With digital photography, our photos are relatively safe compared to the printed photos that originated in the days of film. Our older printed photos are in a constant danger of fading, damage, or deterioration. Fortunately, digital photo restoration can breathe new life into these fading images,
I've spent some time this summer with some precious, but damaged, photos.
Digital photo restoration is an intricate and tedious process. I use Photoshop, Lightroom and even a little AI to complete these repairs. While AI has been making the news lately with what it can do, it is not a complete solution. Most photo repairs need several different types of tools to complete the job. Coverage of imperfections such as dust and scratches, color matching, texture matching and recreation of details that have been worn or torn away are all part of the process.
Assessing the Damage
Before starting the restoration, an assessment of the photograph's condition is needed. With this project, I was able to do so from photos taken of the photos. I could see that they were physically worn around the edges, had scratches, fold lines and was missing some of the bottom right. It also appeared that the photo had been rolled up at one point.
Some old photos become very brittle over time. Flattening them to scan them could cause further damage. In order to flatten safely, I had to reintroduce some humidity. It sounds a little ridiculous that a photo would need more humidity in the summer in the midwest, but slowing adding concentrated humidity allows the photo to relax and flatten.
Check out the time-lapse of this baby photo uncurling from the humidity created by a wet towel in a sealed container. This took about an hour.
Scanning the image
For photos that need a lot of digital work, I use a flatbed scanner. The photo is scanned at a high resolution in order to give me the most digital information to work with.
Restoring Details and Texture
One of the best things about digital restoration is the ability to restore lost details and textures in the photograph. I've been using Photoshop for a very long time, Replacing, removing and swapping out elements of a photo is nothing new to me. I actually enjoy the tedious detail work involved in this sort of editing work. It's definitely not for everyone. For this photo, I had to recreate portions of the shoes. I had to think back to my art classes in drawing and perspective to imagine how the shoes would have looked in the original.
Color Correction and Enhancement
We all know how to do some changes and adjustment to an image. Editing apps have made that so easy. Color correction can be a little more difficult for restoration jobs. It's not just about knowing the editing program, it's also knowing about photography and how the photo looked in the era that it was made. Or being able to recognize true skin tones, whites and blacks.
Archiving and Preservation:
Once the digital restoration is complete, it's crucial to preserve the restored photograph for future generations. Archiving the digital file in a high-quality format ensures its longevity. Additionally, creating prints on archival paper or transferring the restored image to other mediums like canvas or digital frames can offer physical copies that can be enjoyed and shared.
Who doesn't love a good before and after?
This is an extreme example of what I can do to help keep our family photos safe for the next generation. Most prints have some scratches and creases, maybe a few stains. Some photos have faded or have started to turn red or brown.
Please reach out to me when you are ready to tackle your photo organization or restoration project. I am happy to chat about all of the possibilities available for photos old and new.