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Fixing Faded Historical Photos

A common problem with old black-and-white or sepia-toned photos is that they fade over time. You can use a Levels or Curves adjustment to improve contrast, but both commands often introduce color artefacts into the image. A few extra steps are needed to get the best results when you want to restore proper balance to an old photo.

1. Open an old photo or use the following sample image.

Fading-Historical-1

2. With the Eyedropper tool, sample the color tint if you want to retain it in the finished piece.

3. Leave the photo in RGB mode but strip away the color. Choose Image > Adjust > Desaturate or press Shift+Command+U (Shift+Ctrl+U).

Fading-Historical-2

4. Perform a Levels adjustment and restore the white-and-black points. Drag the black Input Levels slider and the white Input Levels slider toward the centre. A non-destructive adjustment layer works best.

5. Add a Solid Color fill layer by choosing Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Click OK. The Foreground color you previously sampled will load automatically.

Fading-Historical-3

6. Set the Color Fill layer to use the Color blending mode. Adjust the Opacity slider as desired.

To get more tutorials like this, be sure to check out Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS5 from Peachpit Press.

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About Richard Harrington (43 Articles)
A certified instructor for Adobe and Apple, Rich is a practiced expert in motion graphic design and digital video. Rich is a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals Instructor Dream Team, and a popular speaker on the digital video circuit. Rich is an internationally published author. His book, Photoshop for Video, was the first of its kind to focus on Photoshop’s application in the world of video. He is also a contributing author for Apple’s Aperture, iLife ’09 and iWork ’09, Video Made on a Mac, and Producing Video Podcasts. If you want even more Photoshop training, check out his book Understanding Adobe Photoshop CS4. If you have an iPod touch or iPhone, you can get <a href="http://tinyurl.com/upapps">Rich’s Training in your Pocket</a>

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