Old family pictures turning red..ideas?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by carl_klitzke, Nov 22, 2007.

  1. Somewhere in our old family albums are studio pictures taken at K-Mart or JC
    Penney in the 1970's (mom cannot remember which). For as long as I can
    remember, these pictures have been extremely red, in digital terms as though
    someone turned down the blue and green channels. My mother states that the
    pictures originally had correct color. I figure it can be corrected easily
    enough, but..

    I am curious if anyone can tell me what/who's paper this could be? There is NO
    marking whatsoever. From working with slides I know this could be an archival
    issue, but NONE of the other pictures we have which have been stored like that
    faded in such a manner. Could this be improper processing? Bad paper? Bad etc
    etc? I'll see if I can get one or two scanned..


  2. Color prints from that era were only good for a decade or so before their color's would fade. This is mostly from heat, light and various fumes in the atmosphere. The dyes present in color prints are "food coloring" from vegetables. Formaldehyde was used in their final rinse to try and slow their deterioration. But eventually fading always wins. Perhaps freezing in nitrogen , and storing in total darkness would preserve their integrity longer?

    The solution would be to strike new prints if the negatives are available. Or scan the prints , correct the color and reprint.

    The fact is that every old color print eventually "yellows" or turns reddish.
  3. Water soluble "food coloring" type dyes have often been used to trim the sensitivity of the paper to adjust the color balance. These dyes wash out during processing. The image dyes start with couplers that have long ballast chains attached. These oil soluble couplers are dispersed in tiny oil droplets. During development, oxidized color developing agent reacts with couplers to form image dyes. These image dyes are firmly anchored in the oil droplets. They are nothing like food coloring dyes.

    Formaldehyde is used to prevent one particular fading mechanism. Certain magenta couplers can react with magenta dye to destroy it. This phenomenon is know as "pink toe fade" because it is the magenta (pink) dye that is affected and it only occurs in the toe of the curve where there is plenty of unused coupler. Formaldehyde effectively bind with the unused magenta coupler to prevent this reaction. If you get pink toe fade, it is usually done in two weeks. Part of the magenta dye would fade and then it quits.

    To recover faded images, I've had much better luck with scanning faded negatives than scanning faded prints. With negatives, all they usually need is to adjust the contrast of the red, green, and blue channels separately. With prints, there is usually some light fading involved. With light fading, the presence of dye in one layer affects the fading of dyes in layers underneath. It takes a lot more work to reconstruct the colors.
  4. Get a scanner and use Kodak Digital ROC filter. It does an amazing job at correcting faded prints and is much more time effective than tweaking them each by hand.

    The sooner you scan, the better your results will be.
  5. jtk


    Plenty of cheap prints from the 70s still look good. It was a question of quality of processing. Nonetheless, even the best are showing their age now.

    Making new prints from the negatives may be wasted money because the film itself has often aged faster than the prints.

    The prints themselves can be scanned and corrected to look almost like new with the cheapest of Epson or Canon flatbed scanners and inkjet printers.
  6. If could well have been printed on what Wilhelm calls "The Worst Color Paper in Modern Times", Agfacolor Paper Type 4, which was in production from 1974 to 1982. The cyan dye just vanishes, and it turns magenta. It was very popular with inexpensive portrait studios.

    Yes, there is hope in scanning, play with the curves for R, G, and B individually. You will need to add a lot of contrast to the red scan, may have to do noise reduction in just the red channel as well. (Red reads cyan dye.)
  7. jtk


    John S, I don't recall which Agfacolor I used in the early 70s, tray processing "art" photos... we knew at the time that this ultra-rich-looking paper was prone to very rapid fade...maybe 4 years of life...but when this stuff was new it was so gorgeous, especially with skin, that we couldn't ignore it. Nice tonal scale, not blown out like Ciba. Like Ciba it was EASY to process, not
    ultra sensitive to temperature, but it was much more subtle.

    Some of us explored and concluded, for what reason I don't recall, that extended wash and extended formaldehyde soaking would be magical. It turned out to be true (and there was no residual formaldehyde smell in a few days after processing)...I've a couple of casual fashion shots made back then, that look relatively OK today...the worst change has been to the blacks, still fairly neutral (faintly cyan) but weaker. Skins look good. Oveall color intensity is down a little. No color shift. I don't know if this was "Type 4" or not, but it was easily available at better professional camera shops around 1972.
  8. Carl, if from Kmart, probably as John Shriver says. If you can handle the download, try Henry Wilhelm's site, specifically Chapter 8 of his book, pages 275 and 276. If the lighting (in your photos) looks like it came from the setup shown on p 276, you have your answer. If not, I don't know for sure.

    Regarding the quality of processing, I doubt there were any deficiencies. With respect to process control issues, the people running those types of processing labs are typically way above the normal pro lab. Their sheer size and volume allowed them to have things like on-site analytical labs as well as direct access to the top levels of expertise from their paper, film, and chemical manufacturers.

    I've seen enough stability testing results to know that there have been huge variations in stability of various papers, at least in the time frame you are talking about. I can't give away any such data, but Wilhelm has things very well covered in his book.
  9. Ahh..nice. Thanks, guys! I realize that all pictures eventually fade (theoretically), but this one had always been a puzzle to me, since these studio pictures had faded like this before 1990. In addition, we have TONS of pictures stored literally alongside these (snapshots, other studios, etc) which have no fading/shifting whatsoever. I figure as much that adjusting curves/etc will fix it, since I have done similar work "restoring" scans of slides.. Thanks again

  10. It's normal. Could be exposure to light, cosmic rays or reacting to whatever you have them stored in (vinyl, plastic?). Could be residual chemicals if they were not washed properly when developed. Some films store better than others.
  11. Yeah, scan the film. I've got very nice results just scanning as you would a slide, and then working on the ouput in Photoshop, with levels, curves and saturation adjsutments. Photoshop's "per channel" auto-adjustment in Levels, coupled with "snap neutral mid-tones", using the bare minimum clip, will work wonders.
  12. go here http://www.asf.com/ and download a free trial version of Kodak ROC. It should help restore the colors.

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