In the image above I was able to remove the dirt, scratches and cracks and I also had to remove the chair on the left and create a new arm for the young girl. It's very satisfying for me to be able to repair these old photographs that are so valuable to many families - in this article I share how I use photoshop to fix old images. Some images can be repaired in 5 minutes, others like the one above can require several hours. The original image was 2 x 3 inches, the final image was 8.5 x 12 inches and it was provided as a black and white and sepia.
Have you ever rummaged through the attic, garage or basement and found a box of old photos? These gems are windows to the past. Prior to each Christmas I usually get a few phone calls from customers looking to have some of their photos repaired so they can give them as gifts to their loved ones. If you would like to learn how to do this yourself - read on.
Original image the most difficult part were the scratches that appeared over the pattern couch on the top right.
The process of restoring old photos is simple if you own Adobe Photoshop but it takes time and care. More recent versions of Photoshop have more tools making it easier to repaired old photos, but any of the CS versions will work great. You will also need a good scanner (I use an Epson Flatbed scanner that scans up to 3200 dpi). For large photos I sometimes scan the print in sections and then stitch them together in Photoshop. If the image is really big I re-photograph the image with my digital camera, a macro lens and a tripod. If the prints are enclosed behind glass I ask permission to remove the glass to get a better scan or picture – if there is a chance the print will stick to the glass I may try to steam them free. Most of the time my clients simply bring me an envelope of old damaged prints.
Due to the fine detail in this photograph it took two hours to repair and remove all the cracks and spots
I can’t fix every image my customers bring me – I can't put a head back on if its gone, but I can take one eye and flip it over and put it on the other side of the face if I have to. Sometimes prints are so badly damaged that it's not worth fixing them. I have even been asked to take web images and scale them up and there are limits to this, but if that's the only photo of a particular person I will do my best to achieve a reasonable 8 x 10 inch print.
On the left the photo has been stained and damaged by water, by converting the image to Black and white in Photoshop and a yellow filter those yellow stains can be removed (Watch the movie).
Below I describe some of the basic procedures I use to fix old photos using Adobe Photoshop – there is a movie clip that will show you basic process of repairing an old photo. I am so fond of old photos that I even created tutorials on how to age them in Photoshop - the reverse of what I show here.
Basic Workflow Summary
Scan the image at 600-1200 dpi (higher if you want to enlarge the photo more than 4X)
Open the image in Photoshop and crop to remove borders or parts of the image that can’t be repaired
Resize the image to the preferred size and set the resolution to 300 dpi for printing
Adjust the levels histogram so you have the best tones possible
If the image is Black and White with yellow or red stains – convert it to black and white (tinting optional) – if the image is in colour – use auto colour or adjust colours by the numbers to correct (shown in my Potoshop I online course)
Zoom in and check for dust, scratches and small particles of dust embedded and then apply dust & scratches filter (max radius setting of 1 or 2).
Use the patch, spot healing and clone tools to repair and restore the photo.
Use the Burn and Dodge Tools to darken or lighten parts of the print
If the image is in colour you might adjust colour saturation globally or locally use the saturation brush tool
Use the unsharp Mask to sharpen the image and check once more for spots that might appear after sharpening and fix with the spot healing tool.
Save the print as .TIF, and Max quality .JPG and finally also make 72 dpi .JPG for sending by email or for a web page. Watch the video below.