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Readable Text in Photos

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  • Readable Text in Photos

    The attached photo was provided as a high resolution grayscale Tif image.
    This is one panel of a large three-panel sign (also attached for reference). I have been requested to make the text on the sign as readable as possible. The image attached is the least readable of three panels. The text was angled away from the camera, and the photo was shot at a position low in relation to this +/- 10’ tall sign. The top of the text in this panel is thus at a compound angle.

    On the more readable panels (in PSD and Tif files) I have applied adjustment layers for curves and brightness & contrast, then adjusted with shadows&highlights and smart sharpen (using PS CS3 on a PC). I used transform>warp to align the text on the opposite side panel. The center panel (no sideways angle) became readable by a human but not by OCR. I have not worked on the attached panel at all.

    So, what has worked for you?
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Re: Readable Text in Photos

    The good news is that it is on a white background.

    You can make a selection of the text only by going to select>>color range. Then use the dropper and click the text only. Keep using the dropper plus untill most all the text can be seen. Then copy and paste the selection made. Adjust the exposure untill black - I used the below settings. You can adjust it even more but the attached JPG was not of best quality,

    You can use the expouse adj without selecting but you will also darken the white.

    Hope this helps,
    Attached Files


    • #3
      Re: Readable Text in Photos

      the problem here may not be what you think. you can make more contrast and bring what's there out quite a bit more, but the real problem is, your 'text' isnt all there. because of the original shot's focus, resolution and angles (and possibly from having to lower your resolution in posting here), there is missing data in almost every letter, making it VERY difficult, if not impossible to restore the way you're requesting.

      perhaps, if you think the missing data is a result of having to comply with the 100k image limit, you could try posting a very high resolution of only a very small portion of that angled board shot.


      • #4
        Re: Readable Text in Photos

        Keven, Craig. Thanks for looking into this question. Keven, Color Range is a tool I learned about in class but have used very little, so I appreciate your offering that suggestion. But I have found that Craig's comment is right on, for the side panels. Both -- the quality of what you've had to work with isn't great because of the 100K limit. The file I am working with is at over 700 ppi. I sent the least readable of the panels. After completing work on the large center panel (& pro-bono customer is very happy with that) I have been working on the left side panel. The most readable part of that is in the lower right of that panel and so far, my techniques plus yours have not solved the problem. I'll be doing more stretching with Warp and try again.



        • #5
          Re: Readable Text in Photos

          I'm going to throw an idea out there. I'm not sure if it will work for you but it might be worth a shot. I won't even try on the low res one posted.

          Grab your magic wand tool (not my favorite tool but hey...)
          Zoom in and a click once on a letter.
          Go to Select/Similar. It should grab all the black lettering.
          Make sure black is in the forground.
          Go to Edit/Fill and see if that will darken the text to make it more readable and easier to manipulate.


          • #6
            Re: Readable Text in Photos

            Stormchaser, thanks for another applicable idea. Usable after the text is aligned and stretched back into shape. I'll get back to this project later this week.



            • #7
              Re: Readable Text in Photos

              I'm not sure I'd be warping and bending just yet. For that matter I'm not even sure i'd use sharpening just yet. These could appear to help but somtimes create problems.

              Lay down the tack hammer for a minute and lets try somthing drastic with a jack hammer. This may or may not work but the result on the small file look like they may have potential.

              Open a Levels layer switch it to linear burn blending mode and then have a go at all three sliders.

              If you find this is an improvment but just a bit blotchy yet, it is counterintuitive but it may benifit you to apply a very low radius gausian blur at this point.
              Last edited by neumanns; 01-06-2009, 11:17 PM.


              • #8
                Re: Readable Text in Photos

                Before trying the more drastic suggestions, try a simple levels adjustment. Add a levels layer, and pull the sliders in for each color R/G/B, until they are just to the start of the little mountain in the graph display Don't adjust the RGB slider until each of the individual colors are adjusted. This will sharpen the contrast, Also try using the distort>lens adjust tool to straighten the photo.


                • #9
                  Re: Readable Text in Photos

                  Yes I agree,...Somwhat. Linear burn may be to much a normal blend levels should be fine.

                  But there is no need to adjust the individual channels first. It's a grayscale document so all three channels are identical. Adjustments can be made in the RGB tab.


                  • #10
                    Re: Readable Text in Photos

                    Be sure to check and see if the document is actually a grayscale document. Often what appears to be a black and white document may still have color information which can clean up the document. If the document is set to grayscale mode, then you are correct. But I have seen many times where someone assumed it was grayscale when it was a black and white document in RGB mode.


                    • #11
                      Re: Readable Text in Photos

                      I wanted to close this out. with a summary of what was tried and the result. It was a true gray scale, but it was converted to RGB color for some of the trial and error experimentation, After applying PS tools of every type, in numerous combinations and sequences, the conclusion is that Kraellin was right on: the 'text' isnt all there due to the original shot's focus, resolution and angles resulting is missing data in almost every letter, making it VERY difficult, if not impossible to restore. Thanks to all who contributed.


                      • #12
                        Re: Readable Text in Photos

                        I just saw the example and my first reaction to it was if it were crucial for a court display or hearing I would have had the panels re shot. I have done work like this before and if the image is not there there is no way to enhance it no matter what is tried. I have worked with similiar types of photos for document enhancement and court presentations.
                        Re shooting would save time and money and there are photographers who would be happy to do it as a volunteer service.


                        • #13
                          Re: Readable Text in Photos

                          Excellent idea, of course. If only the world were this simple. This a large three-panel sign of the name list at the Minidoka Japanese resident relocation camp in Idaho. Probably 60 year old photo, owned by The Friends of Minidoka, a non-profit group. Alas, the sigh no longer exists. I was originally told that this was the only record of the people in the camp, but I learned today that there are other partial lists and they wanted this for comparison.

                          As mentioned, I was able to enhance the front panel enough to make it readable.



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