Photo Repair Shop

By Chad Neuman Premium

Your old family photos probably have dust and scratches on them, or they may have yellowed from age. In other photos in your family album, the shadows may have become shallow, making the image look faded and flat. In your ancestors’ day, the only way to fix battered pictures was to take them to an expensive photo retoucher. With today’s computer technology and a little practice, however, even amateurs can scan and repair old family photos, printing out new copies that look as good as the day the pictures were snapped.

Most people think of programs such as Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, both created by Adobe <>, as tools for working with color images. But these powerful programs can come to the rescue or your old black-and-white photos, too. Their tools let you sharpen a scanned image, open up shadows, “clone” areas, “visually repair” torn or damaged photos, blur and even colorize black-and-white pictures. Best of all, you can experiment without risking further damage to your precious originals.

You’ll need a scanner to get a digital version of your damaged photo into your computer. You’ll need a computer, of course — both Photoshop and its inexpensive sibling Photoshop Elements work on Macs as well as PCs. And you’ll need a printer to share your retouched image with the rest of the family. Once you’re equipped, try these tricks.

Getting rid of dust and scratches: method 1

The easiest way to get rid of scratches on your scanned photo is to use the Dust & Scratches tool, found in the Noise group under Filter. This actually blurs the image a little, getting rid of the scratches and dust that may have accumulated on the photos. After the Dust & Scratches tool, try using the Unsharp Mask tool. It sharpens the image so it’s not as blurry.

Another way to eliminate dust and scratches on old photos is to use the Clone tool (it looks like a rubber stamp). After selecting the Clone tool, hold down the Alt key (option key on a Mac) and click in an area that’s similar to what you’d want to see in place of the dust or scratch mark. Then just click the damaged area of your photo to “clone” the good area onto the bad. “This is also useful in touching up blemishes on people’s faces in photos; simply clone an unblemished area onto the blemish.

Yet another technique is to use the Eye Dropper tool to copy the shade of an area, and then use the Paint Brush tool to paint over the dust or scratch. Try different tools to figure out which works best for the situation. The right tool will depend on the texture of the background around the scratch or dust, the intended effect and the amount of control needed to achieve that effect.

These three related fixes work best for targeted touchups. When you select the entire image rather than a single damaged area, they tend to soften the picture — sometimes, more than you’d like. That leads us to method 2, which takes longer and requires the full Photoshop program, but the end result is much better.

Getting rid of dust and scratches: METHOD 2

For this method, first select the Dust &Scratches tool, and move the tool slider to the left. Then move Radius and Threshold to the right until the dust or scratches are removed (the slightly blurry effect is OK — we’ll fix that).

Now select the History window and click on Take New Snapshot (not available in Photoshop Elements). This will save your cleaned-up photo as Snapshot 1. Next, select Edit, then Undo Dust & Scratches — that puts your picture back to where you started. Select the History Brush tool and click on the little box to the left of Snapshot 1 in the History window. Then, select the blending mode on the toolbar. If you have dark spots on a light background, choose lighten; to fix light spots on a dark background, choose darken. Select the brush size, and then brush over the spots where the dust or scratches were. (For more on this method, see <>.)

Colorizing black-and-white photos

Many Photoshop and Photoshop Elements users think that “colorizing” a photo means just painting over it with the Paint Brush tool. But the texture of the underlying area gets lost when the Paint Brush lays down only a selected color, leading to a two-dimensional appearance when the intended look is three-dimensional. Here’s a better way.

The first step in colorizing an old black-and-white picture you’ve scanned in shades of gray (“grayscale”) is to convert it to the RGB format (short for Red-Green-Blue). Simply click on Image, then hover over Mode and select RGB.

Now select an area that you want to change to a specific color — your Civil War ancestor’s blue Union cap, for example, or the path in the picture below. Select the area with the Lasso tool; if it’s a definite shape such as a circle or a square, you can use the regular selection tools.
You also can select an area to colorize by clicking inside he area with the wand tool. This works best for areas of the photo that are a single, flat color, such as the sky in the image below.

Next, in Photoshop Elements, select Enhance, then Adjust Color, then Hue/Saturation, (In Photoshop, it’s Image, then Adjustments, then Hue/Saturation.) When you click on the Colorize box, the selected area gets automatically colored — no painting required. You can adjust the levels of hue, saturation and lightness by clicking and dragging on the adjustment toggles or by typing in a number in the number field.
 Another way to colorize an old black-and-white photograph is to use the Variations command. The first step is to select the area just as in the previous method, hut instead of using the Image Enhancement feature, select Image, then Adjust, then Variations. From the Variations box, you can make the area more of a certain color, such as more yellow, more red and so forth. The shadows, midtones, highlights and saturation can all be adjusted on the toolbar.
You may find some areas that haven’t been colorized yet, such as teh yellow ones below. To erase these spots, use the Clone tool.
 After selecting the Clone tool, hold down the Alt key (option on Macs) and click on a correct-color area to capture the color there. Then release the Alt key and click in the wrong-color area to paste the copied content there and smooth the borders.

Changing levels of light and shadows

By experimenting with the settings under the Image Adjustment tools, such as Brightness/Contrast and levels, you can adjust the light and the shadows in an old photo. Using the Variations command for shadows lets you open up the shadows more by making them darker.

With a little practice, you can make copies of your old family photos that look as good as new — or better. Before you know it, you’ll be Photoshopping out that black sheep in the family and updating your geeky clothes in your own high school snapshots.
From the June 2003 Family Tree Magazine

Scanning Secrets

Chad Neuman
When scanning your old photos to digitally retouch them, it’s essential to scan at a high resolution — you need to capture the details in your picture. High-resolution scanning often results in a bigger picture than you expected. Remember, though, that you can always make a picture smaller without losing resolution; you can’t, however, enlarge a picture without losing detail and resolution.
Resolution is measured in dots per inch, or dpi. Others prefer the term pixels per inch. In either case, this refers to the number of dots (“pixels”) the image contains in an inch of the screen. If you scan a photo at 300 dpi and compare it to a scan at 72 dpi, the first scan will be bigger and capture more detail than the 72 dpi image.
From the June 2003 Family Tree Magazine