As the population ages, people are becoming increasingly interested
in antiques and links to their own pasts.
Peeking into some boxes in the attic or clearing out an elderly relative's
basement can provide valuable information about a family's history. Because
history means old, and because old things are often forgotten, photo restoration
is a growing market.
People often dig up old portraits that have not been preserved over the
years. They can hire a professional to restore the image to its original quality.
Cherie Yannone-Hasemann is the president and webmaster of A Stroke of Genius
Photographic Restoration in Forked River, New Jersey.
She and her husband are the sole employees. They got into the business
after spending a year restoring their own photographs. What began as a hobby
for the couple has grown into a profitable business, attracting clients from
down the road and as far away as Australia.
Yannone-Hasemann says she has worked in graphic arts and design since high
school. Her experience with computers allowed the company to go global in
August 1999. They have watched their business increase ever since.
"Listed with most major search engines, we receive over 90 percent of our
clients from the Internet now," she says.
But the business was growing even before the website was up and running.
"It started slowly on a local level. With great advertising and word-of-mouth
referrals, we grossed almost $20,000 our first year without really trying.
After going on the Internet, we expanded our sales nearly twice."
Yannone-Hasemann attributes the company's success to the clients' interest
in their own family histories. "With the public's expansion into genealogy
and the quest for their roots, our business grows larger daily. We anticipate
the market will continue to expand as more people discover lost images, and
realize the services that are available to restore them."
Specializing in antique images, A Stroke of Genius has restored some of
the first types of photographs made, including tintypes and daguerreotypes.
"However, we have restored every type of image at some point -- negatives,
slides, Polaroids, glass mounts, glass slides and, of course, photographs."
But as Yannone-Hasemann discovered recently, not all images can be restored.
"Until several weeks ago, we had not encountered anything we couldn't repair.
We found an image that was so badly degraded that full restoration was not
possible. We were able to restore most of the image, but some features could
not be recovered."
She goes on to explain what is possible with restoration. "Out of focus
originals cannot be 'refocused.' We can remove superimposures, delete people,
add people, add or remove objects and backgrounds, change lighting, remove
flashback, remove red eye, clear up any type of blemish or scar, [and] even
fix a bad hair day."
What tools are required to do all this? Photo restoration can be done in
the darkroom. But digital restoration is on the rise.
Yannone-Hasemann describes the process as simply as she can: "We scan the
images into the computer, using various scanning devices depending upon the
original image type. We manipulate the images through over a dozen different
programs until the quality required is achieved," she says.
"We can print various sizes on high-quality, acid-free photographic paper
or heavily textured linen finished artist paper."
She has some advice for any would-be photo restorers. "Have an artistic
talent to begin with. Be a perfectionist. Be detail-oriented and have patience.
Work on your own images and those of friends and family. Perfect your skills
and, above all, listen to what the client really wants, not what you believe
Fred Priest is a photographer. For him, an artistic background is a must
for anyone doing restoration work. Priest restores photos at a commercial
Priest says he has restored images from the late 1800s. He understands
the motivation of his clients. "These days, it's a lot of people finding ancestor's
photos in garages and basements. They've been neglected for umpteen years,
and all of a sudden they feel the desire to have them restored."
Priest believes business is constant enough to provide continuous challenges.
Priest is an artist who drifted into restoration after a friend got him
into photography. His sense of color has definitely helped his skills. With
experience in pastel, oil paints, airbrushing and commercial art, Priest also
colors photographs by hand.
Because he is used to working manually, Priest tried digital restoration,
but eventually drifted back to his old style. He says you can achieve the
same results with either technique. It's just a different method of working.
Fees vary, he says, because clients are paying for the time it takes to
restore an image. Priest estimates services at his company can range from
$50 to several hundred dollars to restore a photograph.
Jamie Landau of Old to New Photos in New York agrees that fees can vary
greatly. Landau charges a set fee and then adds an hourly rate. Old to New
Photos began as a hobby, but the inexpensive online start-up inspired Landau
to become self-employed.
Backed with a business degree, Landau estimates the company has grown 350
percent since it began.
For Landau, beginning as a hobby was a great way to get into the business.
Patience turned restoration into a lucrative career. "Practice and be patient.
You don't learn overnight."
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