explained… Tools for fixing old photos
the Levels adjustment tool to brighten the white point and darken the black point of your image offers more fine-toothed control. Using the Curves tool (see MF306) can bring colours and saturation up, producing an image that will print with more impact. Sharpening and noise When digitising your images, if you’re using your scanner at its highest, native resolution, you shouldn’t lose any sharpness between the scanner and Photoshop. However, for all the nostalgia attached to the aesthetic of film photography, there’s a pretty good chance the technical quality of your scans will fall well short of that offered by almost any modern digital camera. Cheap film and lacklustre high‑ISO performance are just two of the culprits, and that’s before you consider the effect of cheap fixed-focus lenses or the possibility of the photographer missing focus when shooting the picture in the first place.
Sharpening and noise reduction often go hand in hand, but when working with scans of analogue prints, sharpening is the technique that’ll most likely give you good results. Use Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask filter to apply a round of intelligent filtering. Sharpening can be a tricky thing to get right: when using the Unsharp Mask’s 100% view, try to have the view be of an edge of something in your picture. Not only will this give you the best view of how well the tool is working, but it should also give you the ability to keep an eye out for halos – glowing edges. Oversharpened images often suffer from these artefacts, and with many clumsy edits you may not spot the problem until you print your image.
Noise reduction is a tool you’ll probably have less use for: the Unsharp Mask and Reduce Noise tools often offset each other, and it’s preferable to have a broadly sharp image with a touch of noise than one that looks cleaner but has soft edges. Crop and straighten Of course, you should make sure your images are aligned properly when placing them in your scanner, but often images are already mounted on cardboard frames and to varying degrees of straightness.
If you’re going to straighten horizons (press C to switch to Photoshop’s Crop tool, which also enables rotation when the pointer is just outside a corner), be mindful of any handwritten notes and captions – any effort to straighten an image will crop parts out, so make sure you’re not losing anything future historians might find useful. Consider keeping two versions of your images: a straightened one that crops out the frame, and a full wonky one with nothing removed.
1 Clone stamp This is key in retouching. Use it to paint over pesky details with parts of the image taken from elsewhere. 2 Spot healing This brush is a simpler version of the clone stamp. It’s great for dealing with blemishes on detail-free areas. 2 1 4 3 3 Unsharp mask
A quick round of sharpening can help bring your old pictures up to date and get them ready to print. 4 Water stains
This image is a great candidate for retouching. Fixing the colour cast and water damage will be straightforward.