Photo Restoration Tips and Tricks

guest post by Leah Spencer

Modern digital restoration techniques and programs are excellent tools for restoring, preserving and archiving photographs. This way, the saved images are not subject to deterioration, water damage or aging effects that physical storage may otherwise cause. Here are some tried and tested tips that you may find useful while restoring old photographs.

Before Restoration:

After Restoration:

1) Use a good scanner

Scanning is the first step to successful restoration. It is important that you use a good quality scanner and set it to maximum resolution and color depth while digitizing your photos. Adjusting the lighting with your scanner will let you capture much more detail, and then use it for further improvisation using editing software. Also, scanning in color absorbs more information than black and white.

2) Work on copies

Before you begin editing your photos, it is advisable to make more than one copy of it. While restoring photographs, it is possible that you make some irreversible edits or errors.

3) Change to black and white

As far as photo restoration is concerned, black and white photos are generally considered easy to work with. If the photo is sepia, you may convert it to black and white using your photo editing software and then convert it back to sepia after restoration.

4) Crop it right

If you picture is torn only around the edges and not too far into the image, and if the background in that area is not significant, you may then simply crop off the scruffy edges. If the area of tear has a background similar to another part of the picture, copy-pasting may help cover the damage. Only tears in parts of the picture carrying more detail will need specific repairing.

5) Set contrast

Tweaking the contrast can intensify your image. Most photo editors support layers, wherein an image is duplicated to two layers on a single canvas and then blended using a multi layer effect. To further tweak this effect, you may edit the opacity.

6) Remove blemishes

Almost all editors have tools for removing blemishes such as spots, dirt, dust, or blotches. For instance, Photoshop has a ‘Liquify’ filter that can be used to remove blemishes, and a ‘Heal’ tool to repair flaws in specific areas of the image.

7) Clone

The clone stamp is a very beneficial tool that can be applied to remove imperfections and unwanted substance from the photo. The clone stamp copies skin and background details from the image, and covers up date stamps or any other undesired background in the photograph.

Photo Colorization – Before Editing:

After Editing:

8 ) Apply color curves

Working with colors, in the right amount, can bring about a nice change in your photo. You can try tweaking color curves until the desired result is achieved and then increase or decrease the saturation. To achieve a smooth border, touching up the edges with a Heal or Blend tool will help.

9) Sharpen

If your photo is blurred, you may apply a Sharpen or Un-sharpen mask to bring out a better difference between the dark and light areas in the image. While most professional editors prefer to apply sharpening techniques towards the end of the editing process, there are a few who do it much earlier too.

10) Softening facial features

Sharpening is generally reserved as a last photo improvement technique. However, there is one exception to this. If the faces of the subjects in your image are too sharp, you may use softening techniques (the Blur tool or Soft brush for instance) to gently soften facial features and remove the harshness out from them. The eyes can however be left to retain the sharpness.

11) Compare

As with every other thing, practice pays. It is always a good idea to keep going back to the original photo, and compare how the restoration is proceeding. In photo restoration, less is more. It is important that you make the adjustments gradually. When you make changes on a duplicate, you can easily compare the changes with the original image, and keep track of your work.

2 thoughts on “Photo Restoration Tips and Tricks”

  1. I agree with you that we always need to make duplicates but In Photoshop it is also wise to use layers and smart objects, then all your edits will be non destructive, which means you can always go back to your Original.

    Plus if you have an old sepia print, it would be wise to scan the original in color, that way you will get all the information you can from the original.
    just something to add, but thanks for your insight.


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