I came across a story by Anne Sewell on Digital Journal (via PetaPixel) the other day that caught my attention. Anne found an interesting 7-minute video that had just been posted on YouTube the day before.
It's a fun “time-lapse” video of someone's computer screen while they were doing digital restoration work on a fairly damaged older photograph of a pretty lady and set to a nice piece of up-beat music.
Check out the fascinating video below.
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It's indeed pretty cool. Not only do you see someone doing repair work on some pretty damaged places — her arms are basically re-created — but this person who goes only by thehatersalad also shows you how he or she added color to the monochromatic photo.
I “liked” the photo on YouTube to show my appreciation to the salad person, and then even thought about posting the video on my Scan Your Entire Life Facebook page. I mean, I'm sure there are many of you who have never seen anyone do work like this and would actually find it very interesting.
Something Intriguing Happened in the Meantime
A couple days had gone by and I still hadn't posted the link on Facebook. Lazy and pathetic I know. However, I did manage to sign into my YouTube account and in the “Activity” section of my account, I happened to look down and notice that this video I had “liked” was going viral! People were going crazy for it!
In just 48 hours, it had already gotten over 100,000 views. A couple days later, I checked in again. It had just crossed the 200,000 views mark!
I thought, was it the cool music track Mr. or Mrs. Salad used, or was there a sudden surge of interest in photo restoration that I wasn't aware of?
I've seen “time-lapse” restoration videos before, so this wasn't a new idea. But, after doing some looking around, I discovered that not only had several websites and blogs picked up on the underlying “story” behind this video, but the original posting that instigated this video being created was on Reddit, which is currently a popular social news and entertainment website.
Here's the Interesting Story
It's fair to say even though digital photo restoration gets easier every year, it's still an unfathomable task for a lot of people. And Reddit apparently caught onto that and created a special section on their website called “Pic Requests” for people who need some information or even work done on a photo from their collection.
If you need something accomplished with a photo, apparently all you have to do is upload your photo or post a link to it, leave a request of what you want done in a simple classified ad-like style. And if all goes well for you, someone with the needed skills will volunteer their time.
My grandmother is an awesome lady. Please help fix this picture of her! She's 83 years old and still awesome. I tried to do something with this photo, but my Lightroom skills could only go so far. A huge thanks to any who give it a shot!
A day later, thehatersalad had already posted a link to his finished work with a comment:
That was a bit more difficult (those nonexistent arms) than I had expected but I'm REALLY happy with the results. I'll post the video of the entire process later
f2ISO100 didn't wait too long before checking back in. The person saw the work done to their Grandmother's photo and replied with gratitude:
I don't know what kind of emotion you hope to elicit with these, but you made me catch my breath. I feel – for the first time – like I got to see her, back in time. This is so, so beautiful. Thank you so much!
Thats really great to hear and you're so welcome! Here's the making of
That's so neat! I'm so happy to read this person had such an emotional reaction! But you know, selfishly I couldn't help but think:
“Man, wouldn't it be nice to have also seen and heard f2ISO100's reaction when he or she saw that new restored photo for the first time!”
Then, a few clicks later, I came across another story and got my wish!
“My Awesome 87 year old Grandad”
“My awesome 87 year old grandad wondered if this photo could be touched up. He was a sonar/radar operator in the submarines in WWII.”
My last remaining grandparent, Derek, is the loveliest man you could ever meet. He was in the submarines in the Royal Navy, back in World War 2, and now lives alone near to where I live. He’s 87 years old, but you really wouldn’t know it from meeting him!
While helping him out [one day], I sorted out his photos, which I had backed up from his old PC, and he showed me a crumpled photo of a photo of him back when he was in the Navy. The image had been emailed to him by a relative, so I forwarded it on to myself to see what could be done with it.
~ Steven Withey
Steven admitted on his original blog post about this experience that he “absolutely has no skills when it comes to Photoshop or image editing in general.” So that's why he asked if anyone with photo editing skills could possibly help out.
And then the generosity of others went to work.
A little less than two weeks later, Steven and his girlfriend went over to surprise his Grandfather with a special gift — and they got it all on video!
You gotta watch this play out!
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I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!
And I know his Grandfather isn't crying and jumping up and down like some of you may have hoped, but in his own modest and reserved way for someone of his generation and military past, you most certainly can tell how moved and appreciative he is of what his grandson and the generous individuals from the internet did for him.
Steven said on his blog:
I was blown away by the selfless dedication of the people on that thread. They expected nothing in return, yet spent hours of their day working on the photo, it was truly heart-warming and I was excited to share it with my Grandad, as he had no idea any of this was going on.
In response to this video that had just recently been posted on YouTube, Steven added:
The comments and feedback has been amazing! The video has had a heck of a lot of views already, well over 40,000 I think at this stage. It’s been a truly heart-warming experience and goes to show that aside from all the crap that goes on in the world, there really are selfless people out there who care for each other! Thank you Reddit and thank you Grandad for being so wonderful!
Thanks to everyone involved, you truly made an old sailor very happy!
And this story didn't fade away overnight. Steven had to write a follow-up blog post 8 days later.
Things have been a bit nuts! After getting an amazing 70k+ YouTube views via Reddit and a ton of lovely comments and feedback, I was left overwhelmed. Since then, the story has broken globally and I’ve had some great coverage.
And, at the time I am writing my post here about this story, this YouTube video has now been viewed 236,391 times with 2,225 “likes” and 13 “dislikes.”
(Who are these people [trolls] who would actually click “thumbs down” on a video like this!??)
A Few Final Thoughts
I love that as digital editing tools have become cheaper and easier to use, everyday people are now able to try out using them.
And what's so great about them, is it doesn't have to be about making your photos look perfect again — like it came from a professional restorer. It really can just be about making them look a little bit better!
You saw in the video with Steven and his Grandfather that many people contributed their time and efforts with their own restored versions. But, you should also know several people also helped f2ISO100 out as well with her Grandmother's photo — thehatersalad wasn't the only one.
A user going by the name pixelbath donated their talent as well:
Wow, /u/thehatersalad made mine look like amateur hour, because I didn't do most of the reconstruction (tried to keep as many of the original pixels as possible). Anyway, here's what I finished over the weekend and forgot to post: http://imgur.com/a/ieZlV
And inkedkoi also helped out with this version:
And I love their dialogue back and forth afterwards.
Hi. Here's what I did. Your me'ma is very pretty
Thank you so, so much! You did a fantastic job! And I love the color of the skirt – that is so her!
No problem! Just payin it forward
I just love to read about the generosity and gratitude of others!
At the time I'm writing this post, the restoration video with the lady has been viewed 457,529 times in just 23 days. Incredible! (Especially for this type of video)
And with so many views so quickly, it's not surprising there's going to be a “hater” out there. And I'm not talking about a salad one. (See what I did there?)
I mean people who basically feel life is cheating them out of their own rewards and want everyone to know it.
A commenter going by the name MyIESEG had this to say after seeing the popularity of this video:
COME ON, why did this get viral ? The work is basic! [thehatersalad] didn't even duplicate his layers, nor worked non-destructively. Quite amateurish if I may say. The end result's contrast is too high, while the shirt and face are still looking damaged : you can even guess the scratch across her forehead. No really, there's so many good colorists out there, that this going viral just doesn't make sense.
To which a guy named Duke Harding brilliantly replied:
Probably went viral, because most people have no idea how to restore and colorize… Kind of like watching a magician… If you're not a magician, everything looks like magic.
I think that pretty much sums up my feelings as well — thanks for putting that out there Duke!
If you would like to read more about Steven Withey and his Grandfather's wonderful story, check out Steven's original blog post “Reddit and I give my 87yo Grandad a wonderful gift!” and then his followup post “Things going a bit cray cray!” (That's ‘crazy' if you're lost by the chatter of a younger generation)
And if you are now thinking maybe you would like the help of these talented Reddit users, check out the Pic Requests page and leave your own request!
So what did you think? Do you feel inspired in one way or another after reading about these stories? Let me know in the comments below.
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