Posts Tagged ‘family photos’

Who Do You Think You Are Live on Genealogy Gems Podcast

Thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke I can relive my trip to England for Who Do You Think You Are Live! She featured photographs and an interview with me in her latest Genealogy Gems podcast. I was so busy keeping up with photo consultations I didn’t notice that she spent time recording interviews with the folks in line. Listen in to hear those lovely English accents and the story behind some of the photos I got to see.

Color Photographs: Instant Color

Until 1947, amateur photographers either sent their rolls of film to a lab for developing or did it themselves in a home darkroom. Edwin Land’s patent for “instant” black and white pictures that developed in a minute changed everything. Photographers could shoot a picture, watch it develop, and decide whether to take a new one. This dawn of a new age in family photography presented shutter-bugs with instant gratification.

In the 1970s Polaroid patented a color film. According to The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography (Focal Press, 2007), consumers shot approximately a billion Polaroid prints in 1974. Close to 65% of that number were color images.

The problem with these new instant color pictures did not surface for several years. Unfortunately, the life expectancy of a color Polaroid can be limited to only 5 to 10 years if storage conditions include environmental fluctuations.

Special Concerns for color photographs include:

  • Fading
  • Discoloration
  • Cracking
  • Moisture and Temperature
  • Fingerprints
  • Poor Quality Plastic
  • Surface Treatments

This is an example of digital restoration. The colors shifted destroying the image. The black and white print was the first stage of the restoration. In the final print, color tint was added. Edwin Schuylar Richerson and his bride Eleanor Rita, November 27, 1954. Photo courtesy of Linda Templeton. Retouching by Lorie

Preserving Your Family Photographs goes into more detail about these concerns and how to avoid them in order to save your valuable photos.

Color Photographs: Deterioration

Color pictures are composed of two elements: the negative and the image. The negative is the film while the image is printed on different types of paper. Today, most photographs are printed on resin coated (RC) papers. This means that the image is printed on a paper coated with a substance that protects the print surface from abrasion. Over time, these RC papers develop cracking.

Kodacolor film, Ektachrome slides and Agfacolor color are three of the color photographic processes used by family photographers that have had disturbing preservation records.  However, instant pictures deteriorate the fastest.

Next week I’ll talk about instant pictures and special concerns.  You can read more about this topic in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs or contact me via email at

Color Photographs – History and Background

Walk into any home and you’ll see color photographs on display, either standing in frames or hanging on walls. The photos depict graduations, family vacations and other events of significance to the owner.

The transition from all black and white photography to commercially available color took close to a century. Daguerre and others tried to invent a color photographic process by experimenting with different chemicals. But they were largely unsuccessful in their quest for permanent color images. In 1850, a New York state Baptist minister, Levi Hill, announced that he’d found a way to reproduce natural color in daguerreotypes, but he refused to reveal his methods. He called his process Heliochromy and his plates were called hillotypes. Many photographers labeled him a fraud. Yet in 2007, researchers working under the auspices of the Smithsonian Museum of American History found that Hill had indeed been able to capture blue and red hues.

To learn more about the history and background of color photographs, check out my book Preserving Your Family Photographs.