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Archive for the ‘photo restoration’ Category

Restoring a water stained photo

Water stains on photo can be restored but some are far more tricky than others.

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I was recently contacted by Robert who had an old photo mounted on card. A long time ago it had received some water damage which had since gathered dirt. To compound the problem the surface of the photograph was textured with those horrendous “stipple bumps”. Up close it looks like someone has covered the photo with bubble wrap. This was a surface treatment originally designed to toughen the image for wear and tear. It did not appear to be affected by thumb prints so seemed the ideal Matt paper. Unfortunately it left a myriad of minute channels and troughs for dust and dirt to gather in over the years.

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Restoring a water stained photo

Restoring a water stained photo

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Tackling this image required the use of a variety of techniques from the restoration tool box.

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Firstly the image was treated with an FFT filer to remove the texture. (Fast Fourier Transform). “Fourier” is the surname of the person who invented the technique. He came up with a ways of deconstructing an image mathematically and with his calculations was able detect and then remove regular patterns or textures. If you own a digital image editing program you may find a plugin or process that uses this to remove textures.

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The image was then converted to a black and white. The uneven contrast was tackled next. Sections of the image were masked out and brightened and treated for tone and contrast to attempt to get a more evenly lit image. Ultimately the problematic sections were lightened or darkened with a soft brush, dodging or burning where needed.

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The mans shirt was almost completely remade due to texture loss when brightening. I painted in base white, added noise or grain to it and matched this to the underlying texture of the image with a little blur. The collar and folds on the shirt were shaded in with a soft brush. A similar process was used to recreate the curtain backdrop.

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Skin textures are always the hardest to get right. On the right hand side the girls skin and hair took the most time. Robert knew how he wanted the hair to look so we worked through a few edits to get this right, trying shiny hair and partings in various places. The skin also took some time to keep it even without losing too much facial form. Robert had paid a premium price to get the result you see and his girl friend on Valentine’s day was over the moon!

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Colouring an old photo with gradient maps

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Photoshop Tutorial: Colouring intricate parts of an old photo with gradient maps

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Colouring an old photo can take some time, its best to work with as many techniques as you can to get the job done. Many people use coloured layers to mask out an area and then paint in the colour. The best analogy i can think of,  is that it is like adding to colour with a piece of stained glass above the image. Switch on a light behind the glass and the image is flooded with colour. Paint out some of the stained glass with black and only some of the colour shines through, affecting certain parts of the image.

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Gradient maps still use the stained glass analogy s but when the light shines through it uses the dark and light tones as a tool to apply the gradient colour. You can use many colours in gradient map or just two.

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This example shows how this technique can be used to colour a tricky or fiddly part of an image.

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Restore or recreate the background don’t replace.

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When restoring a photo it’s often the background will be damaged. To keep the restore authentic, it’s best to restore the background rather than replace it. It would be very tempting to replace it as it would be the easy route.

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I appreciate some backgrounds may be a bit challenging, say of a back garden, littered with toys and be half missing so recreating them would be a nightmare. This suggestion is for the more simple backgrounds. The plainer ones or the less complicated. Postcard portraits have them, old board based photos have them, simple studio photos have them.

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I am not a fan of changing the background. It always looks out of place and unnatural especially if its done with filters created from clouds and then over smoothed without matching the grain or naturally occurring texture of the original photo.

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My proposal is to keep history as it was. Genealogists have nightmares about images that have been changed around. Eastern countries have a trend to cut out figures and have the replaced on clean or colourful backgrounds. This takes the image out of context and removes its place in time. Keeping the restore historically correct as much as possible. I cant lecture my customers on the importance of keeping the background as it but I can try.

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Its best to take the approach of repairing the scratches, and tears, correcting the fading and stains. When complete if it still looks a mess, its worth experimenting with the dust and scratches filter to even out the tones in the background. It may then take a bit of work to even out the textures with the patch and clone tools and create a complete background without actually replacing it. It may need some texture or grain matching at this final stage. The background should now be much more convincing than if it was simply filtered to produce some random, over smoothed clouds.

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