Rejuvenating old photos and documents
Big thank you to our members Simon Corsten and Cari Jansen for delivering a great informative session in which lots of great Adobe Photoshop tips and tricks were demoed, questions answered. It was great to see members bringing in some of their old photos to work with. Thank you to those who did and to those who attended the meeting for making it such a fun evening.
There are many different types of scanners available, each with their own scanning software and drivers, however over time the drivers might no longer be compatible with the computer operating system you are running. Simon spoke about an application called VueScan, scanning software that is developed for Mac and Windows, that runs with a large range of scanners. A life-time license costs USD90 (about AUD108 with current exchange rates), and also allows you to work with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and film and slide scanning.
For more information: VueScan Scanning Software
There’s no best resolution fit for all old photos and documents you’ll be scanning. You’ll likely find that you create a couple of test scans to see what works best. Think ahead about what you’d like to do with your images later on. Scan so that you have the ability to resize them later on without loss of quality.
Things to remember when scanning
- The higher the resolution you select when scanning images, the larger the file sizes, and the longer the scanning will take. The higher the resolution the more detail can be captured.
- Scan at the resolution most suitable for the future (print) requirements. For example scan a 10x15cm photo at least at 300ppi if you want to reprint it at 10×15. But scan it at a higher resolution you want to print it at a larger size.
- Scan small images such as negatives, slides (35mm) at the highest possible resolution, again this allows for upsizing without loss of quality later on.
- Avoid applying automatic sharpening with your scanning software. Especially old prints will have dust, scratches, film grain enhanced when auto-sharpening.
- Avoid applying automatic colour or tonal corrections when scanning. Try to capture the raw information so you have the best amount of data to work with when you start retouching.
- Save the scans in an uncompressed format, when you still need to work on them in Photoshop. Most scanning programs will allow saving in TIFF format. Avoid saving as a JPEG.
Retouching in Photoshop
Photoshop contains an amazing set of tools and techniques that can help you patch-up those old documents. To name a few:
- Spot Healing Brush tool – Great for removing dust spots, scratches. In the Options bar set Type to Content Aware. The trick is to ensure that the brush size is just that little bit bigger then the scratch you want to remove.
- Clone Stamp tool – Allows you to sample from another part of the image and paint with the sampled details elsewhere. With a hard-edge brush the tool could behave a bit like a cookie cutter.
- Healing Brush tool– Works similar to the Clone Stamp tool, with one big difference. The tool will try and retain the texture and lighting
- Patch tool – Works well in more monotoned areas that are damaged, for example backgrounds in photos. It has a Content Aware Patch mode (Options bar), start by creating a selection of an area you want to fix, them move the cursor inside the selected area and drag to a replacement area. You might need to adjust the Structure and Color settings in the Options bar to get the best result.
- Content Aware Move (and Extend) – Great if you need to fix things like broken letters in old birth certificates etc. You can pick-up letters from elsewhere and use them as a replacement for broken letters for example.
Before starting retouching work on images you’ve scanned:
- Consider creating a duplicate of the background layer (Cmd+J on Mac, Ctrl+J on Windows).
- Consider retouching to a new (empty) layer.
Over the past week we’ve recorded several of the tips that were demoed during the meeting as tutorial videos. Please find them below.
Video 1: Converting an old sepia tone back to black and white
Simon demoed using a Black and White Adjustment layer, to non-destructively convert a sepia toned image back to black and white. The image is retained as an RGB (Red, Green and Blue) image, and with the adjustment sliders you can control which colours in an image are converted to certain grey tones.
Video 2: Removing brown age spots and browning from scanned documents
Adjustment layers become even more powerful when they are combined with layer masks. On the night Cari demoed converting the individual adjustments into Smart Objects, each time nesting the adjustments. One of the things to watch-out for when using this technique is bloating of your file size. In the tutorial she changes that technique and merges layers instead.
Video 3: Complex fixes with Clone Stamp tool and Clone Source panel
Most Photoshop users will have worked with the Clone Stamp tool. But the true power of the tool when it comes to retouching seriously damaged images is to use it in combination with the Clone Source tool.
Once again a big thank you to those members who attended, shared photos they took, and brought in photos to work with during the meeting.