It Can Always Be Better

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ask The Retoucher #57 - Eliminating old photo bright and dark spots

Eric of Photo Grafix offers suggestions for two photo restorations by viewers. Look for great information about the Clone Stamp Tool, Adjustment Layers and Levels. Aired April 22, 2011. For more information about Photo Grafix and to participate in a live show, please visit us online or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

This first photo submitted by Dennis, has large rectangular areas of light and dark, probably caused by an exposed area on the film, before the picture was shot. Dennis did an impressive job, working on it with Gimp:
  1. Add a Transparent Layer and set it to Green Merge
  2. Then use the Gradient Tool, Eraser and Paint Brush tools to even out the colors.

Adjust the contrast:
  1. Levels/New Adjustment Layer
  2. Adjust each individual RGB layer, moving the sliders to the edge of the mountains
  3. In the Composite channel, moved the middle slider to adjust the contrast.

Work on the original photo.
  1. Grab rectangular marquee and select the darker portion of the photo.
  2. Transform the selection
  3. Choose Feather/Modify Feather, Resolution 6.
  4. Transform the selection.
  5. Choose Level/New Adjustment Layer
  6. Move Black triangle in toward the center until achieving the right contrast.
  7. Duplicate the background copy
  8. Merge adjustment Layer with the underlying layer
  9. Grab Healing brush and remove the line that was left in the photo between the dark and light sections.
  10. Grab the Dodge Tool, adjusted to 20% to adjust further
  11. For the final touch, choose Hue and Saturation and remove the saturation to get rid of any color tones and convert it to black and white.
Hint: The size of the photo is quite small. It would be good to scan it at 200% in order to retain the 300 dpi, while enlarging the height and width (dimensions).   

Look at this before and after restoration submitted by a Photo Restoration Basics student from the United Kingdom. He did a very nice job rebuilding this badly damaged photo (to his credit, he had been practicing long before becoming a student). There is some evidence of the clone stamp pattern; a suggestion might be to use the Paintbrush tool to smooth that out.

  1. Level/New Adjustment Layer, adjust the sliders to improve contrast.
  2. Use Paintbrush tool to remove the mottling in the arm, and other areas.

The third photo, also submitted by the same person, is an old photo with a coating that leaves blotches on the image.

  1. Use the Pen Tool and carefully select the blotchy area. Save path by double clicking.
  2. Choose Hue and Saturation/Desaturate to remove all the different color tints.
  3. Click the Path/Feather
  4. Layer/New Adjustment Layer and adjust the midtone slider to blend the photo tones.

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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