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How do I improve this to "pure" black & white?


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This is a notation to a photograph that my grandfather took. The photo was mounted in one of those old albums that had black paper pages. The notation was written with some kind of white colored pen.

I would like suggestions on how to get the hand written words to stand out better and be on a pretty much pure black background.

I have played around with simple contrast, brightness, etc. and some other features but not gotten the effect I would like. I might not get it but I would like suggestions on a technique that would do this as automatically as possible. I know I could spend the time to get down to a pixel level and clean up the writing then drop it back on to a new black layer. This would be very time intensive and I would have a big learning curve on how to do this.

Does any one have any simpler suggestions? Pointing me to a turorial(s) that would explain either process would be appreciated.

TIA.

Paul

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Hello Paul,

This is a tricky one, as the writing is so faint. Here's my best attempt:

typicalFrenchkiddies.png

If that's any use, I suggest the following as one possible method.

1. try to get a larger image if possible ? - this would give you a better chance.

2. I used my 'tweak edges' plugin, to separate out the white text (initially using white line and black background but then you must select transparent background for the next stage.

Just experiment with the 'blur' and threshold values.

3. create a black layer under the white/ transparent layer ( to see what you are doing).

4. use 'Tweak transparency' - which does have a confusing interface I'm afraid.

Set both edge and middle colours to white, move transparency change to opaque, uncheck the keep original outline and the anti alias buttons, then gradually raise the 'min' slider. Experiment with the other settings but you'll be better off with a smaller blur radius.

Good luck (I'll be interested to see how others may solve this problem too).

Edited by Red ochre

 

Red ochre Plugin pack.............. Diabolical Drawings ................Real Paintings

 

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Yeah that does look tough.

To be honest, I don't think that's really within the limits of any contrast/brightness effect.

I would create a layer above the original, and trace it all out with a a curved line tool.

I would use the original because, although it's fainter, I think you get the best visual of how it should look. Red Ochre did a good job of bringing out, but you can see it's kinda faded in some areas, and almost even harder to read because of that.

No fault of his, that's just the limitation of contrast/brightness I was talking about.

It MIGHT be worth trying some "reduce noise" or "median" effects on it. I'm not too sure how that would turn out though.

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This one is a double whammy in a way.

1- It does present the faintness problem you mention which exists on a number of other prints I have so coming up with a solution will be important.

2- This is probably the most important one of all to resolve, in my own mind at least, so it will be a good one to attack.

Luckily some of the other captions I have to work with still have great contrast to start with and one very quick experiment I did yielded a great result with just some contrast / brightness tweaking. The example here is obviously not so simple!

I am very new to any photo editing software so still have a big learning curve. Luckily I have all of these photos and can rescan as needed. Actually, the example given was just part of a "survey" of the photos I did so I had something to work with. I rather expect that a number of these prints will need to be rescanned.

As an aside, here is the project I am working on.

My grandfather was a member of the 1916 Ohio State University football team (first ever to win the conference title) and was one of the team members who quit college to join the Army during World War One and served as an ambulance driver.

During his life he was an avid amateur photographer. I have an album of around 150 black and white photographs that he took related to his Army service and travels. Most of these photographs have captions associated with them like this one, written in his hand.

Of these photos, one exists of two young French girls that he photographed and this image is his caption "Typical French Kiddies". The first time after discovering the album just a few years ago (it had been tucked away) I was struck by this particular image. I now have in the back of my mind the idea of trying to publish a book containing these photos and possibly some of 200 more that he never added to the album. “Typical French Kiddies” would be my cover photo.

The current issue with this caption is only one of many I face working with these photos. As mentioned above there is the current faintness issue on both captions and the photos themselves. Some, luckily not many, have dust issues. Many have elemental silver that has crept to the surface of the prints that causes reflective spots along with the loss of detail due to image degradation.

So, I am faced with a number of challenges!!! I am basically now trying to get some proof of concept images going, enough so I can then go look for a potential publisher. If I can even find an interested publisher it would be with the hope that they may be able to supply an expert who could rescan the images and improve overall quality.

If you or anyone else here has thoughts about whether it is even worth me trying to publish or any possible contacts please let me know. With the 100-year anniversary of WW1 coming up I am under the impression that now would be the time to get this project going, if ever.

Thanks for your thoughts and TIA to any more that anyone may have.

Paul

Hello Paul,

This is a tricky one, as the writing is so faint. Here's my best attempt:

If that's any use, I suggest the following as one possible method.

1. try to get a larger image if possible ? - this would give you a better chance.

2. I used my 'tweak edges' plugin, to separate out the white text (initially using white line and black background but then you must select transparent background for the next stage.

Just experiment with the 'blur' and threshold values.

3. create a black layer under the white/ transparent layer ( to see what you are doing).

4. use 'Tweak transparency' - which does have a confusing interface I'm afraid.

Set both edge and middle colours to white, move transparency change to opaque, uncheck the keep original outline and the anti alias buttons, then gradually raise the 'min' slider. Experiment with the other settings but you'll be better off with a smaller blur radius.

Good luck (I'll be interested to see how others may solve this problem too).

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Oh you want this to be published? I thought this was more of a home project for family.

In that case I wouldn't do what I said.

I think I'd try erasing all the grey/tan background color, leaving the text alone.

Then contrast/brightness might work better.

You could also try recreating the lettering at that point using the clone stamp tool.

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The idea of publishing is not the main focus but has crossed my mind. I am currently unemployed and have some time to pursue this, especially if I might eventually make a few bucks. The idea of publishing crossed my mind especially with the 100 year anniversary of WW1 coming up and considering the uniqueness of these photographs. I have no idea if any publisher would even be interested but I have been mentioning this idea when I discuss these photos on the chance that someone will know someone who knows someone etc :-)

I mainly wanted to get these scanned "for posterity" to distribute to family members. Even so, I want to distribute the best quality I can so I have been trying to investigate and learn how to improve the quality.

As my time permits I am going to try any suggestions of any type that are given. This is a good way to learn the software and personally I find it helpful to have a task in mind rather than just jumping into new software and looking around. I have no artistic background to work from so I don't particularly have a predetermined area of interest without having a particular task in mind like this.

I am not too likely to go too far down the publishing path unless I somehow would get encouragement that it is worth the effort. I would have a very big learning curve to get these to the publishable point, even just making "good enough for family" will be a big challenge for me! I definately appreciate any suggestions anyone gives since you more experienced people will have a firm footing to be starting from where I am entirely guessing! Therefore any suggestions of things to try or look at are appreciated!

Paul

Oh you want this to be published? I thought this was more of a home project for family.

In that case I wouldn't do what I said.

I think I'd try erasing all the grey/tan background color, leaving the text alone.

Then contrast/brightness might work better.

You could also try recreating the lettering at that point using the clone stamp tool.

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Paul, consider this me encouraging you to get them published.

I think that's a remarkable thing to do, and I can guarantee you WWI WILL get a lot of coverage on the 100th anniversery. Just see how much coverage WWII gets every year on important dates.

One major reason, I feel, WWII gets more coverage is because there's more photographs and film-age of it available.

I, and my friends around me, have always died wondering what it looked like back then. There's something absolutely mystical being able to look 100 years back in a photo. It's eery in an incredible way.

I absolutely must implore you to continue, not only because I KNOW it will be financially beneficial to you, but because it will be a great experience for the rest of the world to see.

I absolute love the title you have in mind as well.

My first thought is that maybe you should contact someone from "History Channel". I'm certain they'd love to get the photos, because I'm certain they're already scheming up a WWI 100 year anniversary special.

I'm slightly concerned that they might want the original photos to keep for some reason though...

I have absolutely zero idea on how History Channel functions, but that's a fear that sticks in my mind for some reason.

I am absolutely more than willing to help you with this project. You can PM me for help, or additional ways to contact me.

I too, have no artistic background. My only artistic outlet is through Paint.NET, I've been using it for years now and I feel I've made considerable progress in my artistic ability. So I feel comfortable in giving you advice, but of course, open discussion is generally more productive since more ideas get thrown around.

Edited by W@@dy
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You forced me to (try) to out-do you lol

Here's what I got.

It's a mixture of "Combined Effects" (I think it's called)

which involves noise reduction, contrast, saturation, and a multiplying factor (idk what if does lol).

I think used "Curves+" and was actually able to pull most of the text into a new layer, making the background transparent.

I think placed a pure black background behind it, then did some contrast/brightness on the text again

Untitled-88.png

It's not too different from yours, perhaps a hair brighter. Idk if that's good or not though

Edit: Erm. I just realized I double posted, and I'm not too sure why I did that...my mind was absent I guess. My apologies

Edited by W@@dy
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Wow! A very definite thanks for the encouragement. It is an idea that has definitely grabbed hold of me!

As mentioned I forsee a lot of work needing to be done, particularly on the photographs but also on the captions as is being discussed. I have completely rejected any idea of leaving out his handwritten captions - that would take away a major part of the album’s feel. I thus have the two issues of improving both the captions and the photos.

For grins, I have already worked on an introduction to the book and an example title page. NOT Shown below (SEE BELOW) is one cut that includes the “Typical French Kiddies” photograph (my intended cover photo). (I hereby inform the world that I plan to maintain any possible copyrights to these materials and I DO NOT give any kind of permission for them to be used elsewhere). CAN'T GET IT TO INSERT...

This particular photo is one of the worst for dust. It does have a loss of detail that can be seen where the coats are dark. As mentioned there are a number of problems that I anticipate needing to resolve before these could be rendered in a book publishable form.

Boy do I have a learning curve and other challenges facing me!!

I wanted to include a copy of a trial cover page for the book to include the Typical French Kiddies photo but could only get the photo as an attachment but I needed it in line with the text here. I see it done but can't seem to do it myself. Can someone tell me how to get a photo in line with text inside the post itself please?

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