What is photo restoration?
Fortunately, it is now possible through the use of computers and software, to restore almost any photo at very reasonable prices. Instead of working directly on the damaged photo, a copy is made using a scanner. Once all repairs are made to the copy using computer software, a new print can be produced. The final digital photo file of the repaired photo can be saved as an archival copy and replaces the need for a negative.
Can anyone do photo restoration?
Anyone with a computer and the appropriate software should be able to make minor repairs to most old damaged family photos. Most people are able to adjust contrast, sharpness, color, and remove red eye.
Photoshop is the industry standard software, but many cheaper packages will also allow you to repair most of the dust and scratches found on a lot of old photos.
Many simple repairs can be done using a home computer and cheap or free software, but when it comes to severely damaged, or very special photos, it is best to seek the help of a professional. There are thousands of sites on the web that do this type of work for a fee. It is as simple as sending a good scan copy of the photo by email, and then having the finished restored photo sent back to you by email, ready for printing.
What type of photos do people want to restore?
Family photos are the main area of interest when it comes to photo restoration and there are an endless number of old photos in need of repair. Many people are interested in genealogy and spend a lot of time tracing their family tree, and as a result, end up with a number of very old photos in need of repair.
Why are there so many photos that require fixing?
Most of the photo papers and inks used up until recently have not been archival quality, and as a result, many photo prints show signs of fading and color shifts after only a few years. Poor storage practices such as keeping photos in attics or basements or allowing photos to be exposed to sunlight, have also contributed to the poor condition of most photo collections.
People don't realize there is a problem until they take a look at their photo collection after many years of storage. It is then that they notice that many photos now have an orange or red cast that obscures the colors, or black and white photos have turned yellow. Our precious photo collections are in fact fading away and in time many will be beyond recovery.
What are the benefits of restoring old photos?
It is a good idea to restore your entire photo collection in order to stop the unavoidable destruction that will take place no matter how carefully the photos are stored. Once restored, the photos can be copied to CD or DVD for long term storage and safe keeping. Once you have digital copies you need not worry about further damage because digital images do not change at all. Having digital copies will allow you to make a set of prints, and additional prints at any time in the future should disaster strike.
There are sentimental reasons for wanting to restore some special family photos. Restored photos make a great unique personal gift for family members. What better gift then to restore the only good childhood photo of your siblings all together, and then send each of them a restored copy at Christmas.
What should be preserved when restoring a photo?
The ideal situation is to repair damaged areas of a photo, remove dust, and adjust contrast and color without taking away from the original feel and look of the photo. Some restorers use too much smoothing to cover scratches and rips which can result in a final photo that looks more like a painting than a photo. It is better to take the time to repair the defects by hand (clone tool and healing tool) rather then take the easy way of using software to smooth away all defects. You want to repair the most obvious damage and most of the dust and scratches that only show up at high magnifications. Keep in mind that old photos have a certain amount of grain which should be reduced but not necessarily completely removed. It should still look like a photo when finished. A good restoration is one that can't be detected.
How do I learn how to do it myself?
There are many Photoshop and photo restoration tutorials to be found on the internet. Just try Googling the search term photo repair tips or There are many Photoshop and phothotoshop tutorials for starters.
For example, locate a tutorial that explains how to fix scratches and dust and select a photo that only needs minimal repairs in this area. Follow the tutorial and apply the learned techniques to your selected subject. Once you get the hang of it, select a more difficult photo to work on. Once you feel comfortable with this type of repair move on to a new challenge such as color cast removal.
Like many things in life, practice makes perfect.