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Restore a major colour fade – (image)

An example of photo restoration

Major photo restoration of a colour fade. A lengthy process that can be challenging but most rewarding.

Major photo restoration of a colour fade. A lengthy process that can be challenging but most rewarding.

For more on hand colouring and see our photograph colouring tutorial

The above image created a few restoration challenges…

  1. Even the tones to allow the colour to “stick”
  2. Reduce the texture and grain from 1
  3. Adding a texture to the jacket which was a tweed.
  4. Colouring as per this photograph colouring tutorial

1. The tones were normalized with an “apply image” and some selective burning in using the dodge and burn tools and applied using a Wacom Pen and Tablet

2. The texture and grain was so random and lumpy i had to go through the image and selectively “spot out” the biggest and most distracting clumps to make it more uniform. The normalizing of the tones also revealed damage that was restore.

3. Texturing the jacket. This texture was simply borrowed. I found a photo of some tweed and used the texture to map onto the jacket shape. Dodging and burning added shape.

4. Colouring was performed in the usual fashion. See above. What was interesting is that it is usual to see that most coloured overlay layers are set to the blending mode “colour” but in this image the mode “colour” did nothing to bring out the image so others were used to give richness and depth, such as “colour burn” or “overlay” or “darken”

 

 

Memories are important as the photos themselves

During my chosen educational path, I chose photography. It was something i thought I was good at. My first camera was at around 14 or 15 when I bought a Minolta 35mm SLR. I took loads of images with this camera but it wasn’t until i started my BA in photography did I buy the camera i fell in love with. My photo retouching career was not even a consideration at this stage.

 

Mamiya C33 camera that took me everywhere

Mamiya C33 Medium Format camera that took me everywhere. A quirky camera with a bellows and quick change twin lens. Solidly built to break your back.

This camera was by no means light. It was a very heavy piece of kit. I carried with me my 35mm SLR too as i could not afford a light meter. I used its built in meter and transposed settings over to the “brick” as i nicknamed it. Along with a tripod and various other bits of kit my camera rucksack regularly weighed in at 23 Kilos! Especially if i packed a drink and lunch and cycle padlock and lights!

Its almost absurd to think that i’d carry that much weight everywhere i went. I’d carry it on my back whilst cycling the hills of Hampshire, walking the cliffs of Cornwall or just milling about in Newcastle. I almost never took the bus always train and cycle.

Back to the camera. It took the most wonderful pictures, square, crisp, silky images, which lead me down the path of landscapes and anything outdoors, i hated the studio. The best time for shooting with this camera was just after rain, the clean air, dramatic clouds and great lighting that followed led to some great shots.

One time whilst walking the cliffs in Cornwall the wind was so strong the waterfalls running of the cliff face were blown upwards never reaching the rocks below. Of course taking pictures in these conditions meant me being out nearest the sea, looking back at the cliffs on a small spur or rock. Here the wind was very strong and the weight of my rucksack hanging from the center of my tripod was not enough to keep it steady and take a crisp shot. Below are two that i could take without falling off my perch.

Cornish waterfall defying gravity

Cornish waterfall defying gravity

Its places that your camera takes you and the memories that come along with taking the pictures that should be preserved. The story behind the photo is as important as the photo itself. Photo restoration helps preserve the photos but it up to you to research and keep the stories behind those images safe, so they can be preserved and passed on to future generations.

Improving restoration techniques

Improving restoration techniques…

There are many styles of photo restoration and not all of them lend themselves to the best results.

Photo restoration is one of those very difficult techniques to get right.

Colouring photos is very tricky to master, its best avoid those colours that show garish hues and that are super saturated. Flat colours on skin and clothes can look very odd so its best avoid these too.

Care must be taken when replacing the background without due cause to do so. If the skills are there to repair the background then its best do so without needlessly replacing it with a quick fix. If the background has to be replaced then try to replace it with an exact, recreated one, with both matching grain and texture.

Smoothing everything over, rather than repairing the damage is also something to be avoided. Avoid airbrushing or simply bluring out the cracks. This makes the whole “restoration” look like a painted scene. It destroys much of the original detail and subtle tones that form the shapes within the photo. A process which turns facial features into a smeary mess of either painterly swirls or plastic flatness. Concentrate on using the patch tool or healing brush tool to repair and matain texture.

Anyone wishing to improve these techniques should take a look at the many tutorials out these on the web. If the photo restoration does not look natural or real and the photo looks restored then do some more research to improve. Everything I have learned I have read in books or gained through forum participation, retouching networks and articles or videos.

Make sure you watch the right videos and read the right articles and books. Don’t just read everything, check the author is well established and an expert in what they do. The same goes for videos, watch those put out by other well established artists. If you are unsure research their work first. Those that “wow” you by the standard of their work and comments and folio should be the ones to pay attention to. Don’t get into bad habits and do constantly learn new skills. The key to any restoration is taking it slow and avoid the temptation to cut corners.

I hope this has been helpful and should you need some help and tips please read the blog.

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