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Painting With Photo Filters

Do you have some of those 70’s era color photo’s that just look tired? Here’s an easy way to paint a little life back into them using photo filters!

For the purposes of this demonstration, I’ll use a photo of a bouquet of flowers my Nana got for her birthday in the 70’s. They obviously meant enough to her to commit to film and keep. If this photo meant so much to her, it deserves the care all the other family photos do. It’s not in horrible shape, but it has gone a bit red and need a bit of a pick-me-up. The photo is included in a zip file, placed at the end of this tutorial, in case you’d like to play along!

The first thing we’ll do is get rid of some of the red cast. In this case, we’ll use Levels, and, as I like to do, we’ll adjust each color channel separately. I prefer to do it this way because it gives me a little more control, obviously, over individual channels.

Now let’s paint some life back into the flowers. There are many ways to pump the colors in a photograph, just one being hue/saturation, but we’re going to ‘paint’ using photo filters. Pick a particular color in the photo you wish to adjust, in this case we’ll tweak the pink bloom’s, first, and add a Photo Filter adjustment layer.

Choose the color of photo filter from the presets, or select your own color from the color picker. Take the Density percentage up to around 50%. I leave the Preserve Luminosity unchecked for that much more saturation. As always, play with these settings to see which work best for you and the particular photo you’re working on. If you don’t have the adjustments palette (pre-CS4), you need to make your own adjustment layers by combining the original and levels correction layers into they’re own layer (Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E on PC or Shift + Cmd + Opt + E on Mac). Go to Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter and select your settings, hit OK. Now add a Layer Mask. The mask will be white – fill it with black and paint out the areas you want effected by the color adjustment with the foreground and color changed to white.

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Repeat these steps, either with the built in adjustment layers or manually, for each color you want to pop. I made six Photo filter adjustments, red, purple, yellow, and green for the flower arrangement, another red for the vase and an orange adjustment on the table cover. I changed the layer blend mode to Color Burn for the red on the flowers and the yellow flowers and Color for all the other adjustment layers. I went through each layer blend mode on every adjustment layer to see what looked best to me. Also adjust the opacity levels on the layers to what looks good to you. The layers with an intense Layer Blend Mode, like Color Burn, will generally need to be brought down to a lower opacity to look natural. I brought them down to around 40%. All of the other I left at 100% except the vase which I brought down to 90%.

To add a bit more pop, I wanted to darken the background a bit – not completely black it out, as the background has context as my Nana’s home and familiar to us, but enough that the floral arrangement is definitely the main focus. To achieve that, I simply made a Curves Adjustment Layer, bringing the histogram down towards the lower right hand corner to darken, just a bit. Back in the layer stack, change the mask color to black and paint the background with white to darken. Bring the opacity down to between 40% and 50% so the darkening is slight but still transparent.

This particular photo, a product of 70’s photo finishing, I’m assuming an attempt to get away from the ‘slick’ photo look, and an unfortunate stay in a magnetic photo album (aka Photo Death Camp) is very textured, and not in a good way. To cover that a little bit, I combined all the layers into one (Shift + Ctrl + Alt + E on PC or Shift + Cmd + Opt + E on Mac, again) and put a bit of a texture of my own over it. Go to Filter > Texture > Texturizer and select the Sandstone option, Scaling at 100% and Relief at 4. Back in the layer stack, play with the Opacity until you get a result you like, probably somewhere around 50%.

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Thanks for following, and if you play along, I’d love to see what you do with it! If you’d like further information on this or any other digital photo restoration article or technique, have an idea for a tutorial or a photo you’d like me to look at, follow me on Twitter (@Landailyn), add me as a friend on Facebook (Janine Smith) or email me at janine (at) landailyn (dot) com!

Nana’s Flowers .zip

About Janine Smith (114 Articles)
Janine Smith is the owner of Landailyn Research and Restoration, a Fort Worth, Texas based company whose services include family history research and photo restoration. Janine honed her skills in restoring badly damaged photos as a volunteer with Operation Photo Rescue, a non-profit organization whose mission is to repair photographs damaged by unforeseen circumstances such as house fires and natural disasters. <br> Janine’s work is well-known in the world of genealogical and historical societies, museums, libraries, university archives, and non-profit organizations; appearing on the board of directors for several organizations and institutions. She is a sought-after lecturer on photo restoration and preservation to libraries, genealogical and historical societies. <br> In addition to being a Lynda.com author, Janine is the author of many articles on research and restoration appearing in newspapers and magazines, both on and offline. Janine's history and photo restoration columns appear regularly on TipSquirrel.com and in the popular Shades Of The Departed Digital Magazine. <br> Janine is the winner of the 2010 “Photoshop User Award” in the photo-restoration category.

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