Tuesday, February 22, 2011

True Color, Grayscale, and Silvering

Every time I scan in a photograph I have to make a decision whether I should use the grayscale or the true color setting. As a former professional black & white printer, I'm always tempted to go grayscale, but after some thought, I decided that, for this blog, I should do my best to duplicate the look of the original. That would be an easy decision for this image. The original is a mounted albumen print with a rich brown, sepia tone. But with many photographs the choice is far less obvious. Many of the old snapshots I have in the collection are in that zone between a nice black & white photo with blacks, whites, and gray mid-tones, and slightly yellowish-brown tones, caused by a less than successful, final, archival wash. When I worked at photo labs, one of my jobs was operating a copy camera. Sometimes our customers would bring in old family photos, and some of those would be leaching photographic silver and, of course, silver reflects light. When prints aren't washed or fixed properly, over time the residual silver will begin to show on the surface of the print. When making prints from copy negs, if the silvering wasn't too bad, we could always burn in backgrounds or print to a non matching contrast to hide the problem. When scanning a print into a computer the silver can make it almost impossible to get a decent scan. There is a bit of silvering on this print, seen in the uneven tones in the bottom third of the print. Mounted on cardboard, labeled, "Milton Loryea SPOKANE WASH." Written on the back, "Charles Butter."


Added: Milton Loryea Photo Studio was listed in the Spokane city directory from 1893 to 1909. He and his brother Archie, also a photographer moved to Spokane from San Jose, California in 1892. Archie died in 1900.


  1. Oh my, aren't those spit curls somethin'?

  2. Is this a photo of Mr. Loyea? If so, I would like more info on him.