How to Edit and Digitize Old Photos

How to Edit and Digitize Old Photos

Breathe new life into your old family photos with these 5 tips for editing your digitized family photos.

Can you save and even repair your old, worn out family photos? Absolutely, and you don’t need a bunch of expensive editing tools to make serious improvements. There are plenty of accessible online tools that, combined with a little bit of know-how and some time, will help you turn those faded prints into vibrant views of your family’s history. Read below for 5 tips that will help you edit and digitize old photos with ease. Then, register for our workshop, Photo Editing and Retouching for Genealogists Web Seminar Download.

Scan Old Photos with Your Camera

Maybe your aunt pulled out her photo albums and you have only a few minutes to get those photos into digital form. That’s not a problem if you have a smart phone. If you don’t have access to a scanner, you can still digitize old photos by using a scanner app or your camera’s phone to snap a photo. Today’s cell phone cameras have great resolution and continue to get better, so you can get a decent image to work with. From your camera, it’s easy to send the images right to Evernote, a Google File, Dropbox, or some other form of storage until you can get to your computer to work with them.

Try to fill the camera frame with the image and take the photo on a flat surface near a natural light source. If it won’t cause any damage, remove it from any frames or albums to cut down on glare. You can get additional photo tips from Denise Levenick.
5 tips for editing old photos

Boost Faded Images

Photos fade over time, especially if they’ve been exposed to sunlight or other bright lights. However, you can give your image a quick boost with a filter, but your results are limited by your phone’s options. Manually boosting it gives you more control and is easy with an app like Pixlr or Fotor. In our week-long workshop, Photo Editing for Genealogists, we show how to use several of these apps to give your faded old photos new life.

Correct the Color

The quality of color in old photos can vary widely and distort over time as certain inks fade. If you’re reasonably sure your ancestors weren’t bathed in a weird yellow light, and the trees in the background were green rather than blue, try fixing the color using your photo editor’s automatic color correction. If that isn’t enough, try using the Light, Saturation and Temperature, Light and Shadow tools to adjust the color.

Heal Photo Damage

Water spots, tears, bends and tears can wreak havoc on your favorite pictures. While the damage can tell a story in and of itself, you can digitally repair the damage done to the original paper copy. Use retouch tools well by zooming in on the area you want to fix and choosing the appropriate brush size in your application. More importantly, take your time and work slowly. Janet Havorka offers some advice on working with editing tools in this article.

Don’t Go Overboard

It’s tempting to get a little too enthusiastic with the retouching and color tools. Next thing you know, you have an oversaturated photo with weird splotches replacing your ancestor’s nose. Don’t work on your original; making copies is as easy as choosing Save As and another name. Take your time – retouching and photo editing takes a lot of practice and patience in equal measure.


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