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Help with sharpening old photos

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  • Help with sharpening old photos

    I have learned a lot from these forums, and I thank you.
    However, I still seem to have trouble with old photos that are blurred. I like to sharpen them to bring out the facial features. Can someone please look at the example below and explain step by step how to sharpen it?
    I have tried all the tricks in the tutorials and still cannot get them right. I seem to get many photos from friends in similar phases of blur. I guess those old cameras had bad lens.


  • #2
    Re: Help with sharpening old photos

    It could be true that the camera was at fault. But, more likely the photographer. In those days, many photographers were out there trying to make money, without necessarily ensuring the best quality image was taken. Why? Well, it took a lot of time to take and develop... and they had to cover a large amount of country-side in order to make any money. So, they often hurried.

    Sharpening will not bring an image back into focus. However, it does give ours eyes the illusion of more detail (which is fine, since what we see is most important). It does this by enhancing the contrast between pixels on a light/dark boundary, i.e. eyebrows, eyes, a button on a shirt, etc.

    So, you will have to use additional methods to bring out more detail/contrast in some areas, and reduce contrast in other areas. Like dodge/burn (on separate layers), curves adj. layers (with masks), smudging, or even apply image/calculations (more advanced).

    So, what am I saying? There is no step-by-step that applies to all images. Each is unique, and we apply methods we think may work the best. Sometimes, just to delete those layers and try something else.

    With this image, I would suggest something like:
    1. A slight Levels adjustment, if any at all;
    2. Trying the Image>Adjustments>Shadow/Highlights just to see what happens;
    3. Create masks/alpha channels for those areas of great concern and use a Curves adjustment layer with those, tweaking the contrast to your liking;
    4. Use some Dodge & Burn on separate layers just for those critical areas;
    5. Use a Noise Filter along with a Dust & Scratches Filterto reduce the speckles and such a little;
    6. Then use a final Sharpening to bring out crisp edges and make the image look as crisp as possible (without loosing detail of course).

    Good luck and let us see your work after you get into it.


    • #3
      Re: Help with sharpening old photos

      Thanks TommyO. I'm not to good at using layers yet, but this is as good as I can get it.


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