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Just as it was 100 years ago and just as it is today, every camera—be it film or digital—is nothing more than a lightproof box with a lens at one end and light sensitive film or a digital...

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What can I do to a tintype for better scanning?

Bruce Michel , Feb 22, 2009; 05:30 p.m.

I have an image that I believe dates to 1874. It is modestly wavy so I get light streaks when scanned (Epson V500). Some of the image has flaked off at the edges. It has a dark copper-colored back.
Can I safely flatten it? I am content to leave in the other defects; just trying to preserve some image. This is a new scanner for me, so any ideas about improving the scan would also be appreciated.


Bob Tilden , Feb 22, 2009; 06:37 p.m.

You probably don't want to flatten it- the emulsion may crack and/or come off.

If you -really- need to use the scanner then consider combining several scans, start with two scans at 90 degrees from one another. If you are using photoshop you can play with layer combinations of the two- 'darken' may be what you're looking for...

You may also be able to get a good result by photographing the plate and playing with the lighting angles. If it's really importent to get a reflection-free image then polarizing the lights and a cross polarizer on the lens will get rid of most of the specular reflections.

Lex Jenkins , Feb 23, 2009; 10:57 a.m.

Ditto Robert's suggestions.

Don't try to flatten it. Scanning may be difficult, depending on how curved or warped the tintype is. Give it a try but don't be surprised if there's a problem with depth of field and odd reflections.

Rephotographing the original is probably the best option. As Robert noted, polarizers on the lights may be necessary to control reflections from the tintype surfaces (an on-lens polarizer alone can handle only reflections from non-metallic surfaces).

Or rig up a temporary mount on an outdoor wall in open shade. No muss, no fuss with artificial lighting. I've rephotographed many of my own photos using this method, especially larger old family photos that were too large for my flatbed scanner.

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