Photo Restoration

I have been using Photoshop and other photo editors for many years. Recently I have been using it to restore some old photos. As part of our local Family History Fair I have made a display with some basic photo restoration tips and tricks.

Scanning your photos
At least 600 dpi
If you scan a negative, you’ll want to Invert the colors in a photo editing program
Save original scans separately from the edits, in different folders. Don’t forget to back-up the photos in a second location or online.

Start with Global Edits (edits that affect the entire photo at once), then move on to local edits (like scratches and tears).

Black and White Photo - global edits
If the photo is discolored/yellowed, return to black and white with an adjustment layer
Adjustments > Hue/Saturation > reduce the Saturation to -100

If the photo was sepia, you can click “Colorize” and set the Hue to 47 and Saturation to 20 to return it to a soft sepia tone.

To add contrast and correct fading:
Duplicate main layer, set to “Multiply” (adds shadow/more blacks)
Duplicate main layer, set to “Screen” (adds light/more white)
Duplicate main layer, set to “Soft Light” (adds contrast)
Each of those layers can be toned down by reducing the opacity

If you are familiar with Photoshop, you can also use the curves or levels adjustments to boost the contrast and tone.

Vintage color photos (global edits)
To adjust color, you can use the Levels adjustment layer and fix each color channel individually (red, green and blue, as well as the RGB overall brightness)
While adjusting each color, it might look worse, but once you have adjusted all 3 colors it should look much better.
In each color’s level panel, move the outer arrows inward to where the color registers on the graph

For stains, if the photo is in black and white, you can use the Dodge tool to lighten it up to match the rest of the photo. If the photo is in color, you can use a Levels adjustment layer to fix the color and adjust the layer’s mask to apply the color change just to the stained area.

Fixing faded edges
Local/masked contrast adjustment for faded edges
Duplicate the main layer, set to Multiply, add circular gradient to keep the added contrast just to the edges (black in the middle fading to white on the edges)

Fixing Dust and Scratches
Apply the Dust and Scratches filter if you have a lot of dust specks
Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches
Radius- Don’t put it too high or you blur out the details (I keep it around 2px)
Threshold- the lower the number, the more is included and you might lose some of the detail. I keep it between 15 and 25 for most vintage photos. Use the preview to check that you aren’t losing too many details while still reducing the dust

Use the Spot Heal and Healing tools to eliminate dust, scratches, and artifacts. Don’t forget to adjust the size of the brush.
The Healing brush allows you to select the source that will cover the scratch/speck. This is good for fixing a scratch that goes over two different tones (e.g. the edge of a face)

If you have a large tear or fold in an open area (like the sky or other blank background), you can use the Patch tool to eliminate it. You can select an area as the source of ‘clean’ data, then copy it over the damaged area. Photoshop blends it in for you. 

The Clone Stamp tool works much the same way, but the source and destination are the size of your brush.

For tears in a detailed part of the photo, use all the healing tools as needed and work slowly to keep as much detail as possible. Be mindful of edges.