Restoring Damaged Family Photos

Color scan of original

An instant message from a good friend renewed my interest in restoring photos.  According to the definition from Wikipedia, “digital photograph restoration uses a variety of image editing techniques to remove visible damage and aging effects from digital copies of physical photographs.” Yep. That about sums it up but it is a very simple statement about what can be a lengthy and arduous process.

After restoration: August Hansen & Julia Paulsen





For example, I spent the better part of a day working on the slightly damaged wedding photo of my great-grandparents and I plan to spend more time removing the small dust spots and scratches. As you can see, I also extended the size of the image using Photoshop and content-aware fill.



B&W original

I converted the image to black and white, which helps me “see” the details better. After making adjustments to contrast, clarity, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks and using the graduated filter tool to darken edges in Lightroom, I opened the image in Photoshop. The next steps included using the patch too and spot healing brush to remove spots and repair larger areas. I also copied August’s left lapel to use for replacing parts of the right one.

The original composition felt too cramped. I wanted the couple more in the center with more space above their heads. I changed the canvas size and used the content-award fill for the top and right side. Next, I copied the vase and side table beside August and pasted it beside Julia. A little more masking and blending helped with making the added areas look more like part of the original. Not perfect by any means, but I am not certain perfect is a realistic expectation when restoring old photos.

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