Restoring old photographs

Lady with a drawer

I love the aesthetics of old photographs – especially the early ones where the photographer was using natural, uncertain light, and the subject is in their best formal clothes, holding a pose for an unnatural length of time.   I like twisting and reusing the images in my own work,  but a minor pleasure is ‘rediscovering’ the original image in an abandoned damaged old photo.  And by abandoned, I mean sold on Trademe or ebay for a few dollars.

One challenge of using all those wonderful Photoshop tools is balancing cleaning up with losing the original texture  – I’m want my result to still look old, with the character preserved, but with details of hair and clothing revealed.

This time I mainly used the healing spot and patch tools, cleaning up the dust and mildew marks, and various odd little scratches on a copy of the original layer (which I protected and kept at the bottom of the layer stack). I then created copies of the cleaned layer and blended them using overlay and multiply modes, trying different ones, fading the effect, until it looked right.  Finally, for a few bits I zoomed right in and gently used the dodge and burn tools with a very soft brush, and at very low density.

This example is perhaps 95% finished (as I’m not trying to make it look new), I’ll leave it for now, and see how it looks in a week or two.

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