Intro to Photoshop: Faded Color Photo Problems
Have you ever wanted to know how to make your photographs better? How many times have you opened an old honored album only to find prized photos fading and damaged, seemingly beyond repair? Did you think for a moment that you could save them yourself with your Photoshop program? If you are like me, new technology is intimidating. But there are some things that are well worth the effort. Adobe Photoshop is one of those. The learning curve is not as impossible as you would think. Like many things (music, art, dance), the more you practice, the better you get at it.
One of the things that I did to practice was to assign myself weekly tasks, mostly with text effects, but also with photographs and photo-manipulation. Years ago people like you and I were stuck with a textbook and hours of head-scratching. Today there are thousands of YouTube Photoshop video tutorials by lots of pioneers who have already done the head-scratching for you.
Photoshop CC (Creative Cloud) is available with charges of a monthly or yearly fee. I have Adobe Photoshop CS5, the program on the disc. There have been quite a few new advancements between the CS5 and the Creative Cloud. Most of the tools are the same however and are used basically the same way with the same shortcuts. There are a few differences that I will share along the way.
Basics in Photoshop
To begin, you have to learn about some of the basics, such as where to find certain tools and how to work them. For instance, the first time I opened Photoshop, I saw there was a Paint Brush tool. As an artist, I figured that I didn’t need any help working a paintbrush so I clicked onto it and nothing happened. Very disappointing. In this introduction, I will try to cover the many tools and filters used for photography and how to apply each one to your work.
To start I will open a photograph or two to use as samples. This first photo is of my sister up in the National Park dated 1974. You can see that the photo is faded and not very clear.
Camera Raw Filter
Camera Raw Filter
I love the new Camera Raw filter that just came out in the Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud. It may also be available in the CS6 version of Photoshop but not the older versions. To start I will show what can be done with this photo in Camera Raw, and then what you can do for the same photo if you don’t have Camera Raw Filter.
Go to Filter>Camera Raw Filter or type Control/Command+Shift+A. This opens a new window with all the sliders to manipulate color and contrast in Camera Raw. To start, I notice that the photo has lost a lot of blue so I changed the Temperature to -20 and the Tint to -6. I may add more blue later with a Blue Filter. I don’t like to touch the Exposure unless I absolutely have to. The slightest movement can make it too blown out or too dark. I like to move the other sliders first and if it still needs adjustment after that, then I go back to the Exposure. Next, I changed the Exposure to +35. The granite rocks in the background seem very bright to me so I changed the Highlights to -100 and the Whites to -50. I gave the trees more shadow by adjusting the Shadows to -19 and the Blacks to -60. Now for the fun, Clarity really adds a sharpness that helps things like flowers and landscapes. I use it very sparingly on faces as it defines wrinkles and blemishes too much. In this case, I pulled up the Clarity to +46. I could play more with it, giving more or less Clarity. Vibrance and Saturation do similar things but Vibrance won’t give too much orange or red so it is perfect for people’s faces; Saturation, on the other hand, really punches up all the colors. In this case, I pulled up the Vibrance to +8 and the Saturation to +38. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
After Camera Raw Adjustments
Above these adjustments is a row of icons that can adjust the camera warp, curves, color balance, FX and other adjustments. I suggest you play with them just to find out what they can do for you. When you are done click ok at the bottom of the page to apply the adjustments to the photo.
How To Use Camera Raw Filter
Color Balance AdjustmentClick thumbnail to view full-size
Without Camera Raw, It Can Still Be Done
If you don’t have Camera Raw Filter but have a faded image like mine, you can achieve most of the same things using the Adjustment Filters that were common is the older versions of Photoshop. Using the same photo so I can compare them later, I started with the available photo filters. Go to Image>Adjustments>Vibrance, and I set the Vibrance to +6 and Saturation to +35. Click okay. Go to Image>Adjustments>Color Balance. The Color Balance Filter gives you three places to adjust the color: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. I find usually in these older photos it is the blue that is lost, so I pull up the Cyan and deep Blue. In Midtones I adjusted Cyan-Red to -37, Magenta-Green to +4 and Yellow-Blue to +49. In Shadows, I adjusted Cyan-Red to -45, Magenta-Green to 0, and Yellow-Blue to +34. Now you really start to see the shadows pop and the blues come back. In Highlights, I adjusted Cyan-Red to +6, Magenta-Green to 0, and Yellow-Blue to -15. This brings back some of the yellow in the highlights. Click ok. Go to Image>Adjustments>Exposure, and change to Gamma Correction to 0.75 to take out the extra brightness. Click ok.
As I look at this photo, I feel like it needs another adjustment, so I went to Image>Adjustments>Photo Filter. This opens a dialog with a variety of photo filters. I usually use a Blue Cooling Filter for inside shots because indoor Tungsten lights have a distinctly yellow hue and need to be counterbalanced with blue. I like to pick the first cooling filter, Cooling Filter 80, and leave the percentage at 25. Click okay. This makes the blues bluer and the whites whiter.
Healing BrushClick thumbnail to view full-size
Now that my photo has had its colors and sharpness adjusted, I can see some scratches and blemishes on the photo surface. On the right near the top of my photo is a tear. I used the Healing Brush Tool found in the toolbar but it looks a little smudged so I will fix that with the Clone Tool. The first time I used the Clone Tool I was very intimidated. But once you know how to use it, it becomes a fast favorite.
Clone ToolClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Clone Tool works by sampling another part of the photo or image and painting that sample elsewhere. For the Clone to work you have to press Alt/Option, click on the sample part of the photo and then release. Now wherever you move the Clone Brush you will be seeing that sample part of the image. Click and the sample is painted over the damaged area.
More Spot HealingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Think you will try Photoshop to fix your older photos now?
The rest of the little flaws and specks, I fixed using the Healing Brush Tool. One-click on each spot with a soft small brush and the spot is gone. Always try to use a size brush that is only a little larger than the spot. These few filters and tools do wonders for any photo.
Camera Raw, Left, Adjustment Filters, Right
And that’s it. See the difference between the Camera Raw version and the Adjustment Filters? There is a little difference but not much. The main difference is the amount of time it takes. So if you are shopping for a Photoshop version, it is nice to have the newer ones that include the Camera Raw Filter (CS5 and better) but not really that necessary.
Have fun fixing your older photos. Give them new life and share with your family. They will be amazed.