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Hard Restoration, Easy Fix in Photoshop

The first thing you may think as you look at today’s before image is “How in the world am I going to get all of that red-colored mess off?” Or it may not be, but for the sake of argument, we’ll just say it is. Here’s what you need to do to fix this. Pay attention to all the steps, here…

Go to your Adjustments panel and choose the Black and White adjustment. Since this is a red-colored mess we’re dealing with, go to the High Contrast Red preset. Now select OK. Did you get all that?

Obviously from looking at the image you can see I’m not funning you! Sometimes it really is just that easy, especially when the problem area is distinctly a red, blue, yellow or green tone. If nothing else, this article should serve to show that it’s an area that should be checked, especially in a photo that was originally black and white or one that you’d be ok with being converted to B&W.

Since this article is so short it barely warrants the description “article” (“check out my paragraphs on tipsquirrel.com!”), I’ll go ahead and go over the very few other steps I took to finish the image.

I don’t care for straight-up black and white or greyscale. I think all images look better with at least a little color tone to them and the person to whom this image belongs wanted the finished image to have something like the original color, so I sampled a portion of the frame that had a color I thought might look good. I then made a new, blank layer and filled it with the color. Since the color you just sampled should be the foreground color, use keyboard shortcut Alt or Opt + Backspace to fill.

Now go through the layer blend modes to see how each one affects the fill layer. I liked how the Vivid Light mode looked both in terms of what I’m going to do later and the brightness and clarity of the image itself with it applied.

Next it was just some simple clean-up of the cracks using, mostly, the patch tool with some healing brush. I worked in the 200% – 300% zoom range to make sure I was getting everything and not leaving any smudges or artifact behind.

You may notice the insignia on the hat is a little clearer in the last version. The client requested this if I could arrange it. He told me specifically what it was, so I went online and found an image of the insignia which I then separated from the background, re-sized to fit the area, used a Soft Light Blend Mode to help integrate it with the original, and brought the Opacity down to around 17%.

Now all that’s left are a few details like replacing the frame and taking down the color just a tad. To do this I simply made another Black and White Adjustment Layer, kept it on the default preset and brought down the Opacity to 25%.

Kind of amazing how an image that looks so bad at first can be improved so quickly and easily, isn’t it? I do wish they were all this easy!


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.

5 Comments on Hard Restoration, Easy Fix in Photoshop

  1. very good!!!


  2. Heidi M // 20/12/2012 at 3:14 am //

    Janine, that was fabulous! Thank you!
    I use PSE7 and had great success with Enhance>Convert to Black and White – and used the Infrared option at the default settings.
    It worked like a charm!
    I don’t know that PSE7 has the black and white adjustment that you write of, but there’s usually some kind of work-around in PSE.
    Fun! more please …

  3. Pam Wolfe // 20/12/2012 at 5:30 am //

    Janine, thank you so much for this information. I have a wedding photo of my Mother that really needs some work. This will definitely get me moving in the right direction!

  4. Heidi M // 23/12/2012 at 4:50 pm //

    Janine; here’s the link to my restoration, as requested.
    Thank you for permission to use the image.

  5. Very Helpful. Thanks for sharing Janine 🙂

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