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Photo Restoration Repairing damaged photos

The "Horror" restoration

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Old 10-22-2003, 06:22 PM
sjcampbel's Avatar
sjcampbel sjcampbel is offline
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Location: Armidale, NSW Australia
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Question The "Horror" restoration

Dear all,

I have been lurking once again after a stint of being incredibly busy at work. I have been doing some playing on photoshop 7 and the Mother-in-Law (aka "The Dragon") gave me the attached photo which is her sister's children.

Well after threats from my wife I have "voluteered" to restore it, but it has to be the hardest restoration job I have attempted. The combined wisdom of this group has always been an inspiration to me so here goes my ask.


The photo is the only known one of my wife aunts' children. The family didn't have a camera and this was taken at on of those "in store" K-Mart photo places. To put even more sentimental value on it, two of the chilidren have died from MS. The picture "lived" for 25 years in bottom of a handbag. Thus the reason for the need to restore it.

The Process

What workflow would you try with this - I was going to do the following, but pick it apart as appropriate.

* Scan at 3200 (I have an Epson 3200 photo scanner for my print scanning) to get the most detail possible at 16 bit grey-scale (the attached file is a 600 dpi scan - originally 16 bit) The rationale was to get the most information possible - although even at 600 dpi you will notice that the surface is dimpled - no smooth tones - at 3200 it looks like a relief map!!!!!. Altenatives - scan at a lower resolution and/or colour???

* Balance the contrast and brightness of the image and convert to 8 - bit grey scale.

* Make a layer of the background and repair using the patch tool

* Use the patch and clone stamp to fix other "bits" - this is where I run into problems with "smoothing" the repair.

* Use a miracle to reconstruct the nose and mouth of the eldest (I think I have a spare one somewhere - or just the copious quantity of artistic talent (last seen residing under my little fingernail

The problems are that I have made an attempt, but I can't get smooth tones from anywhere - everything is "dimply" from the original print, or damaged.

Also, if you were doing this as a commercial job, how many hours do you think it would take. I ask this out of interest, as though I do some commercial restoration, this one is right out of my league. Most of my commercial work is photography, but getting increasing restoration and "arty" work......and loving it

Thanking you in advance
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File Type: jpg photo600.jpg (97.9 KB, 480 views)
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Old 10-22-2003, 07:31 PM
big_bad_toxman big_bad_toxman is offline
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About the only thing that I'd do different is:

- Repair the top right corner of the image with the healing brush to get rid of all the cracks in that area.
- Run the image through "Neat Image" and use the upper right corner for the basis of the noise profile. Fine tune using any other area that you can get your hands on that does not have detail. There are a few foreheads in pretty good shape for doing this.

Whether you do this before, or after you do the rest of the restoration is up to you.

Neat Image removes the dimple effect quite nicely and will give you the smoothness you're looking for. If you don't have it, I'd highly recommend it. You can find it at
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Old 10-22-2003, 08:34 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Your workflow looks pretty good. Just a few notes:

The relief map effect is pretty strong, but sometimes you can help things along by scanning at different angles and patching bits together. This won't solve the problem, but might save some time and keep the photographic look on some areas that might end up looking painted.

Then I'd do some global adjustments for tone (it's really not that bad, tonally) before going in and doing the detail work.

I personally stay in 16bit as long as possible, and always start in RGB (even on b/w originals) because I find different things on different layers (this doesn't matter too much on neutral b/w originals, but they almost always have some warmth or coolness to them, if not outright discoloration).

I'd estimate this at about 2 hours work (or that's what I'd quote, actual work time varies depending on the tv schedule, weather, fresh coffee, etc.)

The face on that tallest girl looks very familiar...have you posted it before?

Say hello to the Dragon for us
And don't forget to post your final result.
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Old 10-23-2003, 04:52 PM
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sjcampbel sjcampbel is offline
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Thank you for your advice. I downloaded the demo version of Neat Image and will have a play. I will also have a play with some Fred Miranda actions that I have for smart blurring - never thought of using these these


I haven't posted this girl before. As far as I know there are only a couple of photos of her at this age. She is one of the girls that died of MS (at age 42). The other one that passed away is the baby in the photo.

I'll take your advice (and Tutorial) for scanning the picture in two planes to eliminate some of the "relief map" effect. I was also tossing up whether to use the concept of offsetting two layers and then spotting from one to the other - what a great idea!

I'm going to give the picture a good going over on the weekend, and I'll post the results Sunday or Monday.

Once again
Thank You All
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Old 10-26-2003, 11:16 AM
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Paulie Paulie is offline
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This is a very difficult image to restore, but well worth the effort if it turns out right! I attempted this myself, there was a LOT of cloning involved, that was 90% of the workload, when that was done, levels were adjusted, then i ran the picture thru neat image. After a few hours work, i still wasn't able to correct the texture on the oldest girls face but what i've posted is mybest attempt. Maybe someone has some tips on a good way to do this.
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File Type: jpg photo600a.jpg (62.4 KB, 318 views)
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Old 10-26-2003, 03:56 PM
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sjcampbel sjcampbel is offline
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Thanks for the advice.

Here is a the image about 50%. I scanned the image twice (only 1200 dpi as at 3200 the file sixe meant working on the image was painfully slow), one rotated 180 degrees. I rotated the inverted image and placed it as a layer on the first, and blended to darken. This got rid of 90% of the "relief map" texture - thanks for the tutorial!!!!!

I've then used the clone stamp and the patch tool to get it to where it is now.

The background on the upper left is showing the effects of too much patch tool. Any thoughts on how to "Flatten" this so it is similar to the top right - i.e. a more even colour.

All in all I'm pleased with progress. Will show you the next installment tomorrow
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File Type: jpg 1200-24bit-overlay-working-background+head.jpg (92.8 KB, 280 views)
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Old 10-26-2003, 07:48 PM
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roger_ele roger_ele is offline
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Hello Steve,

The background on the upper left is showing the effects of too much patch tool. Any thoughts on how to "Flatten" this so it is similar to the top right - i.e. a more even colour.
To even out blotchiness ...

-Smudge or
-clone set to 25 or 30% back and forth till even or
-Layer via copy from right corner over left corner then merge down or
-duplicate layer and blur it's pants off, then mask to just the area to fix, then merge down or
-I am drawing a blank but there has to be other ways, there always is ...

Then use the patch tool set to destination, start your selection with the upper right or the darker area on the left, then drag your selection to an area to fix - then to the next adjacent area ... Just push it around until most of it has the texture from the good area and clean up with little patch or cloning.

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Old 10-27-2003, 11:47 PM
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Duv Duv is offline
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Hi Steve

I'm a newbie and I'm here to learn so bear with me. Most times I only think I know what I'm doin.
I noticed in your work in progress that a sepia tone was added compared to the original. Intentional?
Here's where I may be wrong. It looks to me that you started in before a levels adjustment was made. Normally when I start I make a levels adjustment in RBG to bring out the correct tone and improve contrast. I go in to each channel and adjust the sliders accordingly. This seems to give me more info to work with for cloning, healing, etc. and gives me something better to send to Neat Image.
Am I all wet. Like I said I'm just startin'

Dave or Duv
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Old 10-28-2003, 03:02 PM
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sjcampbel sjcampbel is offline
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Well, I think I'm nearly finished.

Duv, The difference between the two originals was one was scanned grey scale, and the other in colour. Normally I would do as you say in 16 bit per channel, but this photo had a lot of surface texture, so I decided to use the principals in roger_ele's tutorial on "Scanning to reduce surface texture or silvering". This worked a treat, and made the resoration MUCH easier (thanks Roger).

However, as this uses levels and I haven't upgraded/can't afford Photoshop CS - I had to convert to 8 bit straight off without correction as I wanted the two images to be exactly the same.

So I went for broke and decided to colour balance after the major bits were retouched, and after I desaturated back to grey scale.

I also used the techniques in "Smoothing Unwanted Textures" by Jakaleena - most appreciated to smooth the rough textures left.

Well for better or for worse, here is the almost finished work.
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Old 10-28-2003, 06:12 PM
big_bad_toxman big_bad_toxman is offline
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Super job! What else can I say? Very impressive indeed.
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