PHOTO RESTORATION NO CURE NO PAY!
KUIPERS DIGITAL PHOTO RESTORATION
Being a biologist and a free-lance IT specialist I take photos since my early childhood. The first 25 years were spend with analog photography and since 2004 I also use digital cameras. My first camera was a Nikon F3 and on the picture to the left you see me swinging around my sturdy Nikon F5. For most of the time I use a digital camera these days (a small but powerful Panasonic GF1) but when push comes to shove nothing beats film(especially 120mm film in a view camera). Because I use and used film I have grown used to techniques like scanning (for 35mm I use a Nikon 35 mm scanner of the latest generation, for 120mm and larger I use an Epson V750 pro flatbed scanner) and I print my photos digitally using Epson UltraChrome K3 ® ink on an Epson A3+ printer
Well if you own two professional scanners and ditto printer you are bound to get questions like: "Ed, I have a bunch of old slides can you do something with them? " or "Ed, this old picture of my granny is nearly destroyed, can you help me with that?" or "My pictures from the holiday to Sri Lanka my late husband and I took in the 80th are all stained bright red?". So little by little I started to become the "official" film and photo restorer of the family and spend more time restoring pictures then I spend taking them an loving it to. My local reputation grew and even the municipal archive of my hometown Venlo started using my services during my down-time as a freelance software developer.
I also started to manipulate my own photos more and more. Creating your own improved version of reality so to speak inspired by photographers like Thomas Ruff and Andreas Gursky.
I found out that I like spending my time behind the computer screens more then I do like to spend it behind the camera and I found out that my career in ICT wasn't nearly as fulfilling as my carreer in digital photo restoration. So I decided to set up shop in the Netherlands and abroad so I have taken "Ed Kuipers Digital Photo Restoration" to the web in a Dutch, a German and an English version. Amongst my clients are company archives like the photoarchive of Multifan and public archives like the Municipal Archive Venlo.
Photos are vulnerable especially if they grow old or are printed on material not meant for professional use. If you expose a photo to direct sunlight you will notice that colors start to fade and a perfect print develops a nasty color cast. This is due to the fact that pigments in the photo react to UV-radiation and literally bleach out of the photo. Because different pigment responds differently to light, discoloration and color casts will occur, producing color casts of all sort, red, yellow and even bright purple. Photos can also develop nasty casts due to chemical degradation (which also is a threat to color negatives and slides although these are more stable). Acidic fumes from furniture and ozone are notorious. Chemical discoloring often strikes without notice when a old shoebox is opened after decades and all photos are completely faded (like te one on the left).
Photos like that can be salvaged and restored to their original colors by using
a so called corrective scan. During a 48bit corrective scan the scanner is set
up to compensate for the color cast. The software I use is SilverFast ® (which
costs up to 400 euro per scanner) which allows me to make complex color changes
(on the level of the individual color) on the whole scan or on parts of the scan
(sometimes even using multiple scans). Depending on the amount and uniformity of
the discoloration this can be done in a matter of minutes or in a few hours.
Sometimes I will have to resort to even more drastic measures which means that
some traces of discoloration are masked out using my editing software. If a 35
mm slide is discolored my Nikon has a nice trick up its sleeve as well. Apart
from Restore Original Colors (part of the build in ICE suite) it can also
physically change the color of the scan beam to accommodate for color casts. This has the added bonus that the histogram of the file does not deteriorate due to the color correction. All color corrections are done in the 48 bit domain for
the very same reason.
If I only have to restore the colors (ore the contrast) of an original picture in their original state and the discoloration is uniform things need not be that expensive. From picture to file costs € 9.00 and the picture is then perfectly usable for a digital (or printed) photo album and yes I remove dust for free (since I caused it during the scan, didn't I). Of course I can't take any responsibility over the quality of the resulting print, although I work with a color managed chain from scanner via screen up till my printer, and deliver my photos using the AdobeRGB98 gamut. Also if you want to be able to enlarge a photo (and enlargements of a factor 2 are usually possible given the right camera and a mini lab that did it's job) prices get higher since then scratches and surface imperfections start to become more obvious and taking care of them can easily set me back an hour or so.
What happened to the poor photograph shown above beats me (looks like a spill of a fluid of some kind that has done havoc but click on it to find out what I made f it).
Photos and sometimes even negatives and slides get damaged. You know the spontaneous picture of your girlfriend you took on the day you first met her and that spends it's life in your wallet. Or the picture of your mam in the depth of your purse. Or the family archive that was discovered in a shoebox at the attic as you remove the belongings of your parents from the family home that have been partially eaten by rodents (nature of which is better left undisclosed). Or the picture of you and your hubby that was torn to pieces before making up and living happily ever after. Everything and I means everything can be restored using a scanner, time and photo editing software. Sometime I can sort of deduce what should be on the missing part of the picture, sometime I have to use a bit of imagination, but in all cases you will be amazed by the results. A picture in a sorry state can turn into an A3 eye catcher and crowd pleaser, if image detail allows it and my patience holds out (which it always does) during long rainy winter days (which in The Netherlands are legendary).
How fast damages can be repaired depends on to factors. Where it has occurred and how extensive the damages are. if a face is ruined by a few scratches that can be a lot harder to repair then when half a field is missing. Also scratches through complex color changes are difficult to manage since then a flow of the color patern will have to be restored as well.
The price depends on the amount of time it takes me to do my job, so click on the examples to and make a guesstimate. I say that in my experience this take about 1 to 2 hours (which means around 36 to 72 euro including VAT which means non EU residents can save up to 20%).
Photos are sensitive to the effects of dust, sand, grit, tiny glass particles and what not. A picture can be covered with a spiders web of tiny scratches and dents that in the end reduce the visibility of an image to near zero. This happens mostly to pre WW-II pictures since emulsions on older photographic paper is softer then today’s. Now the upside is that these pictures (although being not much bigger or even smaller then a postcard are made using large format camera's by professional photographers who knew what they were doing. Detail in those pictures is staggering compared to their size and my scanner can easily run at 1200 or even 2400 dpi to extract all detail from the emulsion. So every minute scratch becomes visible and has to be removed in order for a photo to be printed at A3+ (about 14 x 19 inch) which is done using clone and healing brushes. This is work that can't be trusted to everyone since it requires an almost zen-like state of mind. My record is a picture of a very distant relative of my nieces who went overseas in the early twenties and became a US-citizen and a member of the Kolchack division as the uniform he is wearing shows. It took 13 hours to restore to full glory. Not cheap.....but worth while.....
Another type of surface restoration can be called for if a picture falls prey (in the littoral sence of the word) to its worst natural enemy, fungus (mostly mildews of all types and forms). If a picture is hit a fungus this is usually bad enough but this usually is limited to parts of the picture (although I have seen examples of worst case scenarios). But a slide (between "protective" glass) is munched by mildew things really get out of hand quickly. A negative is much smaller then a photo and especially slides are very tasty and nutritious to mildew. I have seen slides in which 80 to 100 percent of the surface had some form of damage due to a fungus infestation. A slide scanned on my Nikon gives out a file containing over 20 Megapixels and a medium format slide scanned on my Epson produces up to 50 megapixels (or more for 6 x 9 and 6 x 12 slides). This can lead to restoration times
which run into hours and sometimes even days. Of course I can use ICE ® (on both
my scanners) or RDS ® and iRDS ® (from Silverfast ®) but these filters always
have some kind of detrimental effect on the overall picture quality so I tend to
avoid then is possible. As a last resort I use them but only after having
discussed that with the client.
A restoration like this can be performed on two levels. A 100% restoration which means that a picture can be presented at a size comparable with a 50% viewing on a computer monitor which is close to 200 dpi. If you want to print out at 100% of the original resolution (for display purposes) or you belong to those people that are only satisfied if they can admire a picture at 100 percent screen resolution (the so called pixel peepers) or you want to use a picture in print (for a book cover for instance) I will have to restore at 200% which means 4 time the work.
BTW, the examples in this section are shown at pixel peeper resolution (I guess I'm a member of that tribe of resolution junkies :-)).
In order to take a restoration one step further I can colorate a picture in the way they used to do before color photography became a common standard. This is a creative process between you and me since you have to like the result. Therefore this involves sending back and forth files in various stages of completion which is bases on mutual trust and respect. First you show me what you want done (for instance using examples) and then you and I are going to find out what I can do. I can use both soft pastels for only coloring the lighter parts of the photo or stronger colors which can also be used to color the darker parts. The work involved depends in large parts on the amount of detail that has to colored. A portrait can be colored quickly but a complex scene like the one on the image to the left takes more time. I have a colored a picture of a wedding bouquet in a few hours time (take a look at the examples to see the result). I always color using non-destructive layers (up to 20 for a picture) so I can always change the colors to client wishes.
Whether a coloration is performed on a restored or unrestored picture is also up to the client. A coloration takes at least an hour work and can take up to 3 hours. Mostly my clients use this on a previously restored picture or as an icing on the cake of a previous restoration done by me.
By the way tBy the way the photo on the left
went through all four steps of the restoration
process so click on it and take a look at the end result.
Last but not least. Sometimes you stumble upon really nice opportunities. For instance a client came to me with four aerial pictures taken in the late 50th. She asked me whether I could restore these. As I looked at the pictures I noticed they were all taken from the same location. These were no areal pictures, these were taken from a tower. So I called my client and told her (in this case it was a her) that I could do something wonderful. I restored all four pictures and then dropped them into my panorama software and made a panorama which is 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. That was used to decorate the hallway of an apartment building and the picture is also used by the Municipal Archive of Venlo (the town depicted) which was so enthusiastic about it, it even funded the final printing.
One thing lead to another. The archive needed some scans done on a few very large and vulnerable pictures which were made by some local photographers dating from the 20th century (pre and post war). Some of these were bigger then the scan surface of my scanner so I scanned them in pieces and joined the pieces in my photo editing software.
And as I stated earlier I can also remove parts from photos as some of the examples show. That technique I use to create my own pictures which are always an improved reality. Yes I can also add parts to a photo but I'm a bit reluctant to do so since that means recreating your own reality and there I have some moral (and legal) limits. Joining two celebs in a more or less compromising pose is best left to the tabloids. For the rest, try me.
As you can see from the examples prices for a restoration can differ widely (from € 9,00 tot €390,00 for an absolute worst case scenario). In principle I use a very modest hourly rate of € 36, per uur including VAT. Simple color corrections (including dust removal takes about 10 to 15 minutes so I can offer that for € 9,00. If you want me to print your pictures as well printing costs are added. Printing takes time and material and those are reflected in the prices which start at € 5 fo an A5 (6 x 8 inch approximately), via € 10 for an A4 (double the size) and €20 for an A3 of A3+. If I have to print large (which is rarely the case) I have to resort to external printing facilities (Grieger Düsseldorf for instance) and that will be part of the price quote you receive from me if I can't do things for a fixed rate (see pricing page).
In contrast to the fact that printing costs money, scanning is for free because I consider it an integral part of the restoration process. Before you ask no I don't just scan. My scanner has no feeder so I do my scans one by one and therefore price wise I can't compete (quality wise is a whole different matter but that figures). I print on several types of paper which are all branded (no no-name paper enters my printer since qualities differ widely widely. For portraits and people I use Ilford Gallery Professional Smooth Gloss and for landscape and scenery I use the Smooth Pearl version of the same manufacturer. It's white is natural, no whitener seems to be added so the paper does not suffer from the bleaching the whitener and should be stable for at least half a century. Both papers are known for there smooth color transitions and nice highlights and deep shadows. If you add a few dollars to the price I can also print on Hahnemühle papers. These can also be used for those of us who need a matte paper for printing, since for matte printing Hahnemühle is the preferred paper for me. Matt printing is a bit more expensive since I have to ink in order to change a photo black for a matte black cartridge..
Packaging and shipping is done against cost (I’m not a courier service and do not have to make money by shipping goods around the planet). If you package your good well enough but in a way that I don't have to damage the packaging when opening it I can send you back your restored photos for no extra charge but postage (see questions and answers section and pricing). If you send me 20 pictures to restore you pay of course for a single shipment (but you had probably figured that out yourself :-). .
Incidentally I mean what I say in red at the top of every page. In the best tradition of Dutch marine salvage companies I save your lost photo on a "NO CURE NO PAY" agreement. These salvage companies do this not because they don't trust their work, that would be stupid. Neither am I. I just want you the customer (my gold and the base of my reputation) never to be dissatisfied as I have overestimated my abilities. You pay nothing and you and I walk away as good friends. How this process works, simple:
Step 1: You send me an e-mail via the mail form stating that you want to do business and then you receive a mail from me to which you can reply with a mail to which a scan of your photos is attached. Scan should be made with at least 300 dpi but 600 is better but the total file size should not exceed 5 Mb otherwise you might have trouble sending it (I can receive 20 Mb per mail at least that is what my provider tells me).
Step 2: I create a treatment plan for all pictures involved in which all work is listed (see pricing page) and I send you a price quote over the mail which is binding to me (not to you but I'll explain that later) if I finally have used more time so be it, but not to worry I have to get through the day anyway :-). But if I need less time I will pass that discount to you my honored customer, so you could end up paying less but never more. If you agree to the price quote I gave you, you send me the original (package instructions in questions and contact section of this page.
Step 3: You receive a set of files via the mail. On file contains a low res (but not to low res) watermarked full picture and 2 or more details (critical details) at 100% picture peeping resolution (I am one of the very few digital restorers who sport 100% pictures at there website.
Step 4: You mail me back that you either like or dislike my work. If you dislike my work I send you back the originals at my cost (tax deductible I guess :-). Or and that will be the case I promise you, you like what I have done and tell that to me via the mail. In that case I send you a bill (Dutch tax laws prevent me from sending lose billings so I had to use this workaround since otherwise I would be paying taxes over unpaid bills)
Step 5: If the money arrives at my account I will then send you the pictures on a CD or via mail or in print (if requested). You have paid for work that I had already done and have paid for shipping and packaging (if needed) so I have no reason not to deliver at that point and risk using a trusted customer.
Question 1: Do you treat all photos, negatives and
Answer: Yes, I do but there are a few reservations. The content of the photo has to be legal (you and I know what I mean by that) and you state by sending me a picture for restoration that you own the copyright to the photo but if I can see that is clearly not the case I'll get back to you and will refuse to restore the picture, just good friends. By the way for all the pictures that have been made by photographers and that are ordered by the client (either you or a long gone relative) the copyright lies firmly by the client (at least under Dutch copyright law), so no worries there. Postcards are quit a different matter. Ancient copyrights might still exist (70 years after the death of the photographer), but most of these are stamped in the back or on the picture itself, and are easily recognizable. But I will not restore these unless of course you are the photographer in question or related to him or her.
Question 2: What happens when I loose a picture I'm supposed to restore?
Answer: I would be devastated, but that will not happen to me that quickly. In the US I could defer these issues to the client but living in the old world that does not stick so in fact I'm insured but insurance can never compensate emotional losses and paying damages is not what I want to do so I keep track of all pictures during the whole scanning and restoration process. The KPN (the Dutch postal service) works rather perfect but of course I can't be held accountable for the quality of there services. So if you value your pictures send them via insured mail but don't expect wonders since most photos have only emotional value which is hard to compensate. If they have physical value as well, you should not restore them digital anyway.
3: How do I send my photos to you?
Answer: Very well wrapped. But pleas in such a way that I can open the packaging without damaging it. That saves me a lot of (unpaid) work and it saves you the cost of new packaging material. I have head success using a bubble envelope and then stuffing the photos between to hard card boards into a totally not foldable entity. I have worked at KPN postal services (as an IT engineer) and I can assure you, postage handling is no delicate matter although they are not in thge business of destroying mail as the former USSR mail service did back in the 80th, when they managed to fold even a very well packaged photo my dad send to a exhibition in Moscow. BTW of course you can write art, handle with care and breakable goods on your package but rest assured that is no guarantee. The Dutch postal service knows its own nature and provides special package boxes. If' I'm not convinced about your work I will use on of these. If pictures are under A5 it will work. An alternative is using cardboard shipping rolls. That means rolling up a print. Even more delicate matter like negatives, please package them well (they are small so making a sturdy bubble wrap envelope for them should be easy.
Question 4: Can I deliver the pictures in person or do you come to collect
Answer: Sure you can, if you have the inclination to travel to Holland I will of course greet you to a cup of coffee. If you are a large enough institutional customer I would be willing to make the trip to anywhere on the globe. It is just a matter of making a business case. So to fetch a single picture for restoration, no I won't fly to the States. But if Mr. Gates calls and makes it worthwhile for me, I'll be on the first plane to Redmond :-).
Question 5: Can I scan the pictures myself and send them to you via mail or CD?
Answer: Well for my Dutch customers I would decline but for international
customers I would like to make an exception. But you have to do a few things in
order to make life as easy as possible. First you scan at a bit of over
resolution (1200 dpi is okay), then you scan to a 48 bit TIFF file and use all
the auto settings your scanner has to offer. That is not a great scan but with
16 bits of data per color chances are that I can work with it. .
Question 6: How fast do you return you finished work?
Answer: I will try to work on an ASAP basis since work lying on the shelf is nice to have but it does not pay the bills. I schedule my work based on the time it will take me, and the order that work arrives at my doorstep (First In First Out). I will send you a mail in which I state when your work is scheduled and when you can expect a mail with my work for your approval (or disapproval). If you have personal or work related deadlines I would like to know about it. I usually leave room in my schedule for emergency restorations (funeral cards for instance) and I can use that time if no emergencies pop up for myself or regular restorations.
Question 7: I have found the e-mail form and I would like to call you, why is
there no phone number on your site?
Answer: Restoring photos requires a certain amount of concentration and I work alone. If during a restoration the phone rings four times an hour restoring becomes an impossible task for me. Mail I can see if it arrives but I can answer it when and if I'm free to do so. If needed I can call you back anytime which saves you some money. But I like to do my business conversations mainly by mail since written communication beats verbal communication in clarity and is also recorded at both ends of the line.