Photo Restoration

Utilizing a variety of digital techniques old photographs can go from faded, gray, yellowed, crackled and unattractive or indistinguishable to the contrast, color and clarity the original carried. Visible damage can be erased, images can be sharpened, and crispness can be added at a click. It is not a matter however of clickity click and the old becomes new again. It can be a long, drawn out procedure that is in itself a true art. Unwanted casts can be removed, lighting can be altered and lines can regain definition under the watchful eye and careful hand of a restoration expert.

There is a difference between photo restoration and cosmetically altering it though, and the purpose and final goal dictates how both should be regarded. If, for example, you have an aged, weathered photo of a landscape or architectural content it is simple enough to find related if not replicated references to ensure that the restoration can maintain authenticity. However a photograph in the same condition that is a portrait of a person, or a family poses a different dilemma. For an example, a family heirloom of an elderly aunt in front of the family homestead is weathered and worn, many creases and crackles, uneven tone and color, and the end goal is to refresh it to its original crispness and clarity. Now add into that scenario there is a large fold, devoid of print or color, across the aunt’s face. By utilizing traditional digital restoration features it is possible to blend the color of her skin, from one side to the other, and fill in the fold, but it would not include the dimple she has only on that side, or the stray curl that was notorious for falling along that cheek. Restored is not recreated.

Defects, tears, spots, and all other signs of aging of the photograph can be removed, digitally and with amazing results, but being cognizant of what was originally there is not what it has been replaced with in some circumstances is worth considering. The integrity of the picture is an element that merits concern of its own.

Some photographs restore more easily and with better results than some others do as well. Glazed glossy print photos often give the best results, matte textured ones offer additional challenges. Tin types were inexpensive in the day, and are easy and effective to restore, often with dramatic and impressive results with simple software and a little patience.

The choice of scanner, or the better choice yet of a high resolution digital camera, can be a huge determining factor in the final results obtained. Scanners can diffuse, where as a high resolution can give a detailed format to work with and restoration can be obtained without battling issues like light scatter altering tone.

Whether you are merely repairing family vacation candids from your childhood, or are rebuilding your ancestry for a project to maintain for perpetuity of the art, the fun of restoring photographs can go beyond repair, to introducing new life into snapshots of life.

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