Size Matters

1950s? photo, tram in street setting, male figure in foreground

At first you wouldn’t know how tiny it is.

Only the comparison to my camera lens cap reveals it. Why did they make photos so small in the olden days. A logic explanation would be: small paper, less cost for paper, less cost for development, less time …. I tried to find out the facts about this, but I couldn’t get a lead. If you happen to know please fill me in πŸ™‚


These tiny photos pose various problems:

One, they are small to scan, small to work on and small to fix, plus there is a danger of loss of detail if I make them larger.

Two, apart from the obvious rips and scratches, it’s very hard to see any damage with the naked eye. The tilting-test shows fingerprints and odd marks but any other damage can only be seen once the photo is in my computer and I can zoom in on it.

Third, apart from the odd outcome when I get the restorated photo printed in the normal sizes of today, these ‘odd’ sizes don’t fit properly into any slip-in albums we can purchase today either, most slip-in pockets are 4×6″, so poor little photos like these fall about and only stay put if its diligent owner attaches it to a 4×6″ piece of scrap-booking paper.

Anyway, there was not much damage in this photo from the 1950s, at least not visible to the naked eye. I fixed some specks and scratches and the fingerprints, then I lightened the shadows just a bit, made the gentleman’s black pants, black trimmings on his jacket and his cap a bit darker, so they stand out, sharpened it all slightly and voila …. πŸ™‚

Before-After Comparison of digital restoration


  1. reluctantarchaeologist

    I suspect the size has something to do with the enlarger being used (or not used). I found this for you in the comments of a forum at

    Ron Chappel , Jun 11, 2005; 07:23 p.m.

    This is something i had never thought about much but was interested to learn about recently.

    From the book ‘discovering cameras 1945-1965’ by Robert White
    “During the 50’s smaller format cameras were in demand,especially those taking 35mm film,and particularly by users of colour slide film.For most of the 1950’s photographic prints were made by contact,which gave the print the same size as the negative,so cameras taking negatives 6cm x 9cm and 6cm x 6cm remained popular.By the late 1950’s many proccessing houses were offering en-prints,small scale enlargements from the whole of the negative,at a price a little above that of a contact print.By then the lower cost per negative from small format cameras,combined with the low-cost en-prints,led to the replacement of larger roll film cameras by smaller models even for snapshots.”

    Nice job, by the way! If you invest in photo corners and a regular plain scrapbook, you won’t have to worry about these photos slipping out of pre-made photo books πŸ™‚

    1. azpictured

      Thanks heaps πŸ™‚ Wonderful, totally makes sense, and the time-frame fits, too.
      I do lavish over my photo albums by the way, photo corners and all, however, most people don’t, and the slip-in albums are the choice of the masses.

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