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This discussion is dedicated to the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions, so before I start, I want to encourage you to participate in this discussion by sending me your feedback.

Retouching and repairing photographs.

In the days of the wet darkroom, retouching photographic prints was done by scraping off the dark spots form the print with an Exacto knife. Black and white prints were retouched with inks to match the image. Color prints were repaired with such products as Marshall oils and others.

An enlarger would be used to not only expose the print, but to "burn in" the highlights. A dodging tool could be made out of a piece of cardboard to "dodge" the shadow areas.

If repairs had to be made to a negative, the negative itself had to be of medium format size or larger. It was delicate time consuming work.

With the advent of the digital darkroom, photographic restoration and repair has reached a level of advance that we did not dream of in the past. As a result of these advances, there is hope for old damaged or faded photographs. There are many photo editing software programs available today that give us the necessary tools that are required to repair or restore a picture. I am most familiar with Photoshop so that's the one I will refer to in this discussion The following summary below shows some of the basic steps that you can try if you are interested I learning about restoration

In addition to the software, you will need the following equipment:

A good flatbed scanner - some scanners come with a calibrating program, such as Microtek. This scanner come with Laser Soft Silverfast, bundled with it. It includes it’s own software as well and gives you two ways to edit your images. Next you will need a,

photo quality printer

and a selection of photo paper which has been profiled to the printer.

Needless to say, your monitor and printer should be calibrated so that what you see on your monitor will be pretty much what you see when you print the repaired picture.

OK, so now you've assembled all of the paraphernalia necessary to retouch a print. For example, lets say the print you wish to restore is a color print which has faded and perhaps it has some creases and maybe even a piece missing.

The first thing you are going to do is scan in the picture. Make sure that you create a duplicate image to work off of. Some scanners have a restoration program included in the scanner software. By all means give this software a try, it may save you some time and effort. If it does not work out the only thing that you will lose will be some time.. Before you scan the print into Photoshop, it would be helpful if you have made a folder for your restoration beforehand.

I prefer to work on my photos in Photoshop so I scan them in and close out of the scanner and continue in Photoshop. The first tool to use in Photoshop is the histogram. Click, Image, Adjustment, Levels.

Actually, this is a pretty good looking histogram. However, if there were gaps in the shadow areas on the left or in the highlight areas on the right, you would move the sliders so that those areas would look something like the histogram above.

Remember, as you are making the adjustments keep looking at the picture so as to not overcorrect.

Once you have made all of the corrections for optimal performance using the histogram. Click on Curves

The window below will open. Make sure that in your tool palate on the left info is also open and viewable. Click on the eyedropper on the right on the bottom of curves, take it over to your picture and find the whitest spot on the picture and click. Keep your eye on the info palate on the right. It will tell you when you are in the whitest area. Make sure that the white area is in the area of the picture that you will be using and not in an area that you will be cropping out of the picture.

Next, click on the black eyedropper and go to the darkest area of the picture. Again the info palate will be of great help to you here as well. When you have found the darkest areas of the picture, click. And the adjustment will be made for you. You can use the diagonal line to make additional adjustments.

The next tool that will be useful to you in retouching and restoration as well. It is the Hue and Saturation tool.

This is a very powerful tool and my advice here is to go slowly in making your adjustments since a little goes a long way.

Here you will have to experiment with the adjustments of Hue and Saturation since these changes are all subjective. You can further fine tune your picture in Hue and Saturation, for example, suppose that you find that your picture is too yellow, you can click on the arrow next to the top box that says Edit Master and addition choices will drop down. One of the choices will be Yellow. So you will have an opportunity to just adjust the yellow caste.

Cracks, lines, mildew, missing picture parts require time to fix. I have been asked to repair pictures that have been so badly damaged that it would take many hours of restoration to repair without any guarantee that facial features will become recognizable. Before you start on a picture that is this badly damaged you have to determine if you will be wasting your time and your clients money. Only experience working on restorations will give you the answer.

Photoshop is a vast and powerful tool with many venues. This is a great time for you to experiment in Photoshop. You could learn something new and practical very day. As you work on your pictures, be sure to save them very often. This way should a catastrophe develop, you will not lose your hard earned progress just the unsaved portion.

You may find other useful tools to use for photo restoration in the adjustments menu. I urge you to try them out, maybe you will find a tool that I am not using currently but that you have had great success with. Let me know about it and I will post your findings on my website………………. or if you think that you would rather have a professional do your retouching give me a call or send me an e-mail.

And good luck,