Photoshopping Headstones

The fabulous Lisa Louise Cooke, of the Genealogy Gems podcast, has an article in the September 2009 edition of Family Tree Magazine about transforming gravestones with photo-editing software to bring out the unreadable details.  I admit, I was skeptical about how much improvement could really be made.

However, I had a couple of photos from my recent visits to Fannin County cemeteries that were useless.  I took the photos at noon and, unfortunately the sun was behind me, two conditions leading to an almost-completely-unreadable inscription.

Forrester genealogy

I decided to give the “Grave Transformations” method a try.  I have Photoshop Elements, but I’m not very proficient with it.  I say that to let you know how easy this process is.

First I zoomed in on the area of the inscription and cropped the photo (NOT the original).  This improved the size and made the inscription visible, but the image was still difficult to read.

Coleman Forrester

Finally, I played around with the lighting, both shadows/highlights and brightness/contrast.  I ended up with this:

Now I can read the birth date (a fact I didn’t have before!), and death date.

If you don’t have access to Family Tree Magazine, there is a video on You Tube in which Lisa Louise will walk you through the process.  If you have hard-to-read headstone photos, give it a try.

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  1. says

    Isn’t digital photography great? One idea: have you tried to turn the image into a negative? You might be able to see the text even clearer – I’ve done this with photos and have been amazed at what I could find.

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