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Photo restoration equipment

So what do think you need to get by in photo restoration?

For ages I thought I had what I needed to do my job, I had a computer and a scanner that’s all you need right? Well that’s what I thought …


That was until images started getting bigger and the orders started getting more frequent.  What was my fix for this? Work smarter of course but the budget doesn’t allow me to spend any money on hardware, times are hard. I had to implement better work flow and have better organization, tune my techniques etc. When I couldn’t work any smarter I had to work faster. Sometimes working smart doesn’t help when you have more work to do! When I couldn’t work any faster I was held up by my equipment, such as waiting for images to open or filters to process, scans to run or applications to open and so the cycle goes round again.


My first sensible move was to a dual core processor and a good graphics card. This helped to increase the speed of opening and saving large files. But as cameras got bigger CCDs and higher resolutions, I had bigger files to deal with! The next step was to buy a tablet which i blogged about here. “photo restoration with a tablet and pen” Being from an art background this was the most significant move i could have made to speed up my work and add to the quality produced. However since then, images started getting even bigger and I’ve just had to upgrade again to an Intel i5 latest revision chip and an SSD disk and loads of ram. These SSD disks are solid state like a big memory card and don’t move, which means a saving on power and noise but the biggest difference is speed. Running on the latest cables and supper fast data transfer rates saving and opening large files for photo restoration is a breeze.


A new graphics card also topped off the cake so I ready for the world once more. Photoshop uses GPU or graphics acceleration to help process some processor hungry tasks especially the filters on larger images, so getting the right card will help. To keep up with the ever increasing file sizes for photo restoration this looks like something ill have to do more often.

Speed up photoshop with an SSD

Speed up photoshop with an SSD

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.

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