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Photo Restoration Repairing damaged photos

A very sensitive retouch task ...

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  #1  
Old 10-29-2008, 07:40 AM
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leanan`si leanan`si is offline
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A very sensitive retouch task ...

Hi to you all .. I have been asked to work on some photos of an infant who was stillborn at 30 weeks gestation. The photos are not good quality but it is all that the mum and dad have. They're around 300k each. The major ask is to create a natural skin tone to baby's face. Her hands are beautiful, but her face is badly bruised. My air brushing skills remain at spray painting level compared to many. Checking the channels, the red channel is the least affected. The contours are clear and discolouration is minimal. Can I, or how can I utilise the red channel in preparation for 'healing' this little one's face?

For obvious reasons, I feel unable to post any of the photos and trust you will understand. This will be the 8th set of photos I have done for bereaved parents, and certainly the greatest challenge to date.

Any ideas gratefully accepted.

Kind regards from Leah
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Old 10-29-2008, 08:45 AM
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TommyO TommyO is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I might try to have some additional discussion about what they mean by "natural skin tone". I can see removing the bruising, but the tone of a new born is much different than say a 5 day old.

Also, you should be able to avoid air brushing the whole face. Can you reveal the shadows & highlights from the red channel, then sample good skin and brush the face in color blend mode ? very low opacity and build up the color ?
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Old 10-29-2008, 09:30 AM
Mike Mike is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I cannot really add anything to what Tommy O has posted.

But maybe I can suggest something to prevent some of this in the future.
Does your community have anyone that belongs to this?

http://www.nowilaymedowntosleep.org/

It can be tough to do, but the results are usually so much better.
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Old 10-29-2008, 03:50 PM
olivierphoto olivierphoto is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I have had to do photo retouching of a stillborn child only once, and it was both technically and emotionally difficult. I found myself essentially having to graft on skin digitally (sometimes cloning, sometimes experimenting with carefully chosen and resized patches from photos of my own children—obviously, your retouching process need not be mentioned to the parents) while experimenting with opacity, blending, etc. In short, I applied a wide variety of techniques on different layers while constantly checking the original to make sure I wasn't altering the look of the baby beyond the necessary cosmetic fixes.
Another solution to discoloration would be to see if the parents might want a black and white or toned (sepia, or a duotone) photo. A softer photo than you might normally do might also help convey a "peacefully sleeping" feel.
In any case, I think it is very nice of you to do that kind of work for someone.
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Old 10-29-2008, 05:31 PM
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0lBaldy 0lBaldy is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

These two links might be helpful:

Correcting those newborn shots (posts 2 through 8..)

Some of 'my' methods for Restoring/Retouching pictures (By Flora)
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Old 10-29-2008, 08:14 PM
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DCobb DCobb is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I would suggest that you contact Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. Do you have a signed release from the family to let others see or work on these photos?

dc

Last edited by DCobb; 10-30-2008 at 12:50 AM.
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Old 10-29-2008, 08:49 PM
Kirk Kief Kirk Kief is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I hope you don't mind if I step in for a moment. I'm the Forum Administrator for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep(NILMDTS), among other titles. I'd like to offer some advice to Leah on this Angel.
To begin, if you change the image to Black and White, you will take care of a majority of your problems with that simple step. A majority of our photographers do exactly this for a couple reasons. To begin, the skin tones on a baby that has already passed is never 'right'. It will always be either grey to slightly bluish in color. Or, in this case, being a premature stillbirth, it is not uncommon for them to be a deep red. The bruising is not uncommon.
trying to keep this little one in color is going to be very difficult. B&W is timeless and classic. It is actually more soothing to the family to view. Color brings back too many vivid memories, B&W tends to calm.
Also, do not over do. Maintain texture in the skin. If you loose the texture, you end up with what appears to be a plastic doll. Keep the texture.
I'd also like to invite any of the rest of you to consider volunteering with us. We have a growing army of Digital Retouch Artists that help our photographers when they are unable to do their own retouching. We need many more. If you're interesting in helping a family, please visit our main website, www.NILMDTS.org and visit the Photographer area to find info on applying with us. Or, drop me an email, kirk@nilmdts.org
I wish you the best with this ever so important task, Leah. i hope you take my offered advice.
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Old 10-29-2008, 09:00 PM
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TommyO TommyO is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who mentioned NILMDTS. A wonderful site and service that I did not know existed. Also, very educational information and ideas on technique.

Leah,
Not to put you out of work or anything, but you could simply suggest they visit the site, or look at it with yourself present. They may like the tone of the images and ask you to do something similar, even if it's too late or painful to do a photo session.
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Old 10-29-2008, 09:21 PM
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sidhebeauty sidhebeauty is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

NILMDTS is an amazing service. My sister recently had a child that passed shortly after birth. It was expected and we had a NILMDTS photographer come and take photos. I highly engourage anyone to volunteer to work with this organization. It means the world to have those memories.

We also took some photos that I retouched and I also highly recommend B&W or toned photos over keeping the color. I would generally use d&b to correct most of the blotchiness that carries over even to a b&w and, of course, the clone and healing tools.

Props to you Leah for taking on this difficult and emotional project. I'm sure that it means a lot to the family.
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Old 10-30-2008, 07:45 PM
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leanan`si leanan`si is offline
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Re: A very sensitive retouch task ...

My sincere thank you for all the responses. I've had a look at many of the options particularly the colour mode cloning and Flora's tutorial .. both have helped immensely. I've also followed a few websites dealing with photos such as these. Those have also helped with the reality check and what can be achieved.

My daughter is a professional photographer specialising in pregnancy, childbirth and babies and is a volunteer photographer on call for local hospitals. I am but an amateur photographer. Mum and Dad are grateful for the photos they did get, but lack of skills are obvious. Close ups of hands and feet without using macro, bright yellow date stamp over the photos, and the date is 5 years out. I think if reasonable amateurs are acceptable, I would volunteer for NILMDTS.

The photos are utilitarian at best. I've used the red channel as a kind of template for contours and shadows and it's working quite well. I am a firm believer in less is more and will offer B&W as well as the colour. There is so little emotion in the photos, and none with family members, just baby on a hospital towel. The plan is to fix first then introduce a little subtle creativity. I have been able to lighten the skin tones and remove the worst of the bruising without resorting to air brushing. Hospital towels have been replaced with swirls of the palest pink muslin. They're getting there.

The work is emotional at first, and some of that always remains, but the technician/artist comes into mode and carries them through.

Thank you all, your comments have been very supportive and helpful and if anything, I have an even greater commitment to this kind of work.

Leah
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