Photos are valuable reminders of our past and help us to connect with our memories. They remind us of the wonderful times and relive the feelings, stories, places, people, etc. again. In olden times, people did not have the advantage of using memory cards to store pictures digitally, which is why photo restoration was next to impossible.

Back then, they used regular old film cameras to print out the pictures after developing the film rolls. Sadly, the life span of those pictures wasn’t very long. With time, the photographs used to wear out. It is because the quality of ink and photo paper used was not as good as today. Apart from that, there were other reasons that could damage the images such as fading of ink, tearing of edges, and appearance of creases, marks, stains, etc.

Image restoration tips and tricks

Tips for photo restoration

However, now you don’t have to worry about such issues after the advent of digital technology. It has brought in many tools that can help in eliminating the blurry pictures, edit and retouch images, and restore the old photos to bring back its original form.

In this article, we’ll get an overview of what photo restoration is, its process, how to carry out the process with photo editing software, and a few tips you must stick to during restoration.

What is Photo Restoration?

You might have noticed that the photographs taken a couple of decades ago do not look as good as before. Besides, as the day passes, they tend to degrade and fade. In addition to that, external factors such as tearing, ripping, stains, water, fire, etc. can also cause damage to the printed photographs. However, these effects can now be reversed or reduced with the help of photo restoration services.

These services mostly incorporate the use of photo restoration techniques, where digital restoration tools are employed to convert the photographs into digital images. Then, professional photo editors work on it to fix the damages and improve the overall quality and appeal.

Nowadays, apart from professional designers and image editors, photo restoration has also become accessible to the general public because of the development of consumer-grade scanners and various photo editing tools like Adobe Photoshop. We are also going to discuss this later in the article.

So, with the use of the scanner and software, even a layman can try restoring the photographs and bring back to its original form. However, this does not guarantee success. The whole process is a lot more complicated, therefore it requires years of training and practice for truly mastering it. It is one of the main reasons why people opt for companies offering high-quality old photo restoration services. Now, let’s have a look at the 10-step process to carry out photo restoration with perfection.

10-Step Photo Restoration Process to perfectly Repair Old Photos

For repairing the old and distorted images, we have listed down several steps that are usually followed and recommended by the experts in the industry.

  1. Scan the image

    Before you start with the process of digital restoration, you need to scan the original photo or film negative. For this, you need to have good scanning equipment at your disposal. A quick tip is to use flatbed scanners instead of sheetfed scanners since they offer much higher quality. So, while setting up the scanner, try to set the dot per inch (DPI) resolution to 400-600 for photo prints and several times the aforementioned resolution for film negatives. Precision should be 16-bits per channel and 48-bits in total color depth so that the digital file can withstand more retouching. In addition to this, you can save the scanned file in TIFF file format to maximize the preservation of details.

  2. Analyze the damage

    Once the image is scanned, open it in the desired photo editing software to analyze the damage and devise a plan. A good rule in photo editing is to cover the overall edits first before shifting your attention to the specific areas. So, go for the overall tonal adjustments or fix up the rips, dust, or creases before you adjust the tone and contrast of the whole image.

  3. Adjust the levels and curves

    The level and curve adjustment tools are often provided by most of the image editing software to set the levels and contrast within the image. Droppers might be also available, which can be used to perform a quick level adjustment and bring back the tone under control. The droppers are usually available in different colors to target specific points in the image. You will start noticing an immediate improvement in the overall appearance of the picture after using it.

  4. Go for the details

    Once you are done with the global adjustments, you can start focusing on the specific areas. Zoom in the image and try to address any slightly visible imperfection. There might be spots, tears, irregular stains, or marking in the old pictures. For removing it, you can use the Clone Stamp and Spot Healing Brush during the process of image restoration. Besides, mold damages and darkened stains can also be restored with it. The tool usually reads the surrounding pixels and uses it to cover up or repair the damages.

  5. Crop to get cleaner images

    In this case, you might have to isolate a particular individual or object through photo manipulation. Techniques such as cropping and selection can be really helpful and greatly enhance the looks by isolating an object or individual from the image. These images can later be retouched to create a simplistic view. For cropping out the unwanted edges from the scanned photo, you can also try using the Marquee tool.

  6. Enlarge small-sized images

    When it comes to restoring the passport-sized photographs, you first need to scan and scale them so that they appear large. It will ensure that pixelation is not an issue later. With the help of digital photo restoration, you can seamlessly retain the quality of the image while enlarging it to the desired size.

  7. Restore the faded images

    Fading is another phenomenon that tends to occur over time. However, it is also possible to fix it with the help of various image restoration techniques. Apart from time, sunlight and dampness are other factors that can lead to fading. In that case, you can use the tinting technique to eliminate it. However, this method is somewhat tricky. So, if there is any such requirement, it is better to choose a professional company offering appropriate tinting services to carry out the task.  Properly tinted snaps will reassure the rich look in an image.

  8. Repair damages caused by fire and water

    Ink marks, fire burns, and water-soaked images require utmost care while processing. Therefore, it is also advised to look for a professional photo restoration company for repairing it and assisting you with the task. Perfectly copied selections and careful manipulation will help to restore the damages to a greater extent.

  9. Fix up the torn images

    Images that are kept for decades in the glass frames can be susceptible to tears and scratches. For this, you need to pay special attention to revitalize it. These photos need to be stitched back to recreate the original picture. There will also be missing parts of the photograph, which will require further copying and editing. Therefore, you need to use the existing parts of the same picture to fill up the missing areas for giving it a clean and refurbished look.

  10. Final output is ready

    Once you have addressed every imperfection, you can finally admire the results and the time you have spent for carrying out the whole process. The final image will now be ready to use and will have the charm it had lost a while ago. So, don’t be afraid to try it, and you will see that with a bit of practice, you can easily achieve the desired results you want.

Now that you know the varied steps involved in photo restoration, you may want to try it out on your projects. However, to carry out the process, the first and most important thing you need to have been an image editing tool. Since we’ve already mentioned Photoshop as one of the best photo editing tools, you can use it to restore old photos to their past glory. We have covered the steps below that you should follow for efficient photo restoration in Photoshop.

How to Restore Old Pictures in Photoshop?

Retouching old photos in Photoshop is an art as well as a science, which you must master to generate high-quality outcomes. Here are the steps that you should follow to restore old photos in Photoshop:

  1. Transform the old photo into its digitized version.

    Get the photo scanned in order to create its digital version. This can be done in three ways. First, you may use a common photo scanner. Second, you may use a digital camera to click a shot. Third, you may consider using a scanner app of your smartphone. You should make sure that you generate a high-quality click that can you can work on easily.

  2. Open the file in Photoshop.

    Start by opening the digital version in Photoshop. Next, generate another image copy while retaining the original copy. Here are the steps to duplicate an image using Photoshop:

    • Go to the Layers panel and choose a layer.
    • Pull the layer to the ‘Create a New Layer’ option.
    • You may also select the ‘Duplicate Layer’ option on the Layers menu.
    • Name your layer and then select ‘OK’ when you select the ‘Duplicate Layer’ option.

    You will find the eye icon to the left portion of the original layer. Click on that icon. When you select this icon, the layer will not show up in the panel.

  3. Carry out Image Cropping, Straightening, and Rotating

    It is a good idea to ensure that the image that you would be working on is clean and appropriately oriented. If you find any white space, you may choose to crop it off.

    • Select the Crop icon that you can find in Photoshop’s workspace.
    • Create a new cropping portion or pull the crop box edges to the intended positions.
    • You can crop the image by pressing Enter if you are using Windows or select ‘Return’ if you are using Mc OS.
    • If you need to print an old image, you may keep the aspect ratios proportional by using the Crop menu.
    Steps to straighten a twisted image:
    • Select the Straighten icon after clicking on the Crop menu.
    • Pull a line along a vertical/horizontal element in the image.
    • Release the mouse allowing Photoshop to perform image rotation and cropping of uneven borders.
    • Click on Enter when you feel everything is okay. When you activate the Delete Cropped Pixels checkbox, the excess image portion will get eliminated.
    Rotating your image:

    You can rotate an image using Photoshop’s Image Rotation setting or the Edit menu’s Transform function.

    Steps to rotate an image using the Image Rotation option:

    • Go to the Taskbar and click on Image.
    • Click on ‘Image Rotation’.
    • Select your desired rotation.

    Steps for image rotation directly from the Edit menu:

    • Select an image by clicking.
    • Go to the Edit menu, then select Transform.
    • Choose desired rotation.
  4. Review to look for potential areas of correction.

    Look through the image carefully to find out if you need to make corrections or adjustments. The present status of your image will determine if you can implement desired changes.

  5. Make appropriate modifications to the image

    You can do this in two ways. One, by modifying the image’s color and two, by rectifying its damaged areas.

    Here’s how you can remove color casts:

    • Highlight the duplicated layer and then click on the adjustment layers icon.
    • Select Levels from the adjustment layer menu.
    • To modify your photo’s RGB levels, select the dedicated tab. You will see the RGB menu.
    • Check the color options, then pull the white and black sliders to the upward line of the histogram.
    • When you complete modifying the RGB levels, select the Layers panel for exit.
    • Highlight the duplicate the adjustment layers, then right click on the portion and select Merge Layers to join the two layers.
    Fixing the damaged spots

    You can fix unwanted spots, scratches, and marks using the Spot Healing Brush, the Clone Stamp, and the Patch Tool.

    How to use the Spot Healing Brush:
    • Select the Spot Healing Brush tool in the toolbox.
    • Select your preferred brush size from the options menu.
    • Make a selection from the Create Texture, Proximity Match, or Content-Aware Type options.
    • Select or exclude the Sample All Layers option if you wish to select data from all layers or a single active layer.
    • Select the spot that should be fixed, or use the click-and-drag feature of a larger portion.
    Steps to use the Patch Tool:
    • Click on the Patch Tool.
    • Select the sample section by dragging and clicking on the Destination option.
    • Adjust the selected portion by using the Shift-drag, Alt-drag/Option-drag combinations.
    • Select Transparent when you have to extract a transparent texture from the selected portion, or place the sample portion over the target portion by deselecting it.
    • Work on the Diffusion slider to modify it.
    • Put the pointer within the selected portion, then pull it into the sampled portion.
    Steps to use the Clone Stamp:
    • Go to the toolbox and select the Clone Stamp icon.
    • Select an appropriate brush size. Access the options bar to fix the brush’s flow, blending mode, and opacity.
    • Use the Sample options to promote pixel alignment and layer sampling.
    • Apply Alt+Click on a clean portion that needs to be cloned.
    • Pull the cursor over the damaged portion to get it painted with the cloned pixels from your sampling section.
  6. Decrease noise by applying a filter.

    • Select Filter from the taskbar.
    • Click on the ‘Convert to Smart Filters option’.
    • Return to the Filter tab, select Noise and then click on Dust & Scratches.
    • Use the pop-up window and then increase the Radius pixels and Threshold levels in small amounts gradually.
    • Then select OK.
    • Return to Filter, select Noise, and then click on Reduce Noise.
    • Modify the settings in the pop-up window while focusing on the Preview box to keep track of the impact of every modification.
  7. Save the restored image.

    When you feel satisfied with the result, eliminate the original layer. Next, follow the following steps to save the new image.

    • Go to the taskbar, then select File, and then click on Save As.
    • Select your desired image format from the Format menu.
    • Denote the location and filename.
    • Choose your desired saving option from the Save As option.
    • Select the Save button to store the new photo.

Another thing to keep in mind is to keep saving the changes made at every step. You will find some images that may heavily resist restoration. The best thing to do in that case is to protect and restore whatever you can. Next, let’s move on to the best photo restoration tips.

3 Main Photo Restoration Tips to restore old photos

  1. Follow a plan that is consistent

    Before starting to work, decide how you want your image to ultimately appear. Frame a structured plan according to that and you will surely get the desired outputs. Normally professionals scan the photo, create a Photoshop file and lock the repair that may change. Cleaning is the next step in which all issues such as blemishes, marks, lint, dust and debris are removed. It is followed by the repairing phase where fixing the bent corners, covering scratches, hiding holes, repairing tears and similar issues are dealt with.

  2. Clone stamp must be optimally used

    Most of the old photos that reach a professional company offering image restoration services are damaged and blemished. Mastering clone stamp tool eases your process of restoring them. Great outputs can be obtained in a really shorter time period if you can use this tool effectively. You may find it hard to spot the issues in a scanned image in its actual size. So, have a magnified view for it and then the problems appear clearly to you. While using clone stamp vary the brush size so as to exactly cover the area that you want to operate on. Assure that you correctly use the matching colour, texture and tone of the source area that you would like for your target area.

  3. Make the best use of Masks

    If you are planning to make some adjustment to the whole photo, it can be perfectly done without any hitches. However, if adjustments are to be made only for a selected portion, other parts of the image need to be masked and blocked from the changes that you intend to make. Mask tool is the best option for you to make this happen with faultlessness. This is really a powerful feature that can help you immensely when it comes to digital photo restoration. Most of the professional companies testify the same.

Finally, we need to say that careful judgment and decision is a critical aspect of the photo restoration method. So, before you start with the process, make sure to know what you are hoping to accomplish with it.

Know whether maintaining the original form of the image is even important or not. Also, figure out the different aspects that need improvisation to the maximum. The answers to the above questions are really important if you want to get the results as per your expectations.

For example, if you are doing it just for fun or practice, then it better not to tamper with the client’s image or any photo that is valuable to you. However, if it is really important, then you can outsource the images to a reputed photo repair service provider in the industry. It will take some time and patience to research and choose a particular company for the job. However, the results will be worth the time and money spent.

You can also reach us, WinBizSolutionsIndia, for any assistance you need with image restoration. We are a professional company indulged zealously in old photo restoration and retouching services. Besides, staying in touch with our blog will also keep you updated with all the latest happenings in the industry.
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