Video: Restoring 110-year-old glass plate negatives using AI and Photoshop


posted Thursday, December 16, 2021 at 3:45 PM EDT


We've featured photographer Mathieu Stern here on Imaging Resource many times over the years. He's shot with a lens he made out of ice, he's worked with rare equipment, and he's made a name for himself by using 'weird' lenses. In his latest video, Stern focuses on photo restoration.

He purchased a couple of glass plate negatives that were shot in the United Kingdom in 1910. They're a fascinating look into the past and Stern wanted to learn more about the subject, an unidentified woman. Stern went through the David Knights-Whittome Glass Plate Negative Collection held at the Sutton Archives in the UK to learn more about portraits of the era. And he quickly realized that while many portrait subjects of the time were very cold, serious and stern, when people, such as the woman on the plates Stern purchased, were photographed with a beloved pet, the entire mood changed. I don't know about you, but I can't recall seeing old glass plate portraits of people with their pets. They look completely different than the old portraits I'm used to seeing. After all, at the time, sitting for a portrait was an expensive event, so it carried a bit of emotional weight that a portrait today doesn't. It seems that having a dog or cat with you lifted some of that weight.

Stern didn't want just to digitize the plates he bought using a backlight, Sony A7 III camera and a macro lens. He wanted to restore them and colorize them using Photoshop and artificial intelligence. Stern used this colorization AI and this face enhancement AI. How did it work? Well, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Stern ended up doing the colorization work manually, which is neat to watch. Check it out in his video below.

To see more of Mathieu Stern's videos, head to his YouTube channel. You can also follow his work on his website and on Instagram.