BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Wendy P
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2006
 

Photo Restoration


My mother is in the process of gathering up some pictures from my grandparents old photo albums in hopes that we would be able to scan them and do a few little tweeks to the images to clean them up a little. Most of the pictures date back anywhere from the late 20's to the 50's. I'm not good with anything photography outside of just taking the picture, so I'm at a loss on what to do. A lot of these pictures are "studio" shots and we cannot take them to any store by violation of the copyright laws that states the photo has to be at least 75 years old before the photo centers can duplicate them. I was not aware of this until the cashier ripped up military pictures of my grandfather that my mother duplicated and threw them in the trash in front of us (another story completely). The pictures have a few age spots and scratches and are turning brown, but my grandmother in a temper fit put masking tape over the pictures trying to keep them from falling out of the albums. So, I also have to remove 40 year old masking tape from a few uncles pictures which I'm at a loss on how to do as well. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


To love this question, log in above
9/22/2007 5:39:40 AM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  From what you are saying here I can't tell if you are asking a very general question or something more specific.

Have you ever used Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements?

Have you scanned the image?

Can you upload some samples here?


To love this comment, log in above
9/22/2007 7:06:03 AM

 
W.   
Hi Wendy,

I did that too. For MY family's photos. From the 1850's up to the 1990's. All in all it took me 4 years, off and on, to scan/digitize and restore them. It is a LOOOT of work. A labor of love. But very much worth it in the end. We now have the entire family photo archive in almost 40 Gigs of photos on 12 DVDs* (every family member has his/her own set of copies), ready to weather another century.

*which I burn anew every 3 years, since optical media degrade just like paper photo prints, and celluloid negatives do. But new DVD's means brandnew copies with no bits lost.

There is of course far too much to tell here in one post. Most important, afaic, is: don't skimp on quality. Scan and edit at high resolution. Lossless TIFFs. Once you start saving as JPGs you start losing image data. You don't want that. Once lost, that is forever!
High res scanning and editing means you need a serious PC and serious data storage to process and store those huge amounts of data. You may want to consider getting an extra harddisk (they're cheap, these days).

Another important point is: the archiving system you use. It should be easy to understand and interpret for others. And it must be consistent throughout the whole archive. I use "Year - event/subject - date - location", and I created lots of accompanying little text files with descriptions of what, and MOST importantly WHO is in that photo. Again: once lost, you'll NEVER again get that info back! And it would of course be very sorry if the younger generation wouldn't know which aunts, uncles, grandmothers and -fathers are which in the pix!

And then, of course, you'll have to get to grips with photo editing. But seriously! So get a good editing application (Photoshop, Lightroom, Paint Shop Pro, etc.) and spend 6 months reading the manual and 'test driving' on other photos to learn, and only THEN start on the family photos. They are too valuable to take chances with.

Good luck!


To love this comment, log in above
9/23/2007 7:17:07 AM

 
Wendy P
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2006
 
 
 
The only 2 paint programs I have is Corel and Picture It publishing, both okay, but I can only get limited results from both. W S, I agree with you that this IS a labor of love and very time consuming. I have actually came across pictures dating back to the 1800's now that I would love to restore so I can pass them down to my son one day. But, the problems I am coming across is how to clean up the physical damage inflicted on these pictures. I have 3 that I am going to post if they actually load. As I mentioned before, in a temper fit, my grandmother took masking tape and taped the pictures to the old leather bound albums, so after 40+ years, the tape is now a permanant part of the pictures. On most, I can crop around them, but unfortunatly, like the one posted here, the tape is right across my grandfather's head. Also, I'm not sure how to begin fixing the rips and tears. I've tried cloning, but when the tear is across someone's head, it makes it more difficult.


To love this comment, log in above
9/23/2007 5:41:53 PM

 
Susan Fox
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/27/2006
  I've done some photo restoration with photshop. It's very time consuming but also very worth while.

This is one of the best books on the subject:"Adobe Photoshop Restoration & Retouching" by Katrin Eismann

It is for photoshop but might also apply to photoshop elements.

You can also do a google search on Photo Restoration to find people who offer the service.

I have been able to remove tape from old paper with no problems using a specific cleaning fluid. But that is not something I would use on a photo, since printed paper and photos not the same. I am sure a good archivist would know what to use. But I'd recommend scanning and photoshop instead.


To love this comment, log in above
9/25/2007 10:11:08 AM

 
Jesse C. Plummer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/2/2007
  I vote for Photoshop when it comes to this kind of work. Elements is not enough and the others aren't robust enough for this work either. PS packs all the punch a restore will ever need. The next thing it needs is a patient person with plenty of time or lots of dedication. Have fun, in the end, you will love the results.


To love this comment, log in above
9/30/2007 7:34:59 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Jesse,
What makes Elements "not enough" for this kind of work? I think that is a general perception that is really incorrect. I agree you need patience, but you may need to simply learn to flex the muscle in Elements -- which you will use a bit differently than Photoshop.


To love this comment, log in above
10/1/2007 6:17:07 PM

 
Wendy P
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2006
 
 
 
A friend of mine gave me Photoshop 6.0 and promised me that it would be a wonderful program to do complete this task. I have found that there is more than one brick wall to slam into while taking on this project. My husband attempted to help me and did a really great job on the one picture. He spent about 2 hours on this one alone and it's one of the lesser defaced photographs. I have found that even cleaning up the pictures, turning them black and white seems to help, but on some of the much older ones where the picture is beginning to fade, I'm wondering if colorization would be worth while.


To love this comment, log in above
10/1/2007 7:36:20 PM

 
Kari Strube
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/3/2008
  So Richard, because of your statement above about "not enough" is a misconception, if I learned PhotoShop Elements 6.0, would I be satisfied with the program, or since I don't know Elements that well would I be better off learning PhotoShop instead of finding out later that retouching is better in PhotoShop??


To love this comment, log in above
8/21/2008 5:02:05 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  If you learned what the program can really do, you would absolutely be happy with it. People say Elements can't make a CMYK file...not true. They say it can't work with chanels...not true. It is not common or obvious to be able to do these things but learning how to use the program will easily allow you to make 98% of the corrections you make as a digital photographer. Paying the extra 10 times for Photoshop will get you a few more pieces of interface, and unless you are interested in working with 16-bit images in layers, it will not gain you much advantage.

My question to those asking this question is always: what does Photoshop have that Elements does not? Most people have no idea. Photoshop is mostly necessary for graphic artists who have to do a varity of graphic exercises (vectors, text, CMYK, web development, batch actions, custom scripting) or specialists (medical imaging, 3D graphics).

Certainly there is a difference between programs. However, Elements was made to edit photographic images. It uses the same engine that Photoshop does. It is all most people editing images will ever need. I can show the same results in either program.

Does that help?

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
8/21/2008 5:26:10 PM

 
Kari Strube
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/3/2008
  Yes, it does as always. You explain things very well. I vlaue your thoughts and opinions very much.


To love this comment, log in above
8/21/2008 9:04:11 PM

 
Jessica Jenney
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/2/2005
  Interesting info!


To love this comment, log in above
8/22/2008 5:18:03 AM

 
Jesse C. Plummer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/2/2007
  Elements does have the punch needed for this type work. I presumed it didn't and since then, I used Elements 2 to work on some old family photos. I have also used CS3 and Gimp. Both are awesome and more robust for photo restoration. I am not saying Elements can not do the work, I just feel CS3 or Gimp is better. If it was color correction and some basics, I say use Elements. But if you are repairing tape, tears and recreating hair or other body parts from torn and lost pieces, I say CS3 or Gimp.

The bigger question, regardless of software is your copyright situation. The clerk that tore up old military photos may have been wrong. The Copyright laws on the books at the time may have already passed the statute of limitations allowing you full edit rights. The applicable laws are based on when the image was created. The 75 year death clause, If I recall, was added in the 1990's. I would check the books or consult a copyright lawyer for clarification on this. If you have them scanned, send me a couple and I will see if I can help you out.


To love this comment, log in above
9/15/2008 5:07:50 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/12/2005
  Jesse,
Perhaps you can specifically expand upon the tools and techniques you can do in Photoshop that you can't do in Elements? There are certain reasons you would use Photoshop over Elements (e.g., 16-bit), but I am not aware of any techniques for repair that can't be accomplished with Elements, or at least why PS or Gimp are 'better'. What specific advantages are there?

Richard Lynch


To love this comment, log in above
9/15/2008 5:20:32 PM

 
Wendy P
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/11/2006
  Hi Jesse. I appreciate you taking the time to find this old thread and comment on it. I've been working on photographic restoration now for about a year and I have learned quite a bit about it from researching books, copyrights, etc. I do not use PSE, but I do have Adobe Photoshop version 6.0. If I'm not dabbling in that program, I'm using Corel X2. Both are wonderful programs and have fulfilled what needs I require to restore the photos.

As for the copyrights, yes, I recently found out that the picture destroyed should not have been. We were not in violation on the copyright law. However, some corporations set their own standards whether they are supposed to or not, and in this case, they do. So, I guess in the clerks defense, it was my picture or her job. But, she didn't have to be such a you-know-what about it and took a better tactic than throwing the picture in the trash. Almost all the portraits I have been restoring were taken prior to 1945, so that has made things a ton easier getting them professionally printed up after restoration.


To love this comment, log in above
9/15/2008 5:41:53 PM

 
Jesse C. Plummer
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/2/2007
  Richard, I may not have made it clear, sadly, like most of us, I think faster than I type. I am certain that Elements will do whatever you want in repairing and restorations. I did do some repairs and restoration on some images using Elements 3. I misidentified it as 2 earlier. I just felt like the functions were not as easy to find as they are in Gimp or Photoshop CS2 or CS3. With any of the applications, you still need patience and plenty of time to dedicate to the project. I don't mean to demean Elements, I just had more luck, more favorable results and less bald spots on my head using the Gimp or CS3.

Wendy, I would consider using an online printer for this type of stuff. You could use Mpix. I used them once or twice and was pleasantly impressed. I used Walmart and Walgreens online photo printing feature and the only good result I got from them was the capability to send the image in online and pick them up in the store in one hour. The actual print job was not so hot.
Mpix is at www.mpix.com. I think you would be pleasantly surprised. And they don't hassle you over copyrights that are over 70 years old.


To love this comment, log in above
10/6/2008 6:25:46 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.