Enhancing Scanned Images
As promised, this column demonstrates how one reader enhances the scanned
images of her genealogy documents to make them more readable. Unfortunately, the
mailing lists at RW don't allow the distribution of graphics, so you will either
have to read this via my blog or my website
Elizabeth wrote to explain: "This represents
about 4 hours of work over a period of weeks...too tedious to do at at once.
There are still several words that I cannot make out even when I blow the
page up 400%. I shall continue working on this. Some words I had to figure out
according to the context." (Click images for larger view.)
The document is the Feb. 1, 1815 marriage
bond/license of Martin Baker of Garrard County, Kentucky to his first cousin
Cassandra Colquitt of Rockingham County, North Carolina. Beverly Baker, Martin's
brother also signed. The bond was 50£. Cassandra Cabot Colquitt was the
daughter of Revolutionary War dragoon, Ransome Colquitt, born in Halifax County,
Virginia and his wife Susannah (Baker) Colquitt.
When ol' Myrt here pressed Elizabeth for more information about
the process she used to accomplish this "cleaning up" she graciously provided
the following insights:
program I am using is ADOBE PHOTOSHOP 7.
It is $649.95 for the upgrade. ADOBE PHOTOSHOP CS is the newest version.
However, the much cheaper Adobe program, ADOBE PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS would do
this particular work just as well. It runs under $100.
First I click on the color sampler icon, place it on the whitest spot on
the document, and click to exchange the color to match. (White comes in
many shades, and likely the document is slightly gray!)
I use a mouse,
though a pen might be easier, but I don't have one.
Next I blow up the
page at least 400%. Then I go up to the paintbrush icon, click it, and use
it to painstakingly "paint out" the dark spots, the creases, etc. For
individual words, occasionally, I have to enlarge the page even more and
carefully go around each stroke and within the Os, the L loops, etc. (The
size of the paint brush can be changed and made quite small for the more
tedious work..) Sometimes a word is so black, I don't know what it is and
or what needs to be whitened. Then I try determining the word by the
context. If that doesn't work, on rare occasions, I have to leave it
mostly black. I use the contrast
and brightness correction on both documents and on photos too.
BTW, I also use the program to restore old photos that are faded,
torn or have water marks. I have restored color photos from the 1950s too
that have changed color to yellow with age. (All color printed photos will
change color eventually. So I now store mine on CDs. No doubt another
innovation will eventually force me to go to something newer than CDs!)
I bought a book and taught myself to use the Adobe program. I am a retired
university professor, so it wasn't difficult. I am still teaching myself
more advanced techniques.
Professionals in camera shops also do this work. I was shocked recently
when I went to a program at a genealogy society given by one of these
professionals. He showed a before and after studio photo of a child that
he had restored. It was faded and had a bit of water damage, in bad but
not in terrible shape. He remarked that he had charged $180 for his work! Ahhh!"
A great big THANK-YOU to Elizabeth for sharing her
experience with us. Our local digital photography group in Bradenton just swears
by Adobe Photoshop Elements. Ol' Myrt uses a similar program, PaintShop Pro to
accomplish some of the photo retouching tasks Elizabeth mentions. Although I
recommend purchasing the programs at a discount through Amazon.com, learn more
about these various programs by going to the following websites:
PS - another reader explains
now owns Paint Shop Pro
In a message dated 12/11/2005 2:45:47 PM Eastern Standard Time,
Jasc (PaintShop Pro)
PSP is now owned by Corel. It's more expensive now also.
They don't support older versions of PSP
from the Jasc days, so beware of buying it at a discounted on eBay or
anywhere else if it's version 8 or older. When Corel took over they almost
immediately came out with version 9. I still like 7 the best. It's not a
memory hog as 8 is and most likely 9 is worse.
I used to have problems with scanning old
newspaper articles and old documents. I would scan in grey scale then
convert to black and white. Voila the dark background disappeared. I did
this with PSP. An earlier version, but I'm sure it still works in the
Thanks for the heads up. Geesh, you need a pedigree chart to keep track of
who owns what. -- Myrt :)
UPDATE: This has generated a lot of
response, as people hadn't really thought of scanning the documents, but only
photos. THIS is what I had hoped to achieve -- getting them into scanning the
documents, too! With hard drive storage space as large and as inexpensive as it
has become, there is simply no excuse for not presenting the full
story of an ancestor.
Happy family tree climbing!
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207