It was my privilege to be asked to attempt a restoration of a very faded photo by my long-time friend and work associate Buddy. I did a couple of pencil/watercolor drawings for him many years ago and he called and wanted to know if I could do a restoration of treasured family photo taken in 1899 in front of his home place. Here are a few progress photos and the final restoration. I made 20 – 8″x10″ prints on archival paper with archival inks on my Epson 3880 printer which he will be giving to his family.
The original photo was scanned by his cousin at his house and uploaded to a Dropbox folder I created to transfer files:
I used the Photoshop Perspective Crop tool to remove the outer edge of the photo and clean up the framing.
I first wanted to make sure the detail was there for me to even do the restoration, so I used a Photoshop Levels Layer to color-correct the photo. (I did a YouTube video of this process on a different photo. You can see this process here: https://youtu.be/eweMTaRN3qI – this is a restoration of a photo of my grandmother that I restored from one of her movie stills – she was in silent movies!) After seeing that Buddy’s photo really had a great deal of detail, I told him it was going to be a nice restoration project! I could even see the pattern in the girls’ dresses which were probably made from the same cloth by a seamstress!
The next step was to use the Curves tool to bring out the mid-range details. But there was still a good deal of discoloration and damage to the photo from dust, wrinkles and cracks on the surface.
In order to eliminate the discoloration, I used the a Hue-Saturation layer with the “Colorize” button to replace the color in the photo with a consistent sepia tone. I used Hue at 41 and Saturation at 15 settings. This is a great setting for antique photos and keeps the original look and feel of the photo. I wanted to keep the look and texture of an aged photo without the distractions and damage that kept the faces unrecognizable. At this point I did quite a bit of very close-in work with the Spot Healing brush, Clone Stamp, Content-Aware Move Tool and found that the Burn and Dodge tool was invaluable to bring up the very lightest of details in the faces. The pixel information was there and the Burn tool allowed me to enhance the darker shadows in the faces and the Dodge Tool allowed me to brighten the light areas of the faces.
Here is the final restoration. I added some “fake sky” at the top by adding to the “canvas” and then used the “Content-Aware Move Tool” to move some of the existing (cleaned-up) sky up to the top and fill in the blank area with “real sky” so I could print an 8″x10″ on the printer. I used the Archival Matte paper IPP setting to use non-glossy inks with Epson Premier Matte photo paper. If you have questions about the settings I used please send me a note and I will be glad to fill you in on what works for these older restorations. Finding out these settings has taken many hours of work over the years and many wasted tanks of ink and sheets of paper!
Here is the final “Before and After” photo:
Thanks Buddy! It was great being a part of bringing your family history to life!
Do you have a favorite photo you’d like to see about restoring? Please send me a message on the comment form on this post and I will get back with you!