Restoring old photographs

Afternoon.I was flicking through some old work and found a few restored photos I had completed about a year ago. The original request was to tidy up some scanned shots of a friends family. Some of the photos were very old and had been subject to bomb damage inflicted during the Second World War.

The photos were to be scanned for me to TIFF format rather than JPEG and I suggested the scanning plate be wiped with a cloth to reduce dust. I received the first photo and knew right then I had a lot of work to do!

As you can see from the first example there was extensive damage to the photo. These small thumb nails here do not do the real thing justice!

I worked out a plan to restore the photo. After loading into Photoshop I made a copy of the image and locked off the original. I then laid down a grid using the Show Grid option in the View menu. I then worked on one square at a time, zooming in to 100% and used the spot healing and clone tool to remove the majority of the heavy damage.

This resulted in the second image but there was much more to do. The clean up routine was done square by square again to remove more even more heavy damage on the left hand side. I removed the chair the gentleman was leaning against from the bottom left. There was too much damage down there and the photo was a portrait of a man rather then a chair so I let it go.

An adjustment layer was added to deepen the shadows and add a bit of contrast to the image. This was done in the third image.


Image four is where I got crazy with it. The damage on the left hand side was colossal and I imagined having to eat raw coffee to try and get though it all. This would need more than a brush to sort out so I resorted to making a selection from the right hand side, flipping it around the head and merged it back over the left hand side. Wish I had thought of that from the start.

Image five had the sepia effect removed and made it a black & white. This is a good trick to remove the discolouration from stains on photos. I was going to stop there but I had an idea about attempting to colour the image using a false colour technique.

So I then created three new layers and named them Background, Skin and Uniform. I painted light blue around the background, and off pink for the Skin and a darker blue for the Uniform layers. The opacity of each layer was then reduced to 20-30% to blend the colour with the original detail.

At that point I stopped. It was four hours later and I was tired and once again out of beer. (Which I had been offered in exchange for the work)

William Ralph Henry GollopThe final Image

(not to be used without authorization)