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Part III: Photo Rescue > Making Color Repairs

Hour 15. Making Color Repairs

Color repairs are apt to be easier than black-and-white repairs, for several reasons. First, the pictures aren’t as old, so they are somewhat less likely to be physically damaged. The paper tends to be heavier, and with its glossy coating, is sturdier and less prone to tearing. Very old sepia-tinted photos get brittle with age in a way that pictures printed after about 1950 never do.

The single biggest problem I’ve seen with color photos from the late 40s and 50s is color cast, or in its more severe form, color shift. When this happens, the entire photo can take on what looks like an overdose of a single color (often pink or purple, but any color can be affected). It’s generally blamed on heat or exposure to sunlight, but having seen it happen to pictures that were tucked away in an album or used as a bookmark, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. The dyes used back then just weren’t stable. Bad processing or letting the film sit in the camera outdoors on a warm day were enough to throw off the color, perhaps not immediately, but as the photos aged.


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