Page Tabs

Sunday, December 11, 2005

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 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.)

original scan

retouched copy

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 I pressed Elizabeth for more information about the process she used to accomplish this "cleaning up" she graciously provided the following insights:

"The program I am using is ADOBE PHOTOSHOP 7. However, the much cheaper Adobe program, ADOBE PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS would do this particular work just as well. (The price difference is from around $690 to a little less than $100 for elements.)

The process:
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!) 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.

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, learn more about these various programs by going to the following websites:

Adobe -
Jasc (PaintShop Pro)

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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