Restoring an old portrait

A friend asked me if I could restore a photo of his youthful self, in which the black and white had become a tinted yellow/green and the emulsion had spotted, perhaps with moisture. He wanted to use the photo as an incentive for exercise.img003

Not having attempted anything similar before, but knowing that there would be similar photos in my own family archive, the photo presented an opportunity to study the restoration technique and try it out for a good cause.

YouTube has become my go-to resource for finding out about Photoshop techniques; there are many people who generously share their knowledge, sometimes as a draw to their paid subscriber services. Already with a good foundation in Photoshop, I’ve never felt the need for a paid subscription and can invariably find the information I need through unpaid videos; good new for me, but a perennial issue for content makers aim to make money online when so much material is shared for free. The best video I found for restoring photos is the Phlearn one, referenced below.

My approach in brief:

  1. Scanned the image (Epson V370 photo) at a resolution of 720 dpi – the scanner is capable of much higher resolutions, but given the poor quality of the photo there seem to be little point. The image was saved as an uncompressed TIFF.
  2. Imported the scan into my Lightroom library for cataloging purposes and onward processing in Photoshop.
  3. Used a Huion tablet for work in Photoshop (poor man’s Wacom) – I found responsiveness issues when working on my MacBook Pro (having moved my photo studio from my iMac), which I need to investigate further.
  4. Order of working with Photoshop tools:
    • Spot healing brush – to automatically take care of small areas of blemishes (used extensively to remove the spotting).
    • Healing brush – used for larger areas when I need to sample from specific areas (mostly on the face and legs).
    • Brush tool – used in a few areas where there was limited / no pixel information (sampled tones from elsewhere and brushed on).
    • Black and white layer mask – to remove the colour cast from the scan.
    • Levels adjustment – to fix the tonal range in the photo.

Here is the retouched photo – not perfect, but good for a first attempt and given the technical problems I was having with my MacBook lag. The image printed well at A4 size.



Youtube. Phlearn.  How to Repair an Old Torn Photo in Photoshop. Available from: [accessed 21.9.16]

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