Whether he’s making beet juice prints, shooting with a lens made of ice or adapting one of his ‘weird’ lenses, photographer Mathieu Stern is no stranger to creating and sharing analog-oriented photography videos on his YouTube channel. For his latest video, Stern shares how he restored 110-year-old glass plate negatives using Photoshop and a little help from artificial intelligence.
After acquiring a pair of glass plate negatives that were shot in the United Kingdom in 1910, Stern says he wanted to learn more about the woman pictured in the photographs. So, he did what any noble scholar would and spent countless hours studying Victorian glass plates at the David Knights-Whittome Glass Plate Negative Collection housed at the Sutton Archives in the U.K.
|One of Stern’s glass plate negatives getting framed ahead of photographing it with his Sony a7 III and Laowa Macro lens.|
In his time poring over glass negatives, he says he picked up on a theme. While many photographs of the time showed their subjects in a very stoic, almost stern look, around the turn of the 20th century, people started taking more portraits with their pets. According to Stern, he observed that people who were photographed with their pets appeared to show more smiles and emotion than their pet-less counterparts, a notable detail considering the subject in his pair of glass negatives is smiling in both images, including one with her french bulldog.
With this information in hand, Stern started his restoration process. First, he captured photographs of the glass plate negatives using his Sony a7 III camera, a Laowa 15mm F4 Macro lens, a sheet of glass to suspend the negative and a what appears to be an older iPad turned into an ad-hoc light box.
|A before and after comparison of the subject’s face following Stern’s use of the AI-powered image enhancer.|
After capturing the image, he took it into Photoshop to turn it into a positive image before cloning out as many imperfections as possible. Once he was happy with the state of the image, he first ran the face of the subject through an AI-powered enhancement tool that sharpened the face of the subject. He then overlaid the hyper-sharpened image over the original photograph and merged the two together. Stern then took to colorizing, using an AI-powered colorizer tool and a photograph of Keira Knightly as guides for what the various colors and tones in the images should look like.
|The final, restored photographs. Images by Mathieu Stern.|
In the end, Stern is left with a pair of beautifully restored images that modernize a still image captured more than a century ago. You can find more of Stern’s work in our DPR archives and keep up with his newest videos and content on his YouTube Channel and Weird Lens Museum website. You can also support his efforts on his Patreon profile.