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How to Photograph Books

Part V: How to Reduce the Impact of Silvering

by Craig Stark

#166 22 April 2013

We've all seen something like this:

Several silver processes have been devised and used over the years for photographic purposes, beginning in the late 19th century and extending well into the 20th century. As prints made with silver-coated paper age, there is a tendency for the silver to become visible, often near the edges, and exhibit a metallic sheen. The term for this is silvering, and, in an advanced stage, it can all but destroy a photo's value. And sometimes this happens in books.

But this isn't an either or thing. Many photos exhibit only minor degrees of silvering and are still quite marketable. However, difficulties often arise if you attempt to scan or photograph them, especially head on. The silvering jumps out, so to speak, and obscures the print to varying degrees because you're throwing more light at it. But you may also have noticed that, if you hold that same photo at an angle, the silvering "disappears," and the print becomes visible again.

Here is the same print photographed at an angle:

Now, you could use this enhanced photo in a description and state that there is silvering present, but you'd lose the square shape - something that bugs me more than a little. Fortunately, in most image editors there is a perspective tool, and you can use this to produce a much better outcome:

Problem solved!

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