Tag Archives | photo restoration

Photo Restoration for Old or Damaged Photos

Do you have any old family photos from the days before digital cameras (yeah, remember those days?)?

Maybe they’re really old photos from your granny or great-granny’s time and have suffered through the passage of time to look a bit battered and worn now.

How frustrating it is not to be able to create great scrapbooking memories from them just because the quality is so poor.

So I thought we might look at some ways in with you can use your computer and photo editing software to try and fix up these photos and give them a new lease of life.

Damage around the edge of your photos

Many of our really old photos have had a hard life. And it often shows in the dog-eared edges that they have developed over the years.

If the damage around the edges of your photos doesn’t extend too far into the photo, and if the background in this area is not important to the context of your photo, then the easiest way to deal with this is to crop the daggy edges off.

Now before we go any further I need to stress that you should not physically crop your old photos. It is the digital versions that I’m talking about. The digital image you have created after scanning your photo (using some of the tips in 6 Top Tips to Photo Restoration with Your Scanner).

The instructions in this article are based on Photoshop Elements but all good photo editing software programs will have similar tools and functions

  • Load your scanned photo into your photo editing software
  • Select the Crop Tool from your tool bar and drag the mouse across the part of the image that you want to retain in your restored photo.
  • Release the mouse button and click on the accept check mark to crop your photo.

Dark and Gloomy

Often your old photos will actually grow darker with age as the black ink on your black and white prints starts to ‘take over’.

It’s important to try to fix as much of this as you can at the scanning stage as described in my earlier article on  using your scanner to help with photo restoration.

By adjusting the lighting with your scanner you can capture much more detail and you will be able to further improve on this using your photo editing software. If you don’t make this adjustment at the scanning stage then this detail will be lost and no matter what else you do, you won’t be able to get it back.

Once you’ve scanned in your photo, play around with the lighting, shadows and highlights functions and also with the brightness and contrast as I described in More Tips for Photo Restoration.

Here’s how to lighten up those dark and gloomy looking photos:

Continue Reading →

More Tips for Photo Restoration

If you’re anything like me you’ll remember all the occasions where you found yourself with the definitive photo of that special occasion. But the photo was not really of the best quality.

Perhaps it was under or over exposed, maybe it was a bit too fuzzy.

Well in this article we’ll look at how you can improve that photo so that it can take pride of place in your scrapbook layout.

To apply these tips you will need a good photo editing software program. I use Photoshop Elements but there are many others around that you can use, and they generally have similar functions although they may call the tools by slightly different names.

Once you’ve scanned the photo into your computer, open it up in your photo editing software program.

The first thing I always do is make a duplicate of the photo and work on the duplicate. It just saves having to repeat the scan if your restoration goes pear shaped and you have to start again.

Adjusting the lighting

And my second step is always to adjust the lighting.

In Photoshop Elements this function is found by clicking on the top menu bar Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Levels… This will open a dialog box featuring a black histogram (or black mountain as I like to call it).




All you need to do is to grab the black triangle underneath the mountain and move it to the right so it sits at the beginning of the mountain slope and then do the same for the white triangle, moving it to the left. In this example the white triangle would not need to be moved.

This will optimise the lighting range or exposure for your photo and will make a big difference. You can further tweak this by moving the grey triangle in the middle until you get a result you are happy with.

If your photo still looks too dark or too light, you can go into Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Shadows and Highlights which will often give your photo a ‘lighting lift’. And you can adjust the brightnes and contrast in Enhance>Adjust Lighting>Brightness And Contrast.

I use all these functions on a regular basis as I am not a good photographer and they help to compensate for my photography skills. So they’re not just for older photos.

But the secret is always Less is More. Make all your adjustments very gradually. And it’s always a good idea to keep going back to your original photo to comare how you’re going. In fact I usually make each change on a duplicate layer so I can easily compare and make sure that I am using this power for good and not evil.

Removing dust and scratches

If your photo has some really significant blemishes, this is not the technique to use. We will look at fixing those sort of problems in the third article on photo restoration (stay tuned folks).

But if your photo just has some light scratches or some small specks of dust, these can easily be removed by using the Dust and Scratches Filter found under Filter>Noise>Dust&Scratches in Photoshop Elements.

Now you should be aware that this filter works by blurring your photo slightly which disguises any light scratches or dust specks by bluring them into their surrounds. So you don’t want to apply this with a heavy hand or you will end up with a dust free blurry photo.

To get the best out of this filter you might like to try this: Continue Reading →

6 Top Tips for Photo Restoration with your Scanner

Many of us have old photos that have been handed down through the family.

And let’s face it, most of them haven’t stood the test of time all that well and often they weren’t that good a quality to begin with.

Well there are many things you can do to improve that situation using your computer and some good photo editing software. And I’ll be talking about that in a follow up article.

But you can make some big improvements to you old photos just using your scanner. So let’s have a look at how you can use your scanner to improve the quality of your old photos.

Tips for Scanning Your Photos

Your scanner may be a stand-alone device or it may be a part of your home printer. Whichever it is it will have its own instructions for operation so I don’t intend to go into that here.

But many scanners enable you to make improvements to the digital quality of your image before you scan it into your computer.

If you don’t have any photo editing software this can be a boon as it’s all the restoration you are going to be able to do on your computer.  So let’s take a look at some tips for improving your photos as you scan them in. This will generally require you to use the Advanced features on your scanner.

1. Most scanners will let you adjust the size of your photo. This is particularly good if you have some really old photos that are very small. I have a whole bunch of these from the ’40s and ’50s. You can’t go too big with these but you can at least double or perhaps even triple their size. That gives you more to work with.

2. We usually scrap at a resolution of 300 pixels per inch (ppi) but it’s a good idea to scan your photo at 600 ppi. This also has the effect of doubling the size of your photo when you drag it onto your 300ppi scrapbook layout file. Just be careful if you are combining this technique with the one above because you might end up with too granular an image.

3. Make sure you give the surface a good clean with a soft cloth before you scan and make sure the scanner bed is clean and dust free. If you have specks of dust on the photo or the scanner bed they will be picked up in the scan (and magnified if you have set the resolution higher) and they will become another problem that you need to correct.

4. Some scanners will let you make other adjustments before you scan such as adjusting the lighting. brightness, contrast etc.


Take advantage of this and play around with these settings. Often your photo will have a bunch of detail that is not visible to your naked eye  but will be revealed when you play with these settings. It’s important to reveal these details before you scan because once the image is scanned, your digital version will only have the detail that is displayed on your scanner preview screen and any of these finer details will be lost.

5. If you’re scanning a sepia photo, change the color mode to Greyscale.You can turn it back to sepia with your photo editing software later. But greyscale will enable the scanner to pick up more detail. If your scanner offers you a choice of greyscale options (eg. 8-bit or 16-bit) choose the largest size available.

6. Your scanner may also offer you the option to remove dust specks, correct fading and backlight and other ‘photo fixing’ options. If you don’t have photo editing software, and your scanner is the only point at which you can manipulate your photos, then you should play around with some of these. Remember to make small adjustments until you get the image quality you are happy with in your preview screen. If you do have photo editing software I recommend that you leave these settings alone and do these adjustments on your computer. The features in your software are probably more powerful that those on your scanner.

Here is an example of what I mean. Unfortunately you can’t really see the full difference in the quality between the two scans because Internet quality is only around 72 ppi. But let’s give it a try.

This is a photo of my Dad from around 1952. It is 2inches x 2 inches and black and white. I know it looks like sepia but it is really black and white which tends to get a bit muddy looking over time.


Now here is the scan I made after applying several of the tips listed above:


Not only have I doubled the size of the photo but the detail is much clearer and sharper.

I can now take this photo and work with it some more in Photoshop Elements to improve it still further if I want. But if you don’t have a photo editing program, you can see how much more improved the photo is by just using the scanner settings.

I hope you found this useful. I’m going to run a little series on tips for restoring photos so stay tuned.

Other Related-ish Articles:

Are you a Good Photographer?

Scrapbook Idea: Dressing Up Your Photos

How to Give Your Title a Reflection