Q&A - Image Restoration 

Looking for the comedy in Restoration

Looking for the comedy in Restoration

  • Q. Will my original picture be safe?

    Yes. Your picture will be scanned using a professional quality (Epson) machine. Once scanned your original is stored safely pending return.

  • Q. Can you correct the colours in my photographs?


    We can colour correct colour photos, sepia photos and black and white photos (which seems like a stupid thing to say, but most “black and white” photos actually contain some colour informataion and this more often than not it is this colour information that causes the problem).

  • Q. Can you change my black and white image to colour?


    The process of colour tinting, black and white images is, however, quite time consuming and therefore expensive. Even a relatively straight-forward image is likely to require 3-4 hours work to obtain a satisfactory result.

    There is also the question of colour authenticity. Your black and white image does not tell us what colours were present at the time the image was taken. Therefore, the colour information added to the image is, at best, an approximation. Skin tones are notoriously difficult to reproduce.

  • Q. Can you restore damaged negatives and/or slides?

    Negative and slide damage or degradation cannot normally be repaired. Careful cleaning may help, but, this carries the risk of causing further damage to the original.

    Generally, the best course of action is to create a digital image from the damaged negative or slide by scanning it and then carry out restoration work on the digital image. Whether or not this is possible or will result in an acceptable image at an acceptable cost depends on the image and extent of the damage.

  • Q. Are there any limits on the size of print you can restore?

    Yes. Sort of.

    If you’re asking us “how big can Berkhamsted Imaging print an image once they’ve restored it?”, then theoretically, we could print it as a poster.

    In practice, very large prints will reveal any flaws or technical limitations in the restored print. Furthermore, digital noise can be an issue with restored prints. This is because the original pre-restoration prints often have flat indistinct areas which, tend, when scanned to exhibit high levels of digital noise and this becomes more noticeable/less acceptable the larger the final print is.

    However, the vast majority of restorations will print satisfactorily upto 12x10.

    These are generalisations and the only “proper” answer is, it depends on your image.

    If you’re asking “how big an original print can I have restored?”, the answer is we can scan original prints upto A3 in size in a single pass. We can handle larger originals than A3, but only by carrying out multiple scans of A3 sized sections of the original.

    If you’re asking “how large a digital file, can I have restored?”, the answer is so big that, in practice, it’s not an issue. Theoretically, PC operating systems do have ultimate limits on file sizes and anything over 4GB would therefore be an issue. However, since, even the massive and pointless overkill of a 4800 dpi full colour scan of a 6x4 original, (which would produce a corresponding 300 dpi print which natively measured 8ft x 5ft 4 inches!) “only” produces a file in the region of 1.6Gb, it just isn’t a problem.

    Our standard pricing assumes your original and your restored print are no larger than A4. If you’re producing your own scans, you may like to read what we have to say about how to scan your photos.

  • Q. Can you make an out of focus picture, perfectly sharp?

    No. Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t possible to correct a photo that is out of focus. In an age of ubiquitous photo manipulation, this seems like something that should be do-able. However, it isn’t and here’s why:

    The out of focus image contains ALL of the data which makes up that image. Digital manipulation does not CREATE data, it modifies existing data. The importance of this distinction may not be obvious, but as a consequence there are limits to what can be achieved.

    In order to focus, an out of focus image, it would be necessary to substitute the out of focus data with new “in focus” data. However, this data doesn’t exist anywhere within the original image.

    This is probably better explained by an example. Let’s say you have a picture of your Mum at the beach and you want to make it look like she’s just about to be eaten by a killer whale. You take data from the beach scene and data from a picture of killer whale and you merge the two, to disturbingly comic effect.

    However, crucially, nothing about the data from the 2nd picture of the killer whale was present in the 1st picture of your Mum at the beach… So, using the beach scene alone, you couldn’t create the killer whale. You need the second image.

    Therefore, if we return to our out of focus picture, nothing about the “in-focus” data (the killer whale) is present in out of focus picture (the beach scene) and no amount of manipulation will put it there.

    Of course, theoretically, if we had a 2nd, identical, in focus picture, we could put the data from the 2nd photo into the first photo… but in the real world, you won’t have a 2nd in-focus image and, if you did, you’d just use this one for your prints.

  • Q. Can you improve an out of focus picture, then?

    Some sharpening is possible on some pictures.

    The internet is awash with tutorials on how to do it and some professional or semi-professional photographers routinely apply subtle sharpening processes to their digital images.

    However, sharpening works by increasing contrast between pixels and accentuating highlights in the image i.e. pixels that are white or nearly white. This can produce worthwhile results or it can, if used badly, make the situation worse, by creating an out of focus image with unnaturally bright, “blown” highlights.

    The moral of the story is, don’t take out of focus pictures.

  • Q. Can you modify an in focus picture, so that part of it is out of focus?

    Yes, this is relatively straight forward and a worthwhile technique to enhance the importance of the subject matter in an image.

  • Q. Can you replace missing bits of a picture?

    Yes, if the missing bit exists somewhere else in the rest of the picture or if you can provide us with another similar photograph which contains the missing details.

    (We’re back on killer whale territory again.)

    However, there are practical and artistic limits, to this. Theoretically, it would be possible to create a whole lawn from a single blade of grass, but it would be wildly time consuming and thus expensive. (In the real world you’d just use some other generic grass). Furthermore, there are some things, notably people’s faces and hands, where the illusion is very difficult to sustain…

    Faces, in particular are difficult, because humans ability to distinguish faces is highly evolved and facial features are almost always asymmetrical. For example, you can’t, convincingly, replace a missing right eye by just copy and pasting that person’s left eye…

  • Q. Can you remove people or things I don’t like from my picture?

    Yes. Stalin’s got nothing on us.

    In practice, removing people or things, requires replacing those things with other details already present in the image. So, exactly the same considerations apply.

  • Q. Can you combine more than 1 picture into a single image?


    You’ll need to provide us with all the pictures you want combined and we’ll need to discuss with you carefully what you want to achieve.

    This can be particularly effective where you have multiple photos of a group of people taken in quick succession, e.g. at wedding. You can take the best bits of more than one photo and composite them into 1 image where everyone looks there best.

  • Q. How do you work out what to charge?

    Image restoration is an art, not a science. There are good artists, and there are bad ones. The bad one’s tend to be the cheapest.

    We charge according to the time we spend working on your images.

    We think that you should be very wary of anyone who offers fixed price photo-manipulation services. All images and all manipulations are different and require different amounts of time and skill to achieve.

    The commercial reality is that anyone who offers a fixed price service, either, over-charges on the routine work to make up for the losses on the non-routine work or produces work on a “that’ll do basis” or sub-contracts the work to other companies offering a fixed price service. We don’t think any of these approaches are good.

    We do photo-manipulation work in-house, not because it is profitable, but because it is enjoyable work and because we want our customers to make the very best they can out of their images. We’re weirdly keen on that.

    Once, we’ve established what it is you want to do, we’ll give you an estimate of how much it will cost, before we start work. If the work actually takes us longer than our estimate, we’ll let you know and we’ll do the additional work for you at cost. Our estimates are based on our experience of how long particular restoration/manipulation techniques take to do well. They’re pretty accurate.

  • Q. I’ve seen some amazing effects on the Internet. Can you do this amazing effect for me?

    Almost certainly.

    You do need to bear in mind, however, that the very best work that you see on-line is the product of many tens of hours of skilled work by the artists, who create them; and that if these works had been bought and paid for, they would cost hundreds or perhaps even thousands of pounds to commission.

    Also, at the pinnacle of photo manipulation, the individual elements of the composition are often created specifically for the purpose of using them in the final work. This means the angles, scale, lighting, composition and subject matters of the elements all “fit” together seamlessly.

  • Q. How long before I get my restored pictures?

    We can usually return restored pictures within 28 days. If this is not possible through volume of work we will let you know. If you have a deadline please tell us at the start and we will do our best to meet it for you.