This Tutorial published at http://www.retouchpro.com

Restoring an old photograph.
Posted by: Cameraken on 12-31-1969.

"Every photo is different and the steps to a good restoration can vary from image to image. But there are some basic steps which tend to help in many cases. The tutorial introduces the method of adjusting the RGB levels separately. This method is used for ‘squeezing’ extra detail out of a damaged image. The tutorial was written using Photoshop7 but should translate easily to other versions. "

Restoring an old photograph.

Every photo is different and the steps to a good restoration can vary from image to image. But there are some basic steps which tend to help in many cases.

The tutorial introduces the method of adjusting the RGB levels separately. This method is used for ‘squeezing’ extra detail out of a damaged image.

The tutorial was written using Photoshop7 but should translate easily to other versions.

In this tutorial I am using an image from the Retouch Pro archives

http://www.retouchpro.com/archive/showphoto.php/photo/170/size/big/sort/1/cat/all  

So please download it now if you would like to follow along.

Here are the ‘Before and After’ to show where we are heading.


Evaluate

The image is very faded. Take a look at the histogram. Image > Histogram



All the data is compressed over at the right hand side and this is the reason why there are no blacks in the image

Zoom in close and take a good look at the image. Look for texture, dust, scratches, tears etc. This will give some idea of the work to be done.

We are not covering texture removal here and fortunately this photo has none but if it did then this should be removed first. There is a tutorial on texture removal here http://retouchpro.com/tutorials/?m=show&id=185

 

Adjust Levels

Duplicate the background (never work on the original)

Add a levels adjustment layer and the levels adjustment will open.

 

If you have not done it yet the maximum and minimum target values need to be set.

Double-click the Black eyedropper. The color Picker dialog will open. Set the RGB 12, 12, 12, and click OK



Double-click the white eyedropper. The color Picker dialog will open. Set the RGB 243, 243, 243, and click OK



This only needs to be done once. It will make sure that detail is kept in the lightest highlights and the darkest shadows

Now that the target values have been set we can now adjust the levels of the image.

We will correct the levels of the RGB channels separately. Arrange the workspace so that you can see the whole image and the levels adjustment.


In the channel box. Choose the Red channel. Hold down the ALT key and move the Shadows Slider to the right. There is a point where the image starts to show. Move the shadow slider to the point where the image is barely visible.

Now choose the Green channel and repeat the procedure. You will notice that in the green channel the Highlight slider also needs adjustment. Hold down the Alt key and move the highlight slider to the left until the image just starts to show.

Now the Blue channel. Adjust the Shadow and Highlight sliders in the same way.

.
These are the settings I chose.

Red     185  1.00  255

Green  153  1.00  248

Blue    110  1.00  231

Click OK to accept the Levels adjustments.

The image is looking a lot better. Here are the results so far.


The levels have been corrected and the Histogram now has most of the image data in the central area.


We could stop right here if we wanted to but we will go a little further.

 
Select All > Copy merged > Paste

This puts our corrected image onto a new layer.

Now let’s examine the channels.

Click the channels tab and take a look at the red, blue and green channels. In this image none of the channels look that bad but in other pictures the difference can be quite noticeable.

In this picture the red channel is the worst. The highlights are blown out (remember the levels adjustment where no adjustment was needed to the highlight slider)

The green channel is the cleanest. The jpeg artefacts are least noticeable

The blue channel has the most contrast but is not quite as clean as the green channel.

Let’s add a channel Mixer Layer. Go back to the layers pallet and add a channel Mixer Adjustment Layer.


I decided to use 75% of the Green channel. 10% of the Red and 15% of the Blue with Monochrome checked. This will remove the colour. Don’t worry we can put this back later. Click OK to accept the changes.


Marks and Blemishes

Zoom in close. You will see a lot marks on this picture. There are many ways to repair these. Some prefer to use the history brush but here is my preferred method

Select All > Copy merged > Paste

I renamed this layer ‘Dust and Scratches’

Filter > Noise > Dust and Scratches.

 
Slide the radius and the threshold sliders back to the left

Now move the radius slider to the right until the marks disappear (I got a radius of 4)

Now move the Threshold slider up to get the detail back without the marks (I got 12)

Click OK to accept the settings

 
Alt click ‘Add Layer Mask’. This adds a hide all black mask and hides the layer. Now just paint over the marks with a white brush on the layer mask.

Here is my mask. It doesn’t look too accurate does it? Well it does not matter. Any mistakes can be painted back with a black brush to correct.


Sharpen

So our picture is looking pretty good we have adjusted the levels, chosen the best channels and removed all the marks

So now is a good time to sharpen the image. While it is still in B&W we will only be sharpening the luminosity.

Select All > Copy merged > Paste

I renamed this layer ‘Sharpen’

Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask

On this image I used

Amount 51

Radius 1.7

Threshold 3


Putting the colour back

Because we started with a sepia image we can now put the colour back.

Duplicate the background image and drag this to the top of the stack. Change the blending mode to color. This will add the colour back from the original while keeping the repaired luminosity

 

Below are the layers for the repairs.


 
These are a few basic steps that should be useful for most pictures. Here is the finished Picture.


This Tutorial published at http://www.retouchpro.com