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  • Irrecoverable?

    When do you judge an old, faded, damaged photo to be irrecoverable?

    The attached 1978 photo is faded an contains obvious defects of many types. My experience levels with PSP8 and PSE2 are still too small to know if this is a lost cause or not.

    The attached was scanned at 1200 spi and saved as a TIF file. I had to adjust the image to 300 dpi and save as a JPEG (of med quality) to fit the file size limits.

    I have also looked at the color channels, I have tried various levels/histogram/curves combinations. The obvious individual defects pale in comparison to the red/blotch noise in the lower level of the photo (the kids legs, arms, facee, etc.) The lower part of the face of the man on the right (me) seems obliterated. It seems there is no detail anywhere to enhance or recapture.

    I even looked at B/W (desaturated) but things were no more encouraging there. I can do some improvements to be sure but it seems that photos like this are basically lost to the time elements.

    Any comments or advice at this point? I would be most grateful for any coaching.


    [Edit: sorry--the photo uploaded was the desaturated version...full version in next message.]
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Full Color for Irrecoverable Photo

    Here is the color version, such as it is....

    Attached Files


    • #3
      Sorry I would consider the work too time consuming. You would need to virtually rebuild the faces. But then it is up to you to make the final decision


      • #4
        The image is far from lost - but I am not saying that this will be easy!

        It will be a labour of love, is this a commercial job or a 'freebie' for family/friends?

        The lower section will probably need rebuilding, but there is nothing too hard to fill in and flesh out here.

        I have seen many challenges at this site which were in much worse shape, not to say that this is a pristine image though. <g>

        Keep in mind that different clients have different expectations - a restoration that you are not happy with may impress them. Or it could go the other way and they hate a job you are proud of. <bg>

        If the job is worth your time/effort - then I think that you may be able to do this image justice.

        Are there any correction areas that are giving you problems or that you could do with alternate methods (noise removal, separate luminance and colour edits or LAB edits, bringing out detail [search the site for adaptive equalize plug in info] etc?)


        Stephen Marsh.


        • #5
          Stephen: that is an encouraging message. This is in the "labor of love" category as well as preparation for numerous others like this from the family "photo box". Short of "painting over the whole thing" with paint brushes and smudge tools, I am hoping to get some specific advice. I will post my steps to date and show the result and then hope for some additional steps to try.

          Thanks for replying,



          • #6
            Ken, Color prints from the 70's - they've given all of us headaches!

            Like Stephen said, this is going to be a labor of love. One thing I would caution you about is trying to enlarge the image much. There doesn't appear to be much detail in the faces and enlarging the photo from it's original size will only exacerbate the lack of detail. You can try it, but from my experience, it's a much more difficult restoration because at the larger size you can see all of the imperfections.

            As far as how to go about restoring this one. If it were me, I'd turn the image to B&W, restore that as best I could, then colorize it. There are some photos that I've done this way where the client couldn't tell I colorized it after the fact. (And then there are those that no matter what I tried, it still looked colorized.)

            With this particular photo, it appears that the red channel has the least amount of damage. So, I would make the photo B&W, but use only the red channel - throwing out the green and blue channels. You can do this with the channel mixer or just delete the green and blue channels in the channels palette.

            Then do a levels (and maybe curves) adjustment to get better contrast of the B&W. You might want to try removing some of the noise. I've had good luck with Neat Image, but there are others out there as well. It looks like there's some damage that you'll need to address with cloning/healing brush as well.

            Once you've got the B&W where you want it, you can colorize it. I've seen some instances where you can take a copy of the original on the top layer and set it to colorize. In this case though, the colors seem too out of whack for that to work well. You might want to try it first just in case though. Otherwise, it will be a detailed process of coloring over everything in the photo. I always use a separate layer for each color that I paint on. This allows me to adjust the opacity and add a hue/saturation adjustment layer if needed for fine tuning.

            Hope this helps,


            • #7
              Thanks Jeanie. I have just about concluded what you suggested in your message.

              Also, about Neat Image. I have downloaded it and used it on this photo and it does improve things somewhat.

              The client (my spouse ) is pleased with what I have accomplished so far (relative to the original), so I am likely to have a satisfied "customer". Other than that, photos like these are "sinkholes" of time and labors of love. I wondered why I have not seen more like these in the challenges area---probably would get few submissions.

              Thanks for the response,



              • #8
                Though you had not asked for restoration of this photo, I tried it because it was very challenging. I'll post it if it is OK to do so.


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