Restoring old and damaged photos

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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.
Since I started the thread, perhaps I get a voice. I would love to see an alternative procedure leading to a similar result, just to broaden my knowledge. But unless an additional example illustrates something distinctly different, I would prefer to stick with this one which I think covers about all one should need relative to restoring old photographs. And threads like this tend to get so long that no one knows where to start reading.
 
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Certainly you have a voice in the matter! That's a sound suggestion Jim. When it's completely sorted out we can clean it up and keep it limited to the single photograph and then close it. Subsequent example would be best handled through additional threads to keep this one consistent and easy to read.

There's discussion about making it a Wiki but that's another matter. What's important is to make this an asset to the Cafe's resources.
 
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Since I started the thread, perhaps I get a voice. I would love to see an alternative procedure leading to a similar result, just to broaden my knowledge. But unless an additional example illustrates something distinctly different, I would prefer to stick with this one which I think covers about all one should need relative to restoring old photographs. And threads like this tend to get so long that no one knows where to start reading.
That was what I was getting at, Jim. No need to clutter things up with minor differences. However, there are different ways to skin the cat and you often cannot know which technique will render the best results until you try them.

For example, Tony's first step, working toward the best tonality in the image, was to perform a curves adjustment to each color channel (red, green, blue). An alternative method to the same end would be to use a Threshold adjustment layer, use the Color Picker tool to find find and choose the black and white points and then add a Curves adjustment layer to set the white and black points (and perhaps some other control points for the mid-tones). I tried both and like the results with Tony's method a little better but, until you work the image to some end point, you won't know which would have been the better choice.

There are other examples but I think this illustrates my point.
 
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Certainly you have a voice in the matter! That's a sound suggestion Jim. When it's completely sorted out we can clean it up and keep it limited to the single photograph and then close it. Subsequent example would be best handle through additional threads to keep this one consistent and easy to read.

There's discussion about making it a Wiki but that's another matter. What's important is to make this an asset to the Cafe's resources.
Thanks, Rich. I will simply post some alternative methods using Jim's image here. I will start another thread with an old family photo I have been working on. It has damage that is almost as severe as Jim's photo but of a different sort.
 
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Here's a challenge for the experts: Demonstrate the simplest possible procedure that leads to an acceptable result.
Speaking only for myself, I do not think that is possible. There is no one best way. And "acceptable result" is very subjective. Scott Kelby's very good books notwithstanding, there is no formula.

For instance, using the image you provided, the simplest way to fix the background would have been to mask it and replace it with a pattern that approximated the grain and color (mostly a guess, of course) of the original. If historical accuracy is not important, then this yields an "acceptable result".

My opinion is that if we can accumulate a few threads demonstrating repair and retouching of a variety of old photos, then anyone seeking to gain the skills needed to do such work will have a variety of tools and approaches to choose from. Also, if the folks posting their work will take a moment to describe their thought process and analysis (as Tony did), then we can all learn how to better assess images and apply the "best" tools.
 
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Speaking only for myself, I do not think that is possible. There is no one best way. And "acceptable result" is very subjective. Scott Kelby's very good books notwithstanding, there is no formula.

For instance, using the image you provided, the simplest way to fix the background would have been to mask it and replace it with a pattern that approximated the grain and color (mostly a guess, of course) of the original. If historical accuracy is not important, then this yields an "acceptable result".

My opinion is that if we can accumulate a few threads demonstrating repair and retouching of a variety of old photos, then anyone seeking to gain the skills needed to do such work will have a variety of tools and approaches to choose from. Also, if the folks posting their work will take a moment to describe their thought process and analysis (as Tony did), then we can all learn how to better assess images and apply the "best" tools.
I knew as soon as I posted my previous statement that the term "acceptable result" would be challenged as undefinable, and I agree. But my point is that simplicity should be a goal.
 
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I knew as soon as I posted my previous statement that the term "acceptable result" would be challenged as undefinable, and I agree. But my point is that simplicity should be a goal.
Hmmm. Let me think about that. I have an image of my great grandmother (one of only 3 that still exist, at least that I am aware of) with my dad and aunt. It will need a lot of work. I am sure that there will be at least a couple of dead ends along the way.

Perhaps one way of attacking your request would be to document the entire process, including dead ends, and then to add a summary of the minimum steps to get a good image (selected from the whole process). That's a lot of screen shots and organizing and will take a while but it might be worth the trouble.

Let me experiment a bit and then I'll start another thread.
 
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Here's a challenge for the experts: Demonstrate the simplest possible procedure that leads to an acceptable result.
:biggrin: Never cared much for the term 'expert', as throughout my life I have met a few self proclaimed ones and others that were said to be such in their field but only by dint of the fact that they were two pages further on in the book than many. Sadly my experience indicates that very few are that, but on the other hand I have had the privelege of meeting a few that I believe deserve the title. So I always strive towards optimism in the knowledge that I will meet more that deserve the title.

As to me I would not want or relish the Epert title. If you split the word up Ex = has been and Spurt= a drip under pressure - oh well perhaps it does fit some of the time :biggrin:

I don't think I am capable of offering the simplest solution other than to recall the last time I ate an Elephant I accomplished it one bite at a time :biggrin:

Just in case the above ramblings were not meant to be taken too seriously
 
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Retouch Walkthrough Part III

Removing scratches
As the point about using filters for removing scratches caused some confusion I think that this was caused due to my haste to finish. Basically therefore I did not give a clear enough explanation as to the ‘why’s and wherefores’ of using either Find Edges or Glowing Edges filter or the concepts behind this type of move and of course the ways to apply the filter to your image.

First some reasons why this method should not be relied on or seen as a panacea for all your image restoration problems. The fact is (at least IMHO) that there is no magic one touch solution that will fix these issues and unless used carefully and thoughtfully this type of move can actually cause you just as much after work as not applying the method and just patching and cloning on the original.

The filter works basically by grabbing samples from the surrounding areas, the extent of which is governed by you setting the limits in the Median filter dialogue box. The filter if not tamed by a good mask can fill your damaged and less damaged areas with just grey blurred, unwanted and unloved pixels which will need attention later to disguise. In my experience it works better by limiting the effect to smaller areas of damage such as small cracks and tears. Or those areas of an image that do not contain important texture detail. There is no reason why you cannot apply the filter a couple of times using a different edge mask to tackle specific problem areas.

My preference is always to try and retain texture and detail in an image at least in the most important areas. If at all possible I would rather attempt to replace the missing texture by sampling a sound area near the damage and using either Patch, Spot, healing or any other tool to repair the missing information.

Of course it is not always possible to sample good areas as very little useful information may exist or where it is could be just too small to sample. Then there is also the question about just how much time you can afford or want to spend with an image. So this is where this type of technique can be a huge time saver while still giving very acceptable results.

A slight digression but perhaps relevant to getting the best result, have a look at some of the work done by high end beauty retouchers, many of them work at pixel level with dodge and burn to make skin perfect (some would say too perfect!). Rarely do I think if ever would they resort to using a filter to blur and disguise – they must D&B until their eyes bleed and their arms drop off.

The Principles behind the mask
The idea of the mask is quite simple; isolate the cracks and blemishes without including the good undamaged areas of the image. Once isolated it should be possible to fill with a better class of pixel to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the surrounding image.

Ideally therefore you want to first accentuate the cracks and damage while at the same time de emphasising the good picture content. Some things you may want to try could include sharpening the cracks while blurring the rest of the image using your favourite sharpening method combined with noise removal. This may enable you to create a better starting point for the edges filters to do their work without picking up much of the good information. I did not attempt this with Pa’s image but mention it for those that like to experiment and play.

To make an edge mask
As I used the Find edges filter on this one I will stick with it for the rest of this article – glowing edges may have been a better option with a little more control initially.

My procedure in producing the mask was a little different (read sloppy) than I would normally do so I have revised here. I hope that the method and the steps taken offer a clearer view.

As the image in its original state was rather flat and lifeless I did not consider the mask until later on in the layer making process i.e. once overall contrast and density had been improved. Doing it this way gives you a choice of image to apply the filter to the original untouched, or the ‘improved’ version. I confess I did not try to apply the edge filter to the original nor can I remember exactly at what point I made the filter i.e. from which layer version. My concern about applying edge mask too early is that once you have made large moves to the image contrast that the work of the filter may also be enhanced more than expected resulting in more remedial work.

This is how the channels look in the original compared to the contrast enhanced after curves layer applied. Therefore this is what the find edges filter has to work on
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Step by Step

1. First duplicate the image so that you can work on the duplicate to make and refine your mask which will eventually be transferred back into the original file. Goto Image>Duplicate rename the file to something like Edge Mask, to save confusion later, and check that the ‘duplicate merged layers only’ is not ticked.

2. Make sure that on your duplicate file you only have your layer up to the point where you made the curves move i.e. your background or layer one and the curves layer. If you have more layers above then delete them as they will just get in the way and only serve to confuse.

3. With your top layer (Curves) active stamp a copy above using Ctrl+Alt+Shift+E. This is going to form the foundation of your edge mask and if you get it wrong you can always stamp a new copy and start again.

4. Go to Filter>Stylize>Find Edges.

You should end up with an effect like this
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5.
Click on the Channels Tab and inspect the individual R, G and B channels. You are looking for the channel with the best contrast and detail of the cracks and scratches. I decided in this case that the blue channel offered the best potential

Blue Channel
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6.
This channel now needs to be saved and worked on to produce your mask. Contrast and edge thickness need to be improved. There is no particular order to this and you may find that you will need to flick backwards and forwards to refine.
Still in the channels menu click and drag the blue channel down to the Create New Channel icon at the bottom of the palette – next to the Trash can. This is now your working channel for enhancement.

7. Apply a Gaussian Blur of around 3 pixels (the actual amount will vary between image type) the point being to enlarge and fill in the gaps to get a decent white to black seperation

8. Then Image>Adjustment>Levels (about the only time I use levels over curves) and make a big move to the black and white points to separate out the problem areas as much as possible also move the midpoint as desired. You will see that there are still levels of grey which may or may not represent bad picture elements and the trick is to find out which category they belong to and either eliminate or enhance them.

After blur and levels
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9.
Once reasonably satisfied time to invert the mask (remember that White reveals Black conceals) to enable the filter to only work on those areas in white while having no effect on the black areas. Make sure mask selected and press Ctrl+I
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10. Now we need to refine the mask a little further. The most important thing is to blank out edges that are important to the image e.g. eyes, nose, hairline. In fact anything that you do not want to fill with the Median filters efforts. I painted over those areas in black. Next you should try to make the grey areas either white for the mask to have effect or black to conceal. A useful trick here is to select your brush and paint over the grey with it set to overlay mode either white or black. The brush will try and lighten the grey when white or darken when set to black. Set brush opacity to about 50% and work over the image to try and improve the contrast in selected areas. Don’t worry you will not necessarily get it right and you may need to modify the effect later on

The end result
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11.
Now we have our modified channel saved as a mask but it is in a duplicate document. We need to copy it into our original. A simple way is to just drag it and drop it into the original. First double click on the channel name to rename to something memorable e.g. Edge mask :biggrin:
Select the Move tool at the top of your tools panel and place the cursor in the centre of your mask image. While holding down the shift key drag on to the original image tab or window. Release the mouse button when your original image appears on screen and your new channel should be placed in the channels palette ready for use. Check to make sure it has been copied to the channels palette

10. With your original file open and now with the new mask in Channels go to Layers and select the WIP image you want to apply the mask to – eyeball should be on and the layer highlighted blue.

11. Go to Select>Load Selection and use your current file as the Source and find your mask, in this case the imaginatively titled Edge mask and click ok. If you still have your duplicate document open where you created your mask you could point the source dialogue to this file and select directly – but I assume that you may have closed it after transfer :smile:

12. Once you have clicked ok your image should have the marching ants of your mask all over it (hide if you want by Ctrl+H). Go to Filter>Noise> Median and use the slider to control the amount.
Note: If you hide withe Ctrl+H make sure you remember to make visible again with the same keystroke. If you forget you will wonder why some of your tools do not work and I think the state persists so closing and opening PS again will not help :biggrin:

Some examples of applying the Median filter at different percentages
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Well I hope that is clear if not I shall be blaming the couple or so glasses of Rioja I had prior to finishing this. Please ask if I have not explained clearly enough or seem to have left out a vital step
 
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:biggrin: Never cared much for the term 'expert', as throughout my life I have met a few self proclaimed ones and others that were said to be such in their field but only by dint of the fact that they were two pages further on in the book than many. Sadly my experience indicates that very few are that, but on the other hand I have had the privelege of meeting a few that I believe deserve the title.
Tony, to most of us you come as close to being a Photoshop "expert" as we are likely to see. Do you have formal education in this field? There probably are other Cafe members who would qualify for that title, but I don't frequent the retouching forum so I wouldn't know.

And I'm speaking after a glass (or three) of good chardonnay, so forgive me if I sound effusive.
 
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Jim, my comments about 'experts' a little tongue in cheek but... For me experts in Photoshop are people like Katrin Eisman, Bruce Fraser, Jeff Schewe, Dan Margulis, Deke McClelland and of course Thomas Knoll. I can only aspire to their levels of knowledge and expertise. I have been using PS for windows since it first became available and apart from being useful in my job has also become an abiding interest.

The Rioja was Faustino
 

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Absolutely brilliant, Tony, and as far as I am concerned, you are an expert!! :smile:

Thank you so much for your assistance!!
 
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