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12 May 2015

The only thing Mom wanted for Mother's Day was an enlargement of an old photo she'd found. The two youngest in the family were sitting on a chaise lounge in the backyard of our first house, one of Henry Doelger's Daly City homes.

It was a black and white contact print from the very early 1960s made on Kodak Velox paper. Just 4.5 x 3.25 inches, including the generous border. But pristine, with a good range of tones.

There is a lot of hidden in small contacts prints from that era.


So the first thing we thought of when she handed us the little envelope with the print in it was to borrow her iPhone and take a quick snapshot.

We lined it up as squarely as we could by eye and used the natural light coming in from the kitchen window, making sure we ourselves weren't casting a shadow on the print.

No flash. We wanted to avoid any glare on the image, but there was enough light that we didn't have to turn the flash off.

After we snapped the image, we zoomed in on the faces, which are rather small in the print, filling the iPhone 5c screen. It was the first time in a long time she'd been able to see them so clearly.


Enlargements used to be headaches. And negatives used to be big enough (like this print's original negative) that you didn't need them.

But these days a quick scan with a smartphone camera or a flatbed scanner and you've got something easily printable that shows as lot more detail.

We could have printed the image we shot with her phone on her inkjet but we wanted to scan it on the Canon 9000F that does all the flatbed work around here. It would be squared up, for one thing, and it would give us a chance to spot the image carefully in an image editing application.

A print from the scanned image would be better in short.


The 9000F runs just fine under Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite. We didn't even have to update the drivers. We have used Image Capture (which uses Apple's ICA framework), Canon's own ScanGear (particularly for film strips) and VueScan (which we like for difficult one-off scans). They all work.

For this image, we used VueScan. And we scanned at a ridiculously high resolution, much higher than we needed for the print.

Not that we recommend that. A little higher, sure. Much higher is just overkill. We also enabled two passes, one for the highlights and one for the shadows, because we always do. Even though this little print surely didn't have the dynamic range to warrant that.

Still, it cost us nothing.

We very much liked the scan and felt a little guilty is had been done so quickly.


Except when we use Image Capture, we scan from Photoshop CS5 because that's what is on the laptop connected to the 9000F. We don't do any editing (or much editing) with Photoshop CS5 because we really do miss the advances available in Photoshop CC 2105.

Retouching. Zapping those white spots and scratches.

Retouching for this job was simple enough that we could have been happy just tapping away with the Healing Brush. Except we really wanted to see what running the image through the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop CC could do.

So we opened the image in Photoshop CC for retouching.

We set the display to show it at 100 percent and started in the top left corner, looking for white dust spots, scratches and short threads. Even on a contact print, we found a few.

The Healing Brush makes it simple to fix, though. Just move the cursor over a spot, click and it's gone. For a scatch, just draw over it. Gone.

We moved through the image, section by section, cleaning it up.


Next, we wondered what sort of tonal improvements we could make. After all, this was a print, not a camera capture, and certain limitations are unavoidable. Plus the paper might have yellowed a bit, knocking down the highlights.

You never know. So we opened the scan in the Camera Raw filter.

Camera Raw Filter. Clarity, Shadows, Highlights.

A quick peek at the histogram of our grayscale image revealed a good distribution of tones.

But we felt we could improve the apparent sharpness of the enlargement with a hefty does of Clarity's microcontrast. When we did that, the Shadows darkened a bit, so we opened them up. And we also wanted to see what detail we could recover in the sweaters, so we cranked Highlights down a bit.

We were glad we did. The image looked a good deal better than what we'd been able to capture on the iPhone or even directly from the scanner.

Making It Sepia. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.


We made a print to see how we were doing and liked it enough we almost closed for lunch.

But comparing the two prints, we realized the DNP DS40 had given us a colder black than the Kodak Velox.

We could have fiddled a bit, trying to match the warmer black but we decided to simply upgrade the image to a sepia print. That would give the image not just a warmer look but the faces a more human dimension. And this image was all about the faces.

So we added a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer just as we did for the favorite image we discussed yesterday. We converted the image from Grayscale to RGB and clicked the Colorize checkbox before picking a Hue that was too intense. So we knocked down the Saturation until the image was just right.



Oddly enough (which is why we write these things), we were unable to print this image as a 6x8 from Photoshop CC 2015 and Mac OS X 10.10.3 using DNP's beta driver for Yosemite. We kept getting a paper size error.

This was particularly odd because we had just been printing another image as a 5x7. Even when we shut everything down and started up again, this image refused to print.

So, having jumped off the cliff already, we didn't think it would hurt much to open the image in Apple's new Photos.

Photos. Using a Filter.

We imported the PSD file without a problem, picked our print options and sent the data to the printer. And immediately a the DS40 started printing the very same image it refused to print from Photoshop.

Go figure.

Just for fun, we used Photos' filters to knock the image back to a black and white. And that printed fine, too.

Not to confuse ourselves, though, we re-edited the image to Revert to the Original sepia print. And because Photos is non-destructive, we were right back to where we had started from.


We had noticed on the small original print that there was a funny expression on the baby's face in the photo but we couldn't quite make it out.

The Enlargement. With the original.

The enlargement, in which we'd more than doubled the size of the faces, left no question. He was giving his older brother a hearty raspberry.

But the real reward of this project is making both of those faces easier for Mom to see again.

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