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Photo restoration

Posted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 7:39 pm
by Robsmom
I am collecting very old photos of my family, taken before 1940 and as far back as 1880's. I am using PSP for corrections. Is there something better? Some have a lot of scratches, tears and severe fading as well as stains. Some I can repair ok but some end up worse than what I startd with! Thanks for help, robsmom :)

Posted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:20 pm
by HaraldHeim
There is a plugin for more or less automatically removing scratches and such things from photos (see . But I don't think it does a better job than removing these things manually. It just saves time.

Other than that I guess you can try to improve your skill in this direction. If one image doesn't turn out as it should, try again maybe with other techniques.

Posted: Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:49 pm
by plugsnpixels
See examples of Retoucher here. Akvis also makes Stamp.

Alien Skin's Image Doctor works in a similar manner.

Polaroid made a free Dust & Scratch Removal plug-in (at least for Mac). I don't have samples posted yet, but it was great for removing black or white dust. It's no longer offered, but someone can send it to you if you wish.

Re: Photo restoration

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 6:00 pm
by RonBoyd
Robsmom wrote:I am collecting very old photos of my family, taken before 1940 and as far back as 1880's. I am using PSP for corrections. Is there something better?

I understand your situation. I used PSP for something like ten years and was happy as a "pig in the sun"... until I went on a campaign of restoring old photographs. (I have now restored over 10,000) The insurmountable problems that I found with PSP were the lack of 16 bit support, the inability to work in L*A*B, and not supporting color management. This may not seem important to you right now because you are probably thinking that all (or most) of your photographs are black and white and color issues are not important. Ah contraire. You will quickly find that you need separate access to each of the color channels (another weakness of PSP) to restore faded or damaged images. L*A*B*, for example, isolates the colors from the edges much more easily (and accurately) than can be done in RGB. 16 bit is important because you normally start off with much less information (faded images) than you would like and need that extra (twice as much) margin for error -- this is particularly true of old film (negatives, for instance).

In any event, I bit the bullet and switched to Photoshop (version 6, at the time) and have never looked back. I know what you are thinking: "Yikes! That's a lot of money." Well yeah, it is. So you have to decide: 1. How valuable is your time; 2. How many old photographs are you going to restore; 3. How important is quality in the final image. Then amortize the cost and do what you have to do. (Keep in mind that Photoshop [arguably] does a much better job on your modern images also.)

I should also point out that Photoshop has a pretty steep learning curve. However, it is not quite (but almost <chuckle>) as difficult to learn as you would expect and there are a gagillion forums, books, and websites to help you.


Photo Restoration, Rob's Mom

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 7:45 pm
by WandaLea2003
Dear Rob's Mom,

Ron is right. I switched from Paintshop to Photoshop a few years ago, as Photoshop is a professional application so the quality of your finished image is far beyond comparison to that from Psp. I have Photoshop CS2 now, and it is great. I highly recommend it. I specialize in photo restorations and customized photos. If you find you still have photos you cannot fix yourself I would be glad to work with you. You'll find me at:

Posted: Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:25 pm
by DeborahD
Hi Robsmom,

I too would highly recommend that you invest in Photoshop for your restoration and retouching requirements. Additionally, I think you should purchase Katrin Eismann's excellent book "Photoshop Restoration and Retouching" which you can preview at:

Take a short course in Photshop basics at a community college or nightschool to get you started.

These are invaluable tools for saving our precious visual memories

Good luck and have fun.


Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 12:39 am
by HaraldHeim
Hey, there are a lot Photoshop fans here! Basically I agree with you that Photoshop is worth every penny and that there is no serious alternative to it for professionals. But some people only edit few photos and don't need the special features of Photoshop, they can certainly become happy with other applications.

Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:08 am
by SteveBradford
I know it’s heresy, but here’s my advice to Robsmom: before you decide to invest £400+ and most of your spare time for the foreseeable future, to join the Photoshop CS2 elite, consider what you really want out of it. If you already have PSP8 or later, it probably has capabilities way beyond your current abilities and aspirations. Learn to use it properly and I would be very surprised if you do not find it more than adequate for your needs.

I restore old photographs (mostly black and white) on a professional basis. I have Photoshop CS2 v9 on one machine, and Coral/PSP X, PSP 9 and PSP 8 on another one. I also have lots of plugins and other graphics apps on both.

But here’s the kicker: despite having all these options, I find myself using PSP8 for much of my restoration work. Don’t get me wrong, I use Photoshop CS2 a lot, and it’s an amazing piece of kit with a staggering wealth of features – but, for straightforward retouching, PSP8 gets the job done quicker, and often better. I recently had to remove a tricky overstamp and security embossing off a WW2 photo identity document and decided this was definitely a job for Photoshop. After forty-five minutes it was looking worse than when I started. I decided to have another try in PSP8, and was printing out a flawless retouch in less than twenty minutes. The customer was overjoyed with the quality of the result.

The key is to forget all the clever bells and whistles – I can spot a scratch removed with the Scratch Tool from a mile off. The same goes for all but the finest ‘despeckling’ – you just end up with an over-all reduction in definition. For most retouching, get to grips with all of the PSP Clone Brush adjustments – and try to take, and place, individual samples rather than ‘moving’ ones – again, you can spot that a mile off. One of my specialities is the removal of the ‘embarrassing ex’ from old wedding photographs and, for this sort of intense sampling, the versatility of the PSP8 clone brush often makes Photoshop’s Rubberstamp look positively cumbersome.

Make your scans in colour at about 600 dpi, even for black and white prints, and have a good look at the result at high magnification before you decide whether to just work on the colour scan. Have a look at the individual split channels and consider if you might get better results that way – in PSP8 you can split to RGB, HSL and CMYK. Mostly, you will find that a simple split to RGB is sufficient for most situations. Here’s a cracking tip from Deke McClelland, of Photoshop Bible fame – much of the junk is usually in the blue layer; concentrate on that first – or ditch it altogether and just work on the red and green, or even just one of them. Once you’ve got a good ‘last but one’ image, start thinking if you can improve the final output with some plugin effect such as sepia toning etc.

Once you’ve mastered the straightforward tools, there’s still a shed load of effects to master in PSP before you consider if you need to move on to the truly professional tool that Photoshop is.

If you have an older version of PSP, a genuine PSP8 can be usually be found for less than £10 on ebay - and I have to stress, probably because of it’s straightforward usefulness, I still find myself using PSP8 more than the later versions.

Well that’s enough heresy from me for one post – I guess we will all have to agree to differ on the pros and cons of our favourite applications; but perhaps we shouldn’t get carried away with advising someone to ditch what they already have, without giving it a fair go first.

I’m going to take cover now…

Best regards,


Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:23 am
by RonBoyd
HaraldHeim wrote:... they can certainly become happy with other applications.

Not if they are asking the question: "Is there something better?" Asking that will eventually get one to Photoshop... and even then... I was merely nudging Robsmom along the way to her answer.

Now, having said that. I have to wholeheartedly agree with you. Photoshop is not for everyone by any stretch of the imagination. (Truth be told, it is really only the right program for a small number of those working with photographs). I am happy for those that can, for instance, find acceptable a photograph developed by the camera as seen on a monitor; or, for that matter, what Wal Mart can deliver. (I, actually, wish I were in that classification but alas my life is fated to be continually stressed out trying to find the "perfect" image within each shot -- or, like Robsmom, while restoring a hundred and fifty year old image.)

(Let's not forget that I was very happy with Paint Shop Pro for many years.)


Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:36 am
by WandaLea2003
I'm sure one could be satisfied with many photo applications, but if they get into SERIOUS restorations there is nothing out there that can beat Photoshop, not even Macromedia's Fireworks, though it is very close. I surely wouldn't call Photoshop's clone application a 'rubber stamp'. Paintshop is great for the amateur graphics buff. I started out with it and still use it at times, but Photoshop is the application I use for restorations.

Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:39 pm
by scw1217
I will not get into the Photoshop - Paint Shop debate other than to say I have always used Photoshop for photo restorations. However, as to doing the restorations, I would caution against using any "quick fixes" that purport to remove dust and scratches in one easy sweep.

When I got into photo restorations, I first visited a professional organization that did such and watched their methods and asked questions. So what I have always done is what I saw them do, and being as they were paid (and handsomely I might add) for restorations, it seemed to me the way to go.

First of all, when I scan in the photo or slide, I try to get the best quality scan I can. The more detail you have to start with the easier problems are to fix. Secondly, be prepared to take your time! Never, never try to rush. A good photo restoration only comes when you slow down and pay attention to what needs to be done.

That said, I primarily use a combination of Photoshop's Clone tool and the Healing brush. When you are cloning, esp. when its a large area or a long scratch, pay attention to the direction of what you are copying. For instance, if it is a background window frame, then follow the vertical direction of the frame. Use the proper sized brush and alternate your source clone frequently to avoid obvious cloning errors. I find cloning easier on black & white photos. So if you are doing a color image, you must also pay attention to the shade of what your "source" is.

Also, zoom way in. Never try to clone from "full screen" because you cannot possibly see all the detail there is to fix. By zooming in you can fix details impossible to spot when zoomed out and you will see dust spots, etc. that you did not know were there. It WILL make a difference if you fix them. You will also avoid using brushes that are too large and cloning over detail you should have saved. I should point out also, that I never use 100% opacity either. I will change the opacity depending on what I am trying to clone. I find the cloning blends in much better when you use less opacity.

Photoshop's healing brush is great for smoothing over dust spots and blending in your cloning, esp. when it involves areas of color. I could NOT have gotten good restorations without it. And here's a hint I picked up from the pros. They often didn't use cloning at all but painted instead. They would do this on a layer and then add film grain adjusting it to match the original photograph. That knowledge has often been invaluable to me. This will obviously not work on facial images or fine detail but is great for large background areas.

All of that said, the best place to ask questions about how to fix photos is at There are obviously way more things to do or not to do than I can possibly put in this one post, but these are the basis of how to properly get started.

photo restoration

Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 5:05 pm
by e_dee
To Robsmom:
I have Pspro 7,9,X ,Corel Photo Paint and Adobe Elements and many plugins. I have many very old photos and mostly use Adobe Elements for restoring them. Many need a lot of work due to fading, scratching and dirt and Elements handles it all. The cost of Elements is very reasonable.

Posted: Sun Oct 01, 2006 7:48 pm
by SteveBradford
Just to clarify a couple of points raised above:

scw1217: ‘First of all, when I scan in the photo or slide, I try to get the best quality scan I can. The more detail you have to start with the easier problems are to fix.’

Obviously, this is sound practice but: the most common original source in photo restoration is from a print, and scanning a typical print beyond 600dpi is mostly a waste of resources simply because of the limited grain size of the original print emulsion. At 1200 or 2400 you don’t get anything more, other than a huge digital file size. Scanning a negative or transparency at high resolution is another matter altogether because of the much finer grain size. This website (and many others) explain the subject well:

WandaLea2003: ‘I surely wouldn't call Photoshop's clone application a 'rubber stamp.'

Me and Photoshop go back a long way and ‘Rubber Stamp’ is what Adobe always called their clone tool. I guess Deke McClelland’s constant criticism of what a daft name this was for such a powerful tool finally went home and Adobe has, for once, followed everyone else and settled on ‘Clone Stamp’ in CS2.
Its icon always was, and still is, a Rubber Stamp.

Regards, Steve :wink:

Posted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 5:13 am
by WandaLea2003
Dear Rob's Mom,

I was just reading some of the replys to your question, and there's some great answers on there. I'm sure you've already been helped by some of them. Regardless of whatever product you choose to go with practice is the most important part of photo restorations. Read lots of tutorials. There are a lot of them on the web, and keep practicing.

I just want to say, "Good luck to you, and God bless!"

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 3:56 pm
by Robsmom
I have not been able to check back on my question for a few days as I had to rush Hubby off to the hospital with breathing problems....the 3rd time in 6 weeks. Anyway, now he is home again and hoping he will stay for longer this time.
Found the answers here so interesting, so much information, so many tips, I am printing them out so I can study them carefully. I have checked out some of the links already. I have PSP 8,9 and X so am not thinking too much about getting PS at this time. I did fool around with one photo I am having problems with in X, which I use most, in 8 and did have better results on that one. I doubt I can ever learn all that PSP can do, it seems to have limitless possibilities!
I also have Picassa and am thinking of deleting that one. Looked at and wondering if I would really get more from that than PSP..
Right now, I am going to explore PSP more, look for some sites offering photo mani[ulation tips in PSP. Find out what cmyk and the rgb, whatever , means... channels? yes, I am pretty green in this stuff.
Thank you all for your information, I have lots of time, so I am going to see what I can learn from you... Thanks again, Robsmom :)

Posted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 4:08 pm
by Robsmom
I have now read the scan tips. Most of the photos I have were scanned by some one else and sent to me by e mail. The photos I have are just prints from the corner drug store processing, or some my mother took with her old Kodak Brownie she developed herself. The negatives are no longer to be found. Hugs from Robsmom

retouching old pictures?

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 6:51 pm
by jackie4
I have psp 8.10 and it took me a while to redo pictures with scratches, it takes alot of practice and I found tutors to help me. You might like to find them and see if it helps you any.