Frequently asked questions

What is photo restoration? and what do we do?

What is photo restoration?

Photo restoration is the process of making an old photo new again. Old photos suffer from cracking, tears and mould. They can fade and discolour and become mottled. Physical damage can cause a photo to look old and tattered such as pinholes or missing pieces. Water damage can cause the colours to run and stains ruin your photos. Photo restoration can remove all that damage and make an old photo new again.

How is photo restoration done?

The process normally starts with a digital image. This is normally a scan of the photo created on a flatbed scanner. The digital image is transferred to a computer. Once the digital image is on the computer it can be manipulated and retouched using an image editor such as Photoshop. This allows the image to be digitally repaired.

Where is photo restoration done?

Restoring photos can be done just about anywhere there is a computer. A very small space is required to perform a photo restoration. As restorations can take some time a power socket is useful to keep the computer powered up. It can be done at a desk at home or in an office or in a dedicated studio.

Why is photo restoration done?

Photos age and fall apart. When we have no images left of our past then our memories fade of these past events too. Restoring photos is vital if we want to preserve these memories for the future. It is not just our memories and photos that need to be saved. Historical photos, clubs, societies, organisations and businesses all have photos from the past. It is their history and memories and moments that photo restoration is there to save!

 

Photo Restoration – Questions related to our services

Can you add people to a photo?

Yes, provided that the picture grain can be matched with the camera angle, camera height, perspective and lighting from your donor photo(s). This is by no means a simple operation, however. Unless the donor photos are from the exact same set, on the same day, it is rare that perspectives and lighting can be matched perfectly from other images. No matter how much manipulation is performed, the resulting image will always look wrong.

Can you take people out of a photo?

Yes. In most cases this is possible. Less satisfactory results occur when there is not enough of the surrounding photo to fill in the gaps. For example, with a tightly cropped photo of six people at a wedding, if two people from either side are removed, there remains little or no parts of the background available to fill the empty space. A donor image showing more of the background from the same location can help in this kind of situation.

Can you colour a photo?

Yes. Image Restore is known for producing some of the best photo-realistic colourization work on the Web. The cost for this type of work varies depending on the amount of detail and complexity in the photo.

Check out our Colourize page for more details and examples of our work.

Can you restore my original print or negative?

Image Restore is a digital photo restoration agency, so we are only able to fix digital replicas of your original images. If your print or negative is in very bad shape, you may want to engage the services of a professional conservationist.

For more details, see my blog post on Conserving old photos using expert conservationists.

What is not possible?

There are rare occasions when a complete restoration is impossible or would be too time-consuming (and therefore costly) to undertake. Below is a list of a few things which fall into that category. Even if you think your photos are beyond repair, though, I still encourage you to submit them for a free appraisal. I regularly perform restoration miracles, so may still be able to help!

  • Re-focus a completely out-of-focus photo
    Although “image sharpening” tools do exist, there is unfortunately no such thing as a magic “re-focus” button to recreate detail in a completely out-of-focus image.
  • Fix a badly blurred photo
    Blurring can occur if either the camera or the subject moved when taking the photo. This was a common problem in the early days of photography when film and shutter speeds were slower. It may be possible to correct for minor degrees of motion blur. However, extreme examples you may have seen on the Web showing this type of fix are typically manufactured circumstances under ideal conditions. Such conditions rarely occur in the real world, making this type of issue extremely difficult or impossible to repair.
  • Replace someone’s head
    Hollywood special FX artists can do some pretty amazing things with the advanced tools and budgets at their disposal. However, replacing a person’s head in a photo such that the end result looks realistic is a near-impossible task. At the very least, this would require having another photo of that person’s head taken with the same angle, perspective, and lighting.
  • Create a high-quality restoration from a low-resolution image
    Low-resolution images have too few pixels for them to be sharpened, edited or otherwise manipulated to restore them effectively. If in doubt, email your photo and we can let you know what’s possible and what is not.
My photo is stuck to glass can you fix that?

Yes. I would be able to work from a scan of the image made through the glass. You can try this yourself to avoid posting glass. For help with scanning through glass read the photos stuck to glass blog post.

My photo is over-exposed or under-exposed. Can you fix it?

In many cases, photos that are under-exposed (too dark) or over-exposed (too light) can be fixed. However, in severe cases, there might not be enough detail or colour density to restore the image back to normal levels, making it difficult or impossible to achieve an acceptable result.

You can send us your photo for a FREE assessment to evaluate what’s possible.

Can you restore my actual photo I dont want a copy?

With reget, I know of no-one who can do this. They can be preserved by a conservationist. Check out the conservation register here and see if they can help you.

Can you open a person’s eyes in a photo?

Yes. The most convincing results can be achieved by using the same person’s eyes from another photo. Please get in touch and we can assess your image for you.

Ordering & Payment

How much will it cost?

You can try our price guide. Or to get a free, no obligation quote you can scan and email your photos. Read the scanning guide for instructions on scanning or you could drop off your photos to us by arrangement. If posting originals you should use Special Delivery. 

Do you offer discounts for bulk orders?

Yes, discounts are based on assessing the images for restoration and the work required. We offer 5% discount for 10 or more photos and 10% for 50 or over.

How long will it take?

Restoration of images from digital files normally takes less than 48 hours and your restored image(s) will be e-mailed to you as soon as payment is received. Print requests are processed at our professional photo processing lab partner facility then shipped back to us for quality control before being shipped to you. The time for a combination restoration and print order is typically 5-7 working days.

I need an urgent repair! Can you help?

For urgent requests, I offer a FastTrack service. For an additional £10 per file, I will bump your order to the front of the queue. FastTrack orders are typically processed within 12 working hours. Maximum of 2 images per order. Applies to digital file restorations only.

See our FastTrack Photo Repair page for more details.

How do I order?

Post your original image(s) by mail or upload a high-quality scan via the website, together with a description of the issue(s) you would like me to repair or restore. After careful examination of your image(s), you will be emailed a quote. Once you have accepted the quote, I will get to work.

Can I review my restored photo(s) before I pay?

Once your photo has been restored, an e-mail with a low-resolution watermarked “digital proof” will be sent for you to validate. If you are happy with the result, I will send you an invoice and payment instructions.

What if I'm not happy with the result?

I offer all my clients a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Should your restored photo(s) not match your expectations, I will work with you to fix any issues until you are 100% happy. In the rare event that I am not be able to meet your requirements, you will not be charged for the work. 

I do evaluate all requests before undertaking any work and reserve the right to refuse a project if I feel that I will be unable to achieve a satisfactory result.

In these cases, if you have provided me with original prints or negatives, all that I ask is that you cover the cost of returning your originals to you via Royal Mail Special Delivery.

Do you have a store near me?

Image Restore operates from a home office in Bordon, Hampshire. Image-restore is an exclusively online business. If you live or work in the Hampshire area and would like to visit us to hand-deliver your originals or collect a completed order, contact us to arrange a convenient time. All visits are by pre-arranged appointment only.

What payment options do you accept?

We accept secure online payments via PayPal, credit/debit card or by bank transfer. Unfortunately, payment by cheque is no longer possible and, for security reasons, I am unable to process credit card transactions over the phone.

Please note: Print orders will not be processed until payment has been received, so you should proceed to the payment of your invoice upon receipt to avoid any delays with your order.

Credit or debit card payments via PayPal

UK and international customers can pay using a credit or debit card via the PayPal secure payment platform.

PayPal is one of the world’s leading and most secure online payment platforms and is very simple to use. Just click the link in the invoice e-mail you received from us and follow the instructions provided (you do not need a PayPal account to pay).

Bank Transfer

If you bank online, you may wish to pay by bank transfer. Bank details are available on request. Please allow time for payment to clear. Your order will be processed once the transfer has been completed and funds cleared.

Do you accept orders from outside the UK?

I am happy to accept orders from around the world. However, due to the cost, risk, and potential delays associated with international postage services, I recommend that you do NOT send precious original prints by postal mail if you live outside of the UK. Instead, please obtain a high-resolution scan of your original photo and send the file to me by e-mail.

Consult our detailed scanning guide for instructions on how to scan your image properly for best results.

Can I send you a cheque or give you my credit card details over the phone?

Regrettably, due to changes in banking security rules, I can no longer accept cheques as payment for services and am not able to accept your credit card details by phone. Online payment platforms such as PayPal provide a far more reliable, convenient and secure solution for online payments.

Can you send me my restored photos on a DVD disc?

Yes, we can mail your digitally restored images to you on a DVD disc for an additional charge of £5.

Scanning

How do I scan my photos for restoration?

Scanning your originals is an important first step in the photo restoration process.

Refer to our 7-step guide to scanning to ensure best results.

How do I scan an image that is too big for my scanner?

You can read about how to do that in scanning large images for restoration. It is not difficult and can save you posting costs by emailing me the scans.

I am not sure how to scan, do you have a guide?

Sure. The best scan means the best results for your restore! See my scanning guide which should answer all of your questions. If you want to jump straight into scanning the try my 7-step guide to scanning 

What tools are needed for photo restoration?

The basics are A computer, Software, Tablet and a Scanner

Wacom Tablet

A computer is a great starting point. Restorations can be done with nothing more than a computer and a mouse. For more effective and proficient restorations a graphics tablet is a good idea. A graphics tablet is a digital pen and drawing surface. Pen movements are transposed to the computer screen instead of the mouse. If familiar with drawing techniques, this speeds up workflow and creates very realistic results.

A computer is a great starting point. Restorations can be done with nothing more than a computer and a mouse. For more effective and proficient restorations a graphics tablet is a good idea. A graphics tablet is a digital pen and drawing surface. Pen movements are transposed to the computer screen instead of the mouse. If familiar with drawing techniques, this speeds up workflow and creates very realistic results.

 

A flatbed scanner may be needed to scan an old photo and create a digital image. If you have physical photos and need to create digital copies to work on, a scanner is essential. You can expand the types of images you can scan by purchasing a more sophisticated scanner.  Some scanners come with negative adapters to scan negatives and slides. Epson makes some great scanners. 

Software – Photoshop image editing software is an industry-leading application when it comes to photo restoration. It is relative cheap on a monthly subscription.

For a full article on what hardware you may need for photo restoration check out this article on photo restoration equipment

How many photo restoration companies are there?

Thousands! Probably more. Anyone who can use an image editing software like Photoshop can add “photo restoration” to their list of services. Just searching “photo restoration business the United Kingdom” gives over 35 Million results in Google. How many of those results are real businesses is difficult to say. “Photo Restoration Services UK” brings up 3440 unique results.

 

Where are the photo restoration companies?

Photo restoration companies are all over the world. There are many companies in the Eastern part of the world that perform photo restorations and “clipping path” services. Clipping path is cutting out an image from the background. Normally for product listings on webshops. Photo restoration companies appear throughout the USA, UK, Africa, Iceland. Literally, in any country, you can use a computer!

Which photo restoration companies are the best?

This is a matter of opinion. You can make up your own mind about who offers the best results by checking out their sample pages or reading their reviews. Company reviews can be found on their Facebook pages, the company website and testimonial websites. Business listings such as their Google Business page can also host reviews by previous customers. Third-party testimonial sites like FreeIndex or Trustpilot are also great places to find company reviews. Another way to find reviews on photo restoration companies is to Google, “Photo Restoration Company Reviews”

Are there any courses I can watch on photo restoration?

Watching courses and follow along type tutorials is a good way to learn photoshop and photo restoration. You can find courses all over the web. A great set of photo restoration specific Tutorials can be found on Linkedin. LinkedIn is a professional networking website. To help the professionals learn there is a whole section dedicated to learning new skills. Once you are a member you can access the entire learning library! Here is a link to my 9 courses – Photo restoration courses on linkedin Other great resources can be found on Youtube or simply using Google to search “Photo restoration courses”

Where can I get old photos to restore?

A good place to start is with your own family’s photos. Try asking relatives or friends. Flea markets sometimes sell old photos. Thrift shops or charity shops are other possible sources. Trade markets can also be a place to obtain them. Auctions sites such as Ebay or Facebook marketplace or similar. It is up to you how much you pay or if you stick with free images from family and friends.

Where can I read about photo restoration?

Right here on the photo restoration blog. I have been writing blog posts for 16 years you can find hundreds of posts on all sorts of topics. Just check out the browse by topic at the top of this blog! If you want to go further afield there are some great books out there some of which I purchased and learned from myself.

How do I start a business in photo restoration?

There are a lot of things to consider when taking steps to set up your own photo restoration business. It is a very saturated market and making a name for yourself is hard work. If you are still set on the idea you can read a very detailed blog post right here on this blog on “how did you start in photo restoration

Are there different types or styles of photo restoration?

Photo Restoration artists create their own style. However, a general photo restoration style in the East of the world is to restore photos with bold colours and smoothed skin. It can almost look painterly. They often choose to replace background and cut out their subjects and even redo their clothing. In the UK the style is generally to restore as close to the original as possible.

Can a photo be coloured?

Colouring old photos has been done for decades. Artists across the globe have developed and use different techniques for doing so. It varies from adding layers of colour to painting colour straight onto the photo. Colouring with the use of gradient maps and even using AI to help with colouring. Artificial Intelligence is able to colour photos but only by following a colouring algorithm and it doesn’t always work. A full article on AI can be found here Colorize old photos with Artificial Intelligence 

Where can I see samples of photo restoration?

For a peek into what is possible and a variety of photo restoration, examples here are 17 amazing photo restoration samples You can find many examples on Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and many other social platforms that share images.

 When is photo restoration not possible?

Normally when a photo has so much damage there is not enough to restore. For example a face with no eyes or nose. No one can tell what that person looked like that face cannot be restored.

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