Photography Q: possible to read text of letter in this photo?

This is like the ‘reconstruction’ of the Roswell photo of an officer kneeling by a weather balloon holding a letter. UFO nuts claim when enlarged says “victims of the crash”, etc.

The letter on the bench to the man’s right (not in his lap) is the one in question. Might it be possible to hire a professional outfit to enlarge it so the top line of the page can be read or am I wasting my time? Any advice is much appreciated!

Not from that image; there’s no information there beyond what’s in the pixels – you could enlarge it just by printing it and using a photocopier’s enlarge function. ( I blew it up just using the zoom function on my Mac to check that it wasn’t higher rez than shown — it wasn’t). But all you’d end up with is big blocks (and JPEG’s tough on text, anyway).

If you have the original–on film, not digitally–then yes, you could likely blow up the photo so that it’s readable; the text takes up a sufficient amount of the image that theres likely data there.

Thanks much for that. You saved me some money. I’ll try and track down the negative and take it from there…


All you need to do is enhance.

Why would an Emo band member know anything about aliens in Roswell? (that is one FLY get-up he’s got there…do the kids these days still use the word Fly?)

OMG Syd Barrett was an alien!!One!1

Maybe, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. Film grain can be pretty brutal too. Even on with really slow film that has a very fine grain, if that came from a 35mm negative, I’d have a hard time making that text legible. If the negative is in pristine shape, then you could possibly get legible results with a good film scanner.

Hilarious! I was actually coming in here to say something witty like “If only we could upload the image to a CSI type television program, they could enhance a blob into something meaningful!”

While I agree in general, you’ve actually got a little better chance than that: you also know that the image is of (relatively) sharp lines on a white background. Given 4-5 times more resolution, there are some nifty image processing techniques for deblurring images that work particularly well on sharp stuff like that (sort of the real-world equivalent of the CSI stuff people are talking about here, except that it takes longer, requires some expertise to use, and doesn’t always work.)

The magic of film isn’t only that it’s higher resolution: probably 10x the JPEG posted here at a minimum, but that it’s uncompressed, and it’s error distribution is RANDOM. Digitizing smears in a particularly brutal way (which is why they use it for those cop shows), and JPEG’s underlying algorithm works by replacing the 8x8 patterns of (the luminosity of) pixels by “similar” ones selected from a smaller set of possibilities (via the Star-Trek sounding “discrete cosine transform”), which is particularly brutal on text. Film grain on the other hand, is physical “grains” “floating” in the image: distortion in one “pixel’s” area because of a misplaced grain is likely compensated for by better grain positioning in a nearby region – with a good scanner, you can oversample and get more than you’d expect. Recovering the text isn’t going to be a matter of mere enlargement, but my gut feel from the image is still that it might be done from film.


You just need the right people on the job.