Restoring old and damaged photos

Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
21,087
Location
SW Virginia
I am unsure if this would be of any help to anyone but I can write it up in a little more detail including my thinking while doing this including the bits where I think I should have got better or went wrong as I still have the work file. A mini tutorial that is, assuming I am not seen as being pretentious, well overtly so :wink:.
I'm sure this would be of considerable interest here, especially to me. I think you see by the responses above that no one will consider it "pretentious"!
 
Last edited by a moderator:

LyndeeLoo

Administrator
Administrator
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
28,433
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
Absolutely, Tony; and your efforts are really appreciated. I have an old photo that I'm attempting to rework, and your tutorial will be most helpful!
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Messages
3,880
Location
UK
Ok, give me a day or 2 and I will have a go at a small tutorial. Richard I will try and explain my thinking and reasoning and try and keep it logical - fat chance of that happening though :biggrin:
 
Joined
Feb 7, 2005
Messages
1,027
Location
Annandale, VA
I would as well. Guys, the problem has been and always seems to be skipping steps which seem almost trivial to the tutor. It's usually involving layers. I'm not looking for a crutch but layers to me is a black art. A tutorial without all the keystrokes means you have to go in and learn all about the items which were skipped and then jump back into the project and try to figure how to apply it.

Now this isn't a school situation where someone is trying to gat a better grade without working for it. However with all the keystrokes and cursor movement descriptions I am better able to follow and gain an understanding of what's being done and why. This is one of the reasons at the Cafe we tell people to ask anything they wish. We actually have scolded some for publicly admonishing a questioner to 'read the friendly manual.' :rolleyes: What we get is a grateful new member who will happily help someone as they gain expertise. Thanks all for your friendly help.
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Messages
3,880
Location
UK
Retouch Walkthrough Part 1

I hope this walkthrough of the steps I took with Jim's photograph may be of both interest and help. I have tried to illustrate the steps as carefully and accurately as I remembered them. If anything not clear please ask and if I have made any errors in the text let me know and I will edit.

Introduction
Much of this is likely to be common knowledge but worth repeating anyway? It should go without saying but always aim to get the best capture of an image for restoration when either scanning or photographing the original.

When attempting to restore a damaged or imperfect image you are trying to capture the maximum amount of information which is not quite the same as making an exact copy of an already near perfect original. This may mean that your capture does not look quite right with odd shifts in colour balance or a flat looking image but it should prove helpful in the restoration process in most cases.

When photographing the image make sure that you can maintain the full tonal range without clipping in any channel. Although unlikely with a print if needed consider taking a couple of images for highlight and shadow detail and be prepared to combine the best of both in PS. I would always want to capture in Raw with the highest bit depth initially and stay working within a 16 bit environment for as long as possible.

Jim’s image was an ideal capture with no clipping in any channel other than perhaps the torn area where the emulsion was removed, this area of no interest anyway as it carries no useful image data. The original capture was Raw 16 bit (or 10 or 14 bit whatever the camera uses) but to save size he posted a larger image that had been reduced to an 8 bit sRGB. This is the image I worked on and was quite happy to do so.

Extra information may have been available in the 16 bit which could prove helpful if you needed to push the image very far as the risk of posterisation would have been minimised. In addition if Lab moves are called for it is safer to work in 16 bit as you will not lose the 25-35 levels that vanish with an 8 bit conversion. A little controversial perhaps but it remains a fact that levels are lost but debateable if it really makes a difference – your eyes should tell you if it does and if it does, does it really matter if you have made a big improvement?

To give some idea of just how good Jim’s capture is this is a crop from the 8bit sRGB image viewed at 100% after some work done. No sharpening applied by me and although the jpeg may have been sharpened by default I really like and appreciate the detail being held. The appearance of skin texture is likely to be false but does give that impression and I am happy with that
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Restoration thoughts
My feelings about restoration is that most times the image needs to be brought back as much as possible to match its former glory as a minimum – sometimes you just have to settle for less though!
It may also be possible to actually make the photograph better than the original.
This will be up to you or the owner of the original to decide and there are those that argue strongly that ‘improvement’ over the original to does not maintain historical accuracy therefore is unacceptable.

I do not have any particular strong leanings one way or another, accept that if pushed I would say improve a little if possible providing you do not change the basic image. For those that argue for either view I would support your opposing viewpoints equally as they are just as valid as the opposing view and reflect your particular preferences – there must be a word for that! :wink:

Prior to starting.
Once you have your capture on screen in all its glory or lack thereof the best advice I can offer is to stop right there for a moment and consider in general terms what the image needs to bring it back to an acceptable level.

At this stage try to think in broad terms contrast, density, colour balance, areas to repair etc. As much as possible try not to think in terms of tools that you will use as this may actually hamper your progress and lead you to dive straight in using this or that tool and taking you on the wrong road or at least making it difficult for yourself as you may have to backtrack later from the dead end you find yourself in. I only wish that I could take my own advice at times as I have been down that dead end too many times to mention and suspect that I will not be able to resist the temptation to persist with this poor habit.

For something complex it can be worth preparing what I would call a work print (even though on screen) which includes generalised notes and highlights of areas that will need to be worked on separately. Not always needed but it can prove helpful to refer back to from time to time and can be added to as you discover more issues hindering progress. If I am going to do this I like to start with a fairly low contrast version of the image or at least one that allows me to see all the important shadow and highlight details.
Although not really necessary for this image something along these lines may help in your initial evaluation and may help you later on in the process by reminding you about areas that need attention. In this case as the original was quite poor (not the capture!) I did actually bring the contrast and density up a little and added a Channel mixer layer first to aid in evaluation of the damage.
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


The workflow
First I will not claim that this is the best quickest or only way to work. There are many ways to tackle restoration and many different tools and techniques to accomplish the same ends. This just happens to be the way I approached this particular image at this particular time. Tomorrow I may approach this or another image in a different ‘improved’ way. I have also developed a particular liking for certain tools mostly due to the fact that I can get a better result from this tool. This may be down to the fact that I understand and have practiced more with one than another and if you prefer a different tool that does the same job please use it.

If I mention any tools and commands bear in mind that my working environment is PC based so while the tools will be the same in PS the Mac commands will/may be different.

This is an overview of the layers – up to the point I stopped last time
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Layer by Layer
Curves 1
. For this layer I equalised the individual R, G and B channels by bringing in the end points to the point where the real image information begins (not the false whites caused by the artefacts). Do not touch the master RGB channel at all at this time. This move will increase colour saturation, density and contrast and although the colour looks off it is not important at this stage. At this stage I looked at the R,G and B channels to ascertain levels of information and what I could use or discard at the next stage
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

This is an overview of the actual curves layer
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)



Channel Mixer 1 This layer converted the image to B&W. At this time I found no use for the blue channel as it contained some artefacts that I did not want, the Red and Green being in better shape. Settings for this were Monochrome box checked and Red and Green both = +55% and blue at 0%. The normal rec. Is to have the values add up to 100% but I see no reason in this case to adhere to this so my total unsurprisingly 110% and I liked what I saw. In retrospect I could have lowered the Blue channel to a minus amount and slightly lowered density. EDIT: If I had checked in the first place before adding the image I would have seen the mistake - I can add up honestly!!
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

and the resulting image
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


WIP This is a stamped copy of the merged layers below accomplished by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E.
This is just a temporary stopping off point most of the time consolidating your work below. I would suggest that you do no work on this layer but continue any work on new adjustment layers. I would also strongly suggest that you do not at this time delete the layers below (in fact I try never to delete layers until I am 100% sure they have nothing to offer i.e at the end of the project!). You could of course delete below but if something goes wrong and you need to make a change to these well you know the rest! An alternative is to rely on the History state to recover work but I find it easier this way.

Patch & Heal. This layer is just a copy of the WIP layer. In this case it is needed rather than a blank layer as some of the retouching tools do not work on an empty layer or give strange results. In this layer I worked on cleaning up the face and mainly used the Patch tool for the larger marks as it also pulls across an amount of texture from the sampled area. I also used the Spot healing brush set to content aware. You could use the Healing tool as well to sample areas away from the more localised area of the Spot tool. You could use the Clone tool of course but IMO it does not always do the job as well at least for this example and there is also the danger of leaving the tell tale footprint that this tool is famous for if not used with care.
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Find Edge Mask. This is the point I decided to use Find Edges to produce a mask i.e. after I repaired most of the finer detail on the face. There is no hard and fast rule here but just be aware that using this method can result in the filled areas still needing much work especially if applied too early when the image is in its original state - the work will show through after contrast and density enhancements have been applied. You can add this mask as a layer mask if you prefer but I generally just save as a layer and use the Load as Selection in the Channels menu.
Once you have produced your mask it is worth checking what it is likely to be trying to repair. With your Mask layer active select the Channels menu and on the bottom of the palette click on the little circle Load Channel as Selection. This will highlight the areas to be filled with the Median filter. You will probably want to zoom in and scroll around the image to see the effect and you may find that either too much or too little information is being affected. In that case you may want to consider refining your mask contrast etc. I think the best advice is err on the side of too little. Thinking that it may be helpful to clarify the steps I will add a little more detail later
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Apply Find Edges Mask. Stamp a new layer above your edge mask (Ctrl+Shift+Alt+E) then go back to the Find Edge layer and make it active. Goto Channels and click on the circle Load Channel as Selection and then go straight back to Layers. Make the layer you created by stamping active. You should see this layer with the marching ants of your selection showing. Now you are going to apply the Median filter to try and fill in the gaps with surrounding pixels. Goto Filter>Noise>Median and in the dialogue box experiment with moving the slider up and down to observe the effect on your image. You may find the marching ants troublesome so to hide press Ctrl+H. When satisfied with the Median effect click ok.
This is where to find the 'little circle' to Load channel
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

This is the result after applying the Median filter - I cannot remember the exact number
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


As I was unaware of the limit to images and smilies Part II follows after a short commercial break
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Messages
3,880
Location
UK
Retouch Walkthrough Part II

D&B (Dodge and Burn). You may already have a favourite method but out of many I often use a new layer filled with 50% grey and set to Soft Light or Overlay mode. Paint with white using a low opacity brush to dodge and build up to get the effect you want. To burn just swap the brush colour for black adjust opacity and paint away. You could use two layers if wanted one for dodge and one for burn
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


BackBlur. The background is still troublesome and as there is really no interesting objects I just used a blur to conceal and blend some of the blemishes. Consider if you want to work on a new stamped layer – just in case. Select either the figure or background using your favourite tool. In this case I just used the Quick selection tool to highlight the main subject. Once satisfied with your selection click on the Add Vector Mask at the bottom of the Layers palette and your mask will be added automatically. Remember that with masks White reveals Black conceals so if your mask shows the figure highlighted white with background black you will need to invert. Just select the mask by clicking on it and press Ctrl+I to invert. Goto Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and adjust the blur level to taste for the background.
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Sepia Tone. For the Sepia tone I took the easy option and just used the Adobe action in the Action Palette. Basically this just adds a new layer with a Hue & Sat layer above. The standard effect is not too bad IMO mimicking a light sepia toning of bromide papers which tended to give a slightly colder tone than the chlorobromide paper which always appear more cream/yellow. Anyway you can adjust the Hue & Sat layer to get your desired effect. The observant amongst you may have noticed I have changed the sepia effect from the original :confused:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


At this point you can stop and take stock of what you have achieved and decide if you want/need to go further. Comparison of our before and after image to this stage
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


I decided to go just another step and clean up certain areas including the dreadful shirt and a little even out of tones in the jacket etc. The shirt has no obvious texture (or buttons) so I used the Find Edges technique again to tone down and blend a little better. I also left a little difference here and there in the tonality which could be improved somewhat.

So can this be improved the answer is obvious, yes it can the more you look the more ‘faults’ you will find. However you have to stop somewhere and know when you have reached that point where the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I feel I am there with this image but as I look again...:rolleyes:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


I have not forgotten about a little more detail on using the Find Edges to help. I will have to write this up with examples as Part III
 
Joined
Jan 9, 2011
Messages
3,019
Location
Iowa
Very well done. I think even my hard head took some of that in. Thanks for all the time & effort you put into this project. Many people should benefit from it.
 

LyndeeLoo

Administrator
Administrator
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
28,433
Location
St. Louis, Missouri
This is unbelievable and took a tremendous amount of work. Thank you so much, Tony, for your willingness to provide this level of instruction. Your efforts are truly appreciated.
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
21,087
Location
SW Virginia
Many thanks for doing this, Tony. I know it was a lot of work. I still don't think I'll understand it all, but I'm going to try to work through it.

And thanks for the kudos on the original capture. For those interested, I put the portrait on a chair on an outside veranda on a cloudy day, used a D7000 with a new Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 micro lens and a tripod with infrared remote.
 

Butlerkid

Cafe Ambassador
Moderator
Joined
Apr 8, 2008
Messages
20,420
Location
Rutledge, Tennessee
Real Name
Karen
Tony,

You ARE a master and so wonderful to help others!

I, too, have followed this thread, and have learned a few new tricks!

Thank you so VERY, Very, much!
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
21,087
Location
SW Virginia
I have been trying to work through Tony's process on my image and I get stuck on this statement:

"You can add this mask as a layer mask if you prefer but I generally just save as a layer and use the Load as Selection in the Channels menu."

Can anyone explain this step in more detail? Sorry, my general Photoshop ignorance is showing. :redface:
 
Joined
Jan 15, 2010
Messages
3,880
Location
UK
First a big thanks to all for such nice comments. I am pleased that you have found the information helpful. I actually had not realised the amount of prep. necessary to write this type of tutorial, but I was pleased to do it particularly after such responses.

Pa, I will be following up with a further part about building the mask with I hope more detail to fill in the missing bits (seems appropriate bearing in mind the subject :smile:). I hope to complete this over the weekend.

In the meantime I can see that my statement may have been confusing. When you have produced the mask and are satisfied you obviously need to apply it to the image prior to using the Median filter. Normally you would expect the mask to be showing right next to the image in the layers palette, the white parts of the mask allowing the filter to do its work on those areas while the black parts of the mask protect the image from the effects of the filter.

Sometimes it is easier and maybe better practice to produce the mask on a duplicate image then bring the mask back into the original as an Alpha channel that will reside in the Channels palette. Once you need to use the mask you can click on it in Channels and activate it by pressing the Load as a Selection button (the small circle). The effect this has it to highlight the mask areas which can then be used to apply the filter of choice to those highlighted areas only on the current selected layer.
 
Joined
Feb 7, 2005
Messages
1,027
Location
Annandale, VA
Tony, thanks for your generosity and patience. This is so valuable it's been made a sticky and the thread name changed to better explain what the thread deals with. Well done!.
 
Joined
May 3, 2007
Messages
6,483
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Tony, thanks for your generosity and patience. This is so valuable it's been made a sticky and the thread name changed to better explain what the thread deals with. Well done!.
Rich, now that this thread is stickied, is the intention to keep adding examples? Stick with this image or use others for examples?

The reason I ask is that I had been working on this image (got a late start due to the death and funeral of an old friend). While my workflow, arrived at independently, is very similar to Tony's, there are differences. As Tony correctly observes, there are many ways to accomplish the same thing within the vastness of Photoshop. My experience is that, when dealing with severely damaged old photos, the more tools in your toolkit the better.

Also, if the intention is for this thread to be an ongoing thing, then the question of additional examples using additional images comes up.
 
Joined
May 3, 2007
Messages
6,483
Location
Colorado Springs, Colorado
First a big thanks to all for such nice comments. I am pleased that you have found the information helpful. I actually had not realised the amount of prep. necessary to write this type of tutorial, but I was pleased to do it particularly after such responses.

Pa, I will be following up with a further part about building the mask with I hope more detail to fill in the missing bits (seems appropriate bearing in mind the subject :smile:). I hope to complete this over the weekend.

In the meantime I can see that my statement may have been confusing. When you have produced the mask and are satisfied you obviously need to apply it to the image prior to using the Median filter. Normally you would expect the mask to be showing right next to the image in the layers palette, the white parts of the mask allowing the filter to do its work on those areas while the black parts of the mask protect the image from the effects of the filter.

Sometimes it is easier and maybe better practice to produce the mask on a duplicate image then bring the mask back into the original as an Alpha channel that will reside in the Channels palette. Once you need to use the mask you can click on it in Channels and activate it by pressing the Load as a Selection button (the small circle). The effect this has it to highlight the mask areas which can then be used to apply the filter of choice to those highlighted areas only on the current selected layer.
Nice, clear explanation Tony. The differences and methods of using selections, masks, and channels is a source of confusion and one of the big conceptual hurdles with Photoshop.
 

Latest posts

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Nikon Cafe is a fan site and not associated with Nikon Corporation.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Copyright © 2005-2019 Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom