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Photo Restoration Repairing damaged photos

help with levels and channels

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  #1  
Old 09-09-2008, 10:48 AM
TaylorOK TaylorOK is offline
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Question help with levels and channels

I am following the steps in the tutorial Restoring an Old Photograph.
http://retouchpro.com/tutorials/?m=show&id=255
(Trying out trial PS CS3. Also have PS Elements 6, but tutorial is easier to follow in PS.)

About levels:
When I use the sliders to adjust the levels, there is a dark area at the bottom that shows up first. If I crop that area, the numbers are really different. Which way is better? Also, after I adjust levels a lot of dark splotches show up.

About channel mixer:
I'm stuck on how to tell how much of each channel to use. (I'm having this problem with all the photos I've tried on my own.)

If I need to try a whole different approach, I'm open. Any guidance is appreciated. Obviously, I'm fairly clueless. Hope this isn't too many questions.

Thanks,
Taylor
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  #2  
Old 09-09-2008, 11:40 AM
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TommyO TommyO is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

Taylor,
In many instances, it is fine to let the dark area appear as long as the rest of the image reveals some detail that you desire. The same adjustment layer contains a mask that you can use to lessen the effect on that dark area or other areas, by simply painting black with a soft low opacity brush or using the gradient tool.

The purpose of Levels is not to use it like a contrast tool. It is to basically remove dark or light pixels that contribute nothing to the image and spread the remaining pixels out over more levels, remapping their values so that they better represent the tonal range.

So, if you use it too much you may get some really weird effects, like the blotches. It really depends on the image information and other adjustments you may have made. (I did not get blotches with your thumbnail.)

Cropping areas is fine. So is making a selection with a soft brush and then doing a levels adjustment (which creates a mask automatically). But I think you'll find working with the mask afterward easier.

Regarding the channel mixer, it is basically up to you. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule or calculation. In your case, the red and green channels are very similar and the blue channel really does not contain any more data, it's just darker. So, it's not a good example to work with. In many images, there is a dramatic difference in the channels and it is very easy to tell what to do. I think you are just being fooled a little with this image. Be sure that you are scanning these if full color, 16-bit or higher, a fairly high resolution (300 ppi or higher). and that all auto-correction selections are turned off in the scanner application. You should see a difference in the channels for most images, even black & whites. At that point, mixing is mainly intuitive, based upon which channel(s) contains the most detail.

Last edited by TommyO; 09-09-2008 at 12:27 PM.
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  #3  
Old 09-09-2008, 07:37 PM
TaylorOK TaylorOK is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

TommyO,
Thanks so much for all the great information. It also helps just knowing that you don't see much difference in the channels either. I thought I just didn't know what to look for.

I'll try your suggestions and post my result (if I'm feeling brave.)
Taylor
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Old 09-09-2008, 09:11 PM
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Craig Walters Craig Walters is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

this is a delightful image. i'm glad you brought it in. i'd spend some time on this, especially if that's a family member.

ok, so, the black spot at the bottom. when i first saw that i thought maybe it was shadow, but on a closer look in psp, i decided it must have been something done in the darkroom. regardless, it's a minor. lighten it, clone it out or even just leave it alone is fine. it really doesnt detract that much.

for the rest, the first rule is 'do no damage'. the second rules is 'find the image' and that's what's needed here. you mentioned levels. try contrast/brightness adjustment layer first. then, do your levels over the top of that. the c/b layer will bring things out quite a bit and works well in cases like this with levels. just be careful not to overdo the c/b level and blow out the whites.

on the levels themselves, if you do it like i said, you can work with just the master layer and change it just a bit on the center button. you could make it darker or lighter depending on your taste preference.

oh, and i dont use channels on images like this. i work strictly in rgb. i want all the channels in there contributing at one time.

also, i added a hue/sat adj layer to reduce the color/saturation quite a bit. i didnt take it all the way down, just only to about -56 or so. leave some of that fading color in there for character (that's also just a preference, but it does serve to convey the age of the photo which is part of the character).

after that, i started lookign at noise reduction. there's a lot of grain/dust going on. i used psp's digital camera noise removal. but, here's the trick on your image, cut the larger size noise reduction almost completely off. the grain in this photo is tiny, so, use the tiny noise reduction mostly.

now, that's as far as i took it for now. but, there's more to be done and from what i see it's going to be some cloning. there's some jpg artifacts in this and other specks that need to be removed.

after that, well, we'll just have to see, but that shld give you some help.
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  #5  
Old 09-09-2008, 10:57 PM
TaylorOK TaylorOK is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

Craig -
I agree. This is one of my favorite pictures of my mother. My parents loved fishing, and one of my father's hobbies was photography. My mother being his favorite subject. This is one of their first fishing trips together.

When you mentioned the darkroom, I realized I might be able to find the original print with some searching. I have many boxes of old photos to sort through. Most of the pictures that he took during this time (the 40s) were those tiny prints, about 2" square. Hopefully I can find a cleaner version.

In the meantime I'll work through your suggestions. I would love to see what you have done to give me something to shoot for.

Thanks for your help,
Taylor
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  #6  
Old 09-10-2008, 12:06 AM
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Verywierd Verywierd is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

As Kraellin advised, I worked with the full RGB image rather than individual colour channels.

I took a rather simplistic approach and created a duplicate layer and applied it in soft light blending mode. This brought back some of the colour. I repeated this, created a second layer, again in soft light.

I merged the layers and used the replace colour function to take some of the brownish red out of the right side of the lake.

I ran the image through Grain Surgery 2 to clean it up and then touched up the colours a bit to adjust the colour cast and hand painted some pink in her skin.

It appears that much of that dark patch in the foreground is the shadow cast by the rock due to the sharp angle of the sun, which is almost at the horizon.
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  #7  
Old 09-10-2008, 01:53 PM
TaylorOK TaylorOK is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

Wow! That is really pretty. I like the way you did the coloring. This was a black and white photo, but the color you did is great. Thanks for working on it. I look forward to the day when I might be able to things as fast as some of you here. Lots of practice ahead for me.
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Old 09-10-2008, 03:49 PM
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TommyO TommyO is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

Verywierd, That did come out very nice !

Just goes to show there are many ways to achieve a good end result.
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:54 AM
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Verywierd Verywierd is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

TaylorOK: Glad you like it :-)

TommyO: Thanks.

I should have said "brought back some of the tone" rather than "colour". When I did the soft light layers, some of the areas took on a tinge of colour and it inspired me to go ahead and actually colour the entire picture as most of the missing colours were fairly easy to guess.
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Old 09-11-2008, 05:42 PM
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lurch lurch is offline
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Re: help with levels and channels

Here's a really quick fix on this image, taking advantage of the Topaz Adjust plugin (which I recommend highly even though it can be glacially slow) and CS3's Black and White tool. Neither channel nor level involved anywhere, though I did use a curve at the end to tweak dark and light points and contrast. Have to admit that curves and levels are similar - I like curves better because they offer more control.

Step first: Judicious crop to clip off most of the dark patch at the bottom and some lightening (maybe sun flare?) on the right side. These areas are distracting, and aren't important to the image in my view.

Step two: Topaz Adjust, exposure preset and noise removal only, to even out the overall tone.

Step three: Black/White adjustment layer, auto setting. This took care of the discolored areas and avoided having to muck with channels and masking.

Step four: After Topaz Adjust there was a residual dark place at the top of the photo, plus some sun flare in the trees. Did a little dodge and burn to reduce those areas.

Step five: Curve adjustment layer mentioned above, to tweak the results of Adjust treatment.

Step last: Sharpen.

And there you have it - took maybe ten minutes.
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File Type: jpg curve.jpg (49.2 KB, 19 views)
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