just an old-fashioned girl

Hello and welcome. I'm glad you dropped by. If you´re looking for something a little nostalgic of bygone eras with a timeless elegance and a little modern twist – in other words, something slightly “retro” – then you should feel right at home here in my shabby chic room. Month by month, there will always be something new to see so I hope you´ll enjoy your stay and come back again soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Knowing When To Start

I´ve often said that an important part of photo restoration is knowing when to stop because if you overwork a photo you can lose as much as you gain. By that I mean you can smooth it out, clean it up and eradicate all its major faults and in the process simply ensure that it takes on a completely artificial character.

With the following photo knowing when to stop was not a major concern. Well, not for many years because it was one of these projects I kept attempting and almost immediately gave up in frustration. I just knew that it wasn´t the right time to start.
See what I mean? For many years I just didn´t have the necessary expertise to tackle something so horrendous. For a start that deep diagonal crease was totally intimidating and the longer I looked at it the less confidence I had that I´d ever be able to remove it. I finally put the photo away and forgot about it. In the meantime I had enough old damaged photos to keep me occupied. Just recently I was looking through all my previous restoration work and realised that many of my old family photos had been just as badly treated and yet I´d somehow managed to restore them, if not to perfection at least to a reasonable condition so I dug it out again and had another look at it. First of all I desaturated it. I suppose that wasn´t really necessary but I find it far easier to repair faults in a black and white image. 
After that I straightened the edges and then used a combination of the clone tool and the healing brush tool to remove the crease. I know that this sounds easy but, believe me, it wasn´t! It took a lot of trial and error before I was happy with the result.
The next step was to conceal the black edges but that was easily done using the clone tool which I also used on the missing part of the shoe. Next I restored the photo to its original sepia. Well, not quite its original which looked rather too yellow to me. (See Tutorials) I also altered the shadows and the highlights. 
After that I cleaned up that messy looking sock using the clone tool. The photo still looked rather flat so I also deepened the contrast.
In my final version I decided to use a darker brown overlay. I then increased the contrast using Curves which brought out the detail. This also had the effect of increasing the visibility of the scratches. 
Did I just say that was my final version? Well, it may be but I couldn´t resist trying out an even darker overlay to give it more depth.
As you can see from the above, it took a lot of trial and error to restore this old photo. I´m still not entirely happy with it but at least it looks a lot better than the original. I suppose I could remove those scratches but, as I said before, you have to know not only when it´s time to start but also when to stop!


  1. WOW! That's impressive! Adding the depth pulled out so much more detail in the child. I'd leave the scratches. They're slight and add character to what the viewer already knows is an old photo. Great job as always.

  2. Very nicely done, Helen! The greater depth looks as important and the crease removal. Wonderful how much detail can be restored. Fascinating dress too.

  3. Wow is right. I have tried my hand at photo restoration and have stopped and started over many times. I will remember the part where you changed the photo to black and white while working on it...great tip. Definitely like the addition of the last overlay which does bring out much more detail. A treasure now restored.

  4. I have tried cleaning up, and tossed (the results) A LOT of old pictures, but I think I will start again. I too would leave the slight scratches. It gives character, and shows that the pictures have been handled in the time they've been around.... I will have to try the overlays though, because I always just put them back with a sepia layer, but the result always looked washed out.