or individual colours (images have a lot of orange red in the original)?

    How to remove the central circular brightness gradient from the reader lamp.

    SampleB.jpg (attached to 2nd mail) is an exaggeratedly poor result as inverted greyscale, but which shows the various problems.

    Looking forward to any comments and suggestions.

    Peter Gutenstein

  • #2
    2nd sample

    Here is SampleB.jpg, referred to in my previous mail.
    I assumed that I could not attach 2 jpg's to one message.

    Peter Gutenstein


    • #3
      Welcome aboard. Love to try and help you but I think the attachments are missing. Check your sizes. They need to be around 100 kb.


      • #4
        Hi DJ,
        I had clicked on ATTACH FILEand BROWSE to choose my files (both of which were 102 400 bytes or less). What did I do wrong? How do I attach my 2 JPG's?
        I try again on this message to attach SampleA.JPG (but it does not show up in the Preview Reply).
        Attached Files


        • #5

          Seems to work. Here is Sample B.
          Attached Files


          • #6
            I see you got the attach file to work. Wow, there must be an easier way to get copies of these microfilms. It's possible to clean up a bit but the work is alot and that light in the center is not even in density so that creates more work for you. Anyway what I did was to open the black with white writing and duplicate the background Layer. Change the blend of that layer to screen to lighten it. Now create a layer mask and with a large air brush carefully paint (mask) out the center with black paint. I ended up copying this masked layer 2 more times and then used a slight opacity dodge and burn to correct some of the unevenness. As I said, it's possible and I took about 1/2 hour to do this much. When I got it even I flatened and inverted it then ran curves or levels to get more contrast between the letters. I think you would be wiser to find another way of doing this but if that's not possible you can get it at least ledgable. I also desaturated it when I was done. Hope this helps. I've never dealt with this situation before. Maybe others can come up with some better ideas. Good luck. Let us know how it goes for you.
            Attached Files


            • #7

              Tks for your suggestions. Sorry for delay in reacting, but have been digesting your info and trying it with Ph. Elements. You have given me some ideas, which give better results than I have yet managed.
              Have tried to use Radial Gradient; would that not be a way of handling the uneven overlap of the central circular halo?
              The only other way of getting copies of these microfilms, is to get copies made, which are just like photocopies. Being only BLACK and white (not shades of gre(a)y), the problem I then have is removing all the 'noise'. I think (or at least thought) it would be easier to handle grey noise via levels, than black spots with lots of detailed painting over.
              Would be happy to hear from other people who may have suggestions.
              Thanks to you, DJ, again.


              • #8

                As someone working on my own family's genealogy, I sure can sympathize with this dilemma.

                I've played around with it a bit, and here's what I came up with. Not the best fix, but better I think anyway...

                1. Invert the image so that it's black on white and desaturate.

                2. Using the Elliptical Marquee Tool, select the center area of higher density, making your circle go out into the area that shows fading

                3. Invert the selection, switch to quick mask, blur the mask with the Gaussian Blur filter, exit quick mask and invert the selection again (similar to the method in making a vignette or eliminating unwanted textures in the tutorials - I use the select/mask/blur idea a LOT). I used a 50 pixel blur on this one.

                4. When the center looks similar to the outside of the image, deselect and adjust the levels overall.

                5. If a problem area arises again, select it using the lasso tool and repeat the gaussian blur trick. Keep doing this until the image is even toned

                6. Burn and dodge any remaining problem areas

                Hope this helps some!
                Attached Files
                Senior Member
                Last edited by Jakaleena; 06-07-2002, 02:38 PM.


                • #9
                  Looks like Jak came to the rescue in a great way. She has alot of good techniques to offer.

                  As for using the radial gradient, that was the first thing I tried but I wound up with a ball in the center a light ring then a dark thick ring around that.


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