by Lisa Hanard
Finding a dusty box of old family photos can feel like you just discovered a buried treasure. With anticipation, you carefully open the box lid to peek inside. Upon closer inspection you may have slight bit of disappointment as you see the toll that time has taken on these precious family moments from history. There are photo restoration services out there that can restore your photos for you but cost at least $40.00 for each photograph. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could do some minor photo restoration on your own as well? With Adobe Photoshop and some time and patience you can. Note that this is describing basic photo restoration without any major tears or blemishes.
There are several components to restoring a photo and I will detail some of these in this article. I will demonstrate using an old family photo of my own.
First, scan in the photo that you wish to restore with a scan setting of at least 300 dpi. 600 dpi is better if your scanner is capable of that. Save the image as a jpeg or tiff file onto your computer. Then open your file in Photoshop. I am using the latest Photoshop CC. Prior versions should be capable of doing these same steps, but the toolbars or icons may look a little different than pictured in this article. When the file is open in Photoshop, you may crop your photo to eliminate any unwanted areas. Keep in mind that if you wish to print the photo you must keep the aspect rations proportionate. You control this in the crop dropdown menu.
With the Layer tab open double-click on to the layer name to highlight it and rename it ORIGINAL. With the layer still highlighted click COMMAND J on a Mac or CTRL J on a PC to duplicate the layer. Double-click on the layer name to rename the layer to REVISED.
Your screen should look similar to this now.
Then click on the EYE icon that is to the left of your ORIGINAL layer on the layer panel so that layer will not be visible for now.
The next step is to review your photo and determine what needs to be corrected. As you can see in this photo the main issues are with the red color tone and lack of contrast so we will concentrate on that.
Make sure the REVISED layer is highlighted then click on the adjustment layers Icon. It is on the bottom of the layers panel and looks like a circle that is half white and half back.
From the adjustment level options, select LEVELS. Clicking on the tab that says RGB on it will bring up a RED GREEN or BLUE menu. If your photo has a red cast like this one, select RED. Experiment dragging the black and white sliders to see how you can edit the levels of that color. In this photo you can see that by me sliding the slider further to the right it dramatically improved the photo by reducing the levels of red in the photo. Click back onto the LAYERS panel when you are done.
If you decide to make changes to the levels adjustment, clicking on the little histogram on the layers panel will let you revise the adjustment layer.
Once you are satisfied, merge the adjustment layer with the REVISED layer. You can do this by highlighting the REVISED layer, holding the shift key down and clicking on the adjustment layer. Then right click on that area and select Merge Layers. This combined the edited layers into one layer called Levels 1. Double-click on the layer title to rename it REVISED.
Another option is to click on the Levels1 Layer to highlight it and hold down COMMAND E (for Mac) or CTRL E (For PC).
Highlight the REVISED layer then go to the top Photoshop toolbar. Navigate to Image – Adjustments – Shadows and Highlights. Slide the shadows and highlight tabs until you achieve the desired result. Keeping the preview box checked you can watch the changes while you adjust the bar. Click OK when you are done.
Keeping the REVISED layer highlighted go to Image – Adjustments – Brightness and Contrast and make any required changes there. Click ok.
After that once you are satisfied with the changes Go to Filter – Convert to Smart Filters. Then go back to the Filter tab and Select Filter – Noise – Dust and scratches. Again, making sure the preview button is checked enter either 1 or 2 pixels as the radius and slowly increase the threshold slider until you are satisfied with the results. You can click inside and drag in the preview box to move it so you can concentrate on important detailed areas such as faces for your adjustments. Click ok.
At any point you can click the eye next to your REVISED layer to turn that layer off to see your progress compared to what you started with. Wow! What a difference.
To save this image as a jpeg that you can share on social media or email to family and friends – Hold down COMMAND- OPTION- SHIFT – S (on a Mac) or CTRL – ALT – SHIFT – S (on a PC) to open the “Save For Web” dialogue. Choose Jpeg, set quality to 100% , click save and tell Photoshop where to Save the file.
Congratulations on your photo restoration!
Keep an eye out for Part 2 where I will illustrate how to repair blemishes, marks, cracks and tears from your old photographs!
Lisa Hanard is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.