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Techniques
Photo Restoration Can Brighten Images



Vintage photographs, creased and faded from age, can become vibrant images again at Photo Art and Photography.

The business opened four years ago in Huntsville's Madison Hills Center but primary photographer and co-owner Ruth Walker recently relocated the studio to Hughes Plaza.

Originally, Photo Art was a full-service, portrait studio. However, "technology, along with my developing computer skills, became an irresistible lure into the creative side of Photo Arts," Walker said.

For restorations, Walker usually receives an old, faded or damaged print and occasionally an old slide or an underexposed 35-mm negative from a family vacation. The original print remains untouched. Walker places the print on a flatbed scanner and "light dances across the image and then creates a digital file." Next comes "print surgery" or "digital sewing," depending on the type of correction.

For the photographer, restoration has its own rewards. "A photograph is sometimes as close as our hearts can get to a loved one's memory," Walker said.

Walker creates collages "from home shots and old, faded wallet photos." For one woman, Walker assembled photos of her late husband, four sons -- one deceased -- and one grandson. "She proudly pointed out that, between them, they covered all branches of the military." The photo collage spanned 1958 to 2002. Walker has "old school" loyalty for format film for portraits and weddings but relies on digital technology for enhancements and alterations.

Photo Art produces custom, photo postcards or "photocards" that are restored from any era. "We often place personal sentiments and signatures into the print," Walker said.

"My greatest reward as a restoration specialist is that slight gasp of breath a customer has when first seeing the restored print of loved ones," Walker said. "It's almost always followed by smiles and sometimes tears from being so touched by the memory the picture holds - and what the improved images means.

"To me, that feeling or being witness to a customer's gratitude is the only real food life affords, metaphorically speaking," Walker said.

Other services include digital photo correction, retouching and black-and-white or sepia conversions. "What we can do is almost as endless as our imaginations," Walker said.

Her husband W. Scott Rolando also is a professional photographer and had his roots in lab work while she was a school photographer. "We naturally ended up together and bought a pro lab in 1999, now called Commercial Images Inc.," Walker said.

She credits Rolando's technical expertise and her "attention to detail for the birth of Photo Art and Photography."

The couple has granddaughter Chloe Key in their care. She's a rising third-grader at Madison Academy. Chloe is a "charming asset" in the studio when assisting with photography appointments with small children or pets.

Photo Art and Photography is at 181-6 Hughes Road. Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call Walker at 461-1472 or visit www.photoarthsv.com.

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