Dating Old Photographs

Unfortunately many old family photographs are not annotated with the sitter’s name.

Because of this, these are the questions we get asked again and again. How can I date old photographs? How old is my photograph? Will dating my old photograph help me to decide who the subject is?

Yes, an accurate date does help to pinpoint who the subject/s of the photograph might be.

Knowing when a photograph was taken, where it was taken – together with the details of the image itself – often make it possible to decide who the sitter really is. Often it can confirm it is who you think it is. Sometimes it can even confirm that it is NOT who you think it is!

Dating an old photograph is like a detective game. There can be so many clues which, when all taken together, can give you a very accurate result.

Depending on the type of photograph, the sorts of clues that may be available include:

  • photographer’s name
  • photographer’s address/s
  • hairstyles
  • clothes and fashion accessories
  • studio props
  • card mount – shape and size
  • card design – including graphic artwork, typography, font size and colour
  • card manufacturer and printer
  • photographic process
  • patrons
  • medals awarded
  • etc. etc. etc.

 

To date your old family photograph (1840 – 1940)

Try the following approach:

  • Get an approximate idea by looking at the different types of photograph produced and when they were available
  • If your photograph has a photographer’s name on it, you can see what information is available from our historical trade directories (addresses/dates etc.) which will help if the photographer advertised regularly, was in the studio for a relatively short time and had only one studio in the town. To get this information instantly on-line – please click here. This costs only £1.95p per photographer/address
  • A more accurate way – if your photograph is a carte de visite or a cabinet card (i.e. 1860 – 1910 only) – is to use our DIY dating wizard – it is UNIQUE and FUN and is available ONLY on this website. The Wizard will date your photograph to within a 9 year time span or less, if not, we will custom date your photograph personally at no additional cost. Simple. The Wizard costs only £3.95 per photograph
  • If you don’t want to use the DIY Wizard – a personalised custom service is available to date your photographs using a wide range of data sources and techniques. Please click on custom dating.

 

For more details, click on the links above or use the drop down menu at the top of this page.