Creating a ghost photo

The work that goes into a ghost photograph can be quite extensive sometimes, especially if there are few or no features common to both the wartime and modern photograph. The results are usually worth the effort, but I thought I would share with readers some idea of the process involved.

You start off with a wartime photograph of course, in this case a scene from where St George’s Crescent met Lord Street. The premises of Austin Reeds has been severely damaged by bombs and a man with his back to the camera (possibly a soldier) studies the damage.

099AustRe

The next step is to visit the area and see how it looks today, keeping an eye out for potential problems such as new buildings blocking the view. It often pays to look this up online first, but nothing can beat a visit in person. From this photograph it can be seen that the area in question looks quite different today, however the same basic outline of the buildings and roads concerned remains.

DSCF3016

It also often helps to study pre-war photographs to get a feel for what the area looked like prior to the damage. In this case the corner in our wartime photograph is the same as the one behind the tram on the left in the photograph below. I was able to use this to judge the scale and rough outline of the buildings, judging the modern replacements to be slightly taller but otherwise largely similar.

Castle Square

Using Photoshop the two photographs are then manipulated until a match can be found. At this stage the full wartime image would still be used.

WIP

One in position the merged photograph is then tidied up, with the emphasis as much as possible on the main subject of the wartime image rather than other undamaged buildings.

Austin Reed

The final outcome is what I call a ghost image, something like a look back through time.

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