Photo Restoration

Photo restoration - that's what you're expected to do when your mom gives you a 56 year old photograph of you grandparents and it's faded and stained and scratched and folded with a really weird color cast.

She gave it to you " ... 'cause you know that Photoshop stuff" and "OH, by the way ... we need it next week for our family reunion."

If you're not experienced in photo restoration then perhaps your best bet is to hire a professional photo restorer to get the job done correctly and on time because those damaged old photos are images of real people - in many cases they are your ancestors and they deserve your honor, respect and, above all, they deserve the absolute, very best you can do!

In the meantime, while you are waiting for the preceding scenario to occur, why not diligently devote yourself to the fascinating world of photo restoration.

The challenges you will face will be much greater than simply getting rid of the annoying red eye you managed to create with your DSLR, Point and Shoot or phone camera. 

Here's a sample of the before and after with an image - mouse over to see the difference ...

(Mouseover to see before and after)
family

These oldies but goodies seem to have all kinds of problems which require the ministration of many different editing tools and techniques.

Photo Restoration is part technique, part skill and part art.  As you become more adept at editing photos and you are faced with a challenging project - stop - and take some time to consider the problem.  You'ill be amazed by the technical solutions that suddenly and unexpectedly appear.

You will use more tools in your digital editing tool kit than you've ever used on any other photo, in fact every tool, every technique and every adjustment layer will be used at one time or another.

Of course, any restoration project will be much easier to complete when you are using a Graphics Tablet (Intuos, Intuos Pro or Cintiq) as your primary editing tool.

Photo Restoration Software

Unless you're taking an old, damaged image back into a wet darkroom with the original negative (a highly unlikely scenario) then a good digital editing software package is needed.

The programs are the ones I've concentrated on all along - Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro.

Photoshop

There's no doubt about it - everything you'd ever need for a photo restore project is included in Photoshop.  With digital editing (which restoring an old photo really is), Photoshop is unbeatable.

Photoshop Elements

The tools in Elements are capable of handling most, but not every, restoration project.  If you've upgrade your copy of Elements with one of the upgrades (Elements Plus or XXL) then you've pretty much got yourself a copy of Photoshop.

PaintShop Pro

PaintShop Pro users have the power to tackle most restoration projects.

Other Tools

Photo restoration is not a quick fix like a lot of digital editing techniques.  It's easy to spend hours or even days working with one image to repair all of its flaws and what a kick and feeling of accomplishment you will feel when you are done!

A Wacom Tablet will make your work so much easier and so much more accurate plus the natural feel will allow you to comfortably work longer (into the wee small hours much to the annoyance of your significant other). 

The Wacom Intuos, Intuos Pro or Cintiq graphics tablet are must haves if you plan on doing a lot of photo restoration. Whichever one you choose you can be sure it will help you produce better results than you could ever produce with a mouse or trackpad!

You will need a good quality scanner or access to one if your're working on a shoe box of old pictures and slides.  My scanner is a Canon (Canoscan 8400f) that scans both paper and film negatives (from 35 mm to 2 1/4" square). 

If you are a laptop user (MAC or Windows) you will probably find it really useful to connect the largest LCD monitor you can afford and a keyboard to that little machine. This will give you lots of visible real estate to work with on those amazing old  pictures and working on a laptop for hours can get very tiring.

A Digital Editing Professional was showing me a project he was working on and I asked him how long he had been at it - 4 days is what he said and he still had work to do.

You will need a good quality scanner or access to one if your're working on a shoe box of old pictures and slides.  My scanner is a Canon (Canoscan 8400f) that scans both paper and film negatives (from 35 mm to 2 1/4" square). 

If you are a laptop user (MAC or Windows) you will probably find it really useful to connect the largest LCD monitor you can afford and a keyboard to that little machine. This will give you lots of visible real estate to work with on those amazing old  pictures and working on a laptop for hours can get very tiring.

A Digital Editing Professional was showing me a project he was working on and I asked him how long he had been at it - 4 days is what he said and he still had work to do.

Photo Restoration Tutorials

Photoshop

Scratch Repair - five tools and a bunch of layers took care of the scratch quite nicely.

Improving Contrast and Detail - the steps to improve the contrast, detail and color of the mouseover image at the top of the page.


Photoshop Elements

Scratch Repair - five tools and a bunch of layers took care of the scratch quite nicely.  This is the same procedure as the one used in Photoshop.

Unblocking Shadows, Taming Highlights - An extensive tutorial that covers all things about the Shadows Highlights adjustment.  The Photo Restore part is at the bottom of the page and all sections of the tutorial are very useful.

Total Disaster Recovery - I found this school picture lying in a cold, slushy snow bank in a parking lot.  It was a mess and this tutorial details how it was restored to it's previous glory.


PaintShop Pro

Scratches and Spots - a tutorial that covers the basics of photo restoration with PaintShop and ends with a demonstration of removing spots and repairing a scratch.

Eliminate Color Cast - Improve Contrast - A flat picture with a nasty color cast and poor contrast - fixed with PaintShop.

The Big Picture

When you think about it, pretty much every photo you ever edit can be classified as photo restoration. For the most part, however, restoration is viewed as something you work on with old damaged photographs.


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