This is one of my favorite photos, as it is definitely worth a thousand words. Of course, the confident little man's expression and stance captured my attention right off the bat and could have been a great picture with just him in front of a basic backdrop. But this photo says so much more. Before I get to that, however, let's talk about the restoration.
This photo was digitized from a film negative. The negative looked like it was in fair condition. When the inversion from a negative to a positive image, there were several areas of restoration that became more obvious. The edges of the photo show a white vignetting that may be from film negative degradation or from the camera settings or lens . The soft white halo-effect causes a blurring effect to the definition of the edges. While vignetting can be a beautifully subtle way to focus attention or influence the atmosphere of a photograph, in this case it is uneven and doesn't add to the photo.
Next, though difficult to see in this small-sized digital image, there are several areas of brush-like scratches on several areas of the photo. The most challenging area of scratches run from the knee area of his pants down to the top of the bottom stair. There are also several other dings and scratches over the entire scene, including scratches over his face.
On close inspection, it's clear that the grain in the film has broken down and become a bit uneven, making a mottled appearance to the grain. Overall, the blacks aren't black and the whites aren't white. Blacks and whites can have different "temperatures", where the white can be so white it looks like it glares like sun off metal in July (hot!) all the way down to whites that are more gray than white (like in the photo) but we still understand them to be white. Blacks can be so black that no detail can be found in them, like trying to see your hand in front of your face in a forest with no moon at midnight, to blacks with so little density they look more like a dark gray, much like the boys shoes or the doormat behind him. The range of blacks and whites is important because lights and shadows are what give a dimensional feel to a photograph. The level of dimension for any particular photograph is subjective, in that it is up to the creative photographer to decide what feel they want from the image - stark contrast equals a stark feel, little contrast can lead to a soft or foggy/misty feel, but excesses of each will lose dimension.
Oftentimes the first step restoration artists take is to run settings that remove light dust and scratches by essentially blurring the image. That is often the most efficient and effective way to clean an image. But I didn't want that in this case. To blur this image to any degree would mean that the gorgeous texture of his felt hat and his wool pants and jacket, and the knit texture of his sweater would be lessened, at best, and destroyed, at worst. These textures are important to the story of the photograph, so I don't want to lose one scratchy-looking woolen hair. So instead of blurring the entire image and then going in to repair the largest scratches, it means I zoom in very close and clean up each scratch and ding individually. It's absolutely worth the time, and I would have done it anyway to make sure I caught all the blemishes.
The remaining work revolved around adjusting blacks, whites, and grays. This is done by adjusting the overall tone of the image. It should be black and white, not that off-putting yellowish tone. Then comes balancing out the vignetting so there is no inappropriate white fade on the edges. Finally, I smooth out the grain where needed, amplify shadows and highlights, and redefine edges.
When all is done, we have this stylish little man dressed in his Sunday best, sporting his new hat, new suit, not-so-new sweater, and Sunday-worn shoes. He stands on the small, weather-worn porch that have had many working hands touch the post over years. One can almost hear the squeak of the screen door as it pulls open and the smack and bounce of it as slams shut. It's clear that funds were not abundant for this family, but that didn't stop them from living well and being grateful for what they had. It's this kind of honesty and these true-to-life images that make my heart swoon and why I love doing restoration work and why we can't let moments like these be lost. They remind us where we came from, who we came from, and that we have so very much for which to be grateful.
 Vignetting: Wikipedia