It Can Always Be Better

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ask The Retoucher #55 - Shadow Details, Photo Restoration

Dark areas can have hidden detail

Scott asks: On magazines scans, I find the contrast is often really flat, even though the darks don’t have any detail. Is there a way to find more detail or is it gone forever?

Answer: The scan of a photo is actually a 3rd generation version: original photo made with a camera; then image is brought into a page layout program and sent to press; then the third generation is a scan of the original photo. Most likely there is no detail.  This is what you can do to figure out if you can retrieve detail in the shadow areas.

Channels (not in Photoshop Elements)
Open up the scan in Photoshop. Then, open the Channels Palette and if you don’t see detail in the composite channel, click on the Red, Green and Blue channels individually. If you do find detail in one or more of the individual channels, there are ways to retrieve that detail, called plate blending or channel mixing.  This is an advanced technique that we will take up in another show.

Photo Restoration Corrections

A customer requested some revisions on a project. These were minor, but important details that you might need consider with your own photo restorations. Many of the techniques are advanced. However, in the video I briefly mention some alternative methods with Photoshop Elements.

No. 1: Original restoration enhanced the eyes of the subject to give more detail. Customer requested that the corners of her eyes be lightened a little; that the left eye needs to be lightened; the area under the chin needs lightening; and that a line that runs from eye to left cheek should be eliminated; also the left hand is too dark.
  1. Duplicate the layer, naming it customer corrections.
  2. Use the History Brush Tool (Use Burn/Dodge tools for Photoshop Elements), making a new snapshot.  Soften edge of brush and brush it over adjust the corners of the eyes.
  3. Make a new snapshot and lighten fingers, using 30% opacity.
  4. Use the Healing Bush to eliminate the appearance of a line on the face.
  5. Make a new snapshot to work on the sleeve, which seems to blend into the background, using Burn and Dodge.

Latest revision on right
No. 2: Lighten tip of nose and eliminate light spot on the cheek.
  1. Duplicate layer, naming it customer correction
  2. Make a new shapshot
  3. Use Burn and Dodge at 10% and gently rub the nose
  4. Darken left eyebrow a little. Use Burn and Doge at 20% and adjust
  5. Use the Healing Brush to darken the light spot on cheek.

Latest revision on right
No. 3:  Tip of nose needs to be lightened a little. Lighten corners of her eyes. Darken background to make the hair stand out better.
  1. Make a New Layer for the darker background
  2. Use Paint Brush tool to apply covering over the whole picture.
  3. Apply the mask of the person to the background (Mask was created earlier).
  4. Use History Brush or Dodge Tool as appropriate.

Latest revision on right
No. 4:  Chin and right side of mouth need to be lightened.
  1. Background copy and a new Snapshot.
  2. Use History Brush or Dodge the highlights
The customer also mentioned that the eyebrows are too light. So I used a smaller history brush size to darken. To eliminate the glossy look in eyes, I applied a Curve to flatten the contrast, undo and paint that back in with the History Brush.

—Edited by Judy Bond for Photo Grafix University

Please send your questions and problem photos, your location—and genealogical society affiliation if appropriate—to Eric for future "Ask The Retoucher" columns. Visit Photo Grafix online for more information.

Eric runs Photo Grafix, a humble photo-retouching studio in Evanston, Illinois (USA), making photo illustrations and improving photos for hundreds of people and companies worldwide. If he doesn't know the answer, he won't rest until he finds it. Eric Basir is at your service: With each "Ask The Retoucher" article, he'll help you successfully tackle your digital photographic problems. 

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