Techniques of Photo Restoration

There are multiple methods for repairing and restoring photographs, and each has it benefits and drawbacks. The entire art has come a long way and some of the results can be astounding. For any digital restoration it starts with a good working copy, the recommended method is taking a digital photo of the original rather than scanning it. It gives a better resolution and less blurry working copy to start from. If scanning is necessary dpi should be 600 or higher, and gelatin prints can have silvering, which scanned reflects as light not the darker shade it should be, making it difficult to adjust. Only a trained professional should attempt to restore the original.

There are several software options to work with, they all are basically the same for results, it is more a matter of how they manipulate and what steps are taken. Photoshop Elements is one of the most common, and is one of the most user friendly on the market for a non commercial application. A shoebox of old family photos can be restored and emailed to family without much tech savvy required. There is a fairly inclusive tutorial, and simple clicks like “auto fix” restore more natural color to scenes that have faded or discolored over time. If one pass does not give the intensity desired a second pass will enhance it a step further. Often that is the only step required if the issue is fading and discoloration.

Tears, rips and folds offer different challenges, but it still doesn’t get very complicated with some of the software available. With layering and importing even large areas can be restored with a degree of accuracy.

No matter what software you are using for the most natural results zoom in as tight as you can and work on small areas at a time. The results will be much more satisfactory than trying to do a major fix on a larger area. This gives the ability to feather with accuracy for lighting and color.

Tools you are going to want in your restoration program will include (in function, if not by name) healing brush, layering, extract, transpose, texture and the programs that have sliders give more precise personalized results. As with most software, it is true that you get what you pay for. Some of the free ones available like Picasa and Picnik can fix red eye, crop and do minor enhancements, and some fun special effects - but for a real restoration they simply do not have the capacity to go past minor shading and color adjustments. It is simply fading or discoloration though, that is often all that is required for a satisfactory look. If, however, you intend to print the results the value of a purchased program is well worth it.

Back up and save several versions as you work, there is a lot of trial and error involved and hours into it you can change your perspective and simply go back to a previous version and go again to obtain the results you truly desire.

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midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Thanks for showing us that preserving old photos is possible. Great tips!


Better Yourself profile image

Better Yourself 3 years ago from North Carolina Author

Thanks Michelle!

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