Historically, the only way you could obtain a copy of a photograph was to take another photograph of the original. My Great-grandmother, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson, was a professional photographer and I have several examples of her attempts to make a photographic copy. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have the original photo so we cannot determine the quality of the original, but it looks like the original was likely overexposed. If you look at the face and hands you can see that they are almost white with no detail. When the copy was made, Grandmother Overson tried to compensate for the overexposure by underexposing the copy.
When a film photo (or any photo for that matter) is overexposed the overexposed area lacks detail and is often referred to as "blown out." This commonly occurs when the light illuminating the subject is uneven with areas of both bright light and dark shaded. When a photograph is underexposed, the parts in the shade or even the entire photo appear dark. The example above has both problems. The original was overexposed and the copy of the original was underexposed.
Here is a photo I took in Segovia, Spain. There was a high contrast between the dark area in the shade and the bright area in the sunlight.
Fortunately, with digital photos, I have some latitude for correcting the problems using programs such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Here is a first pass at correcting some of the issues with the photo.
Even cameras in the newest smartphones are now allowing the user to adjust the exposure level. Even when you are using a camera with automatic settings, if you are not aware of the light and dark in your potential image, you will not get acceptable photos all the time.
The photo of the lady, however, is probably unique. It may be the only image of that person in existence. Is there any way to enhance a photo of a photo? Here is what the photo at the beginning of this post looks like with a little bit of work with Adobe Lightroom.
If you carefully compare the two photos, you will see from this version that she is wearing gloves and that her hair is split braided. You can also see details in her face and dress. Just because we can make such dramatic edits to photos, this is still no excuse for not taking the time to make a good photograph at the time the image is recorded in the camera.
Stay tuned for more insights into taking better photos for genealogy.
See the previous posts here:
Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/11/how-to-take-better-photos-for-genealogy.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/11/how-to-take-better-photos-for-genealogy_15.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/11/how-to-take-better-photos-for-genealogy_20.html
To see some of my images go to Walking Arizona or https://walkingarizona.blogspot.com/