Tom Langford is a commercial photographer, professional retoucher, and a website designer.Digitizing
ago I took a short Documentary Video course. It was easy for me to use a
video camera, but editing was something I knew absolutely nothing
about. The most useful part of the course was when the teacher sat with
me for five minutes and edited a short sequence of quick cuts. I was
amazed and relieved that she did it all so quickly and intuitively – if
it looked right it was right – which is just the way I like to operate.
It was a “So that’s how it’s done!” moment that I remember well.
the same spirit I’d like to show you my simple, visual approach to
restoring an old picture. There must be millions of faded family
photographs that we’d all like to transfer to our computers, so here’s
some tips about how to deal with them.
simplest way of turning old photographs into digital images is to have
them scanned at a photo lab. If you are fortunate enough to have a
modern flat-bed scanner you can do this yourself. If you have any larger
prints you can also take a photograph of them, then crop this in the
computer. Many programs can help you here: Picasa is a fee to download
and can be recommended.
When they are in the computer I use
Photoshop to restore them. For me it’s the best program both to restore
old pictures and to improve digital pictures taken with my camera.
is a picture sent for constructive criticism by an anonymous reader.
This was an old transparency that as scanned, was difficult to know if
the strong magenta cast is because it had faded, or was the result of a
poor quality scan. I’ll need to restore it before I give any feedback.
I opened the picture in Photoshop. In the layers palette (usually
located on the lower right corner of the screen) I added a curves
adjustment layer to the picture. This has a highlight dropper that
allows you to select an area of the picture you think should be white.
It makes this area white and adjusts all the other colors accordingly to
give a basic white balance. Then I removed the magenta cast by adding a
color balance adjustment layer and played with the magenta sliders
until the picture looked about right. Here’s the result:
you can see, the man’s face is still far too red, so I added a
hue/saturation adjustment layer and adjusted the red saturation/hue
sliders to make the skin look as natural as I could. The whole picture
was affected but every adjustment layer has an attached “layer mask”
that when filled with black completely hides the adjustment. I then used
a soft-edged white brush to paint over the masked area of the face:
This allows the adjustment to affect only the face so it now had a
Next I perked up the contrast over the whole of the
picture with another curves adjustment layer. The shirt now looked too
bright so I finished off by adding a further curves adjustment layer to
selectively darken areas of the picture using a white, soft-edged brush
again. Here’s the final picture:
took much longer to write than to do and sounds far more complicated
than it actually is. There are many on-line tutorials about how to use
adjustment layers and their layer masks that will help you make sense of
it all. Here’s a screenshot of the layers palette to help you if you
original color has not been perfectly restored because the magenta cast
had destroyed some of the color information: This is the best we can do
with simple means.
Years ago we used to do all this work in the
wet darkroom and it was a great relief when we could switch over to the
convenience of working with the computer. We had to do everything
manually in the wet darkroom and this is still how I operate using a
computer. Fancy filters and automation are useful but need to be used
with care. Technology has changed buy my standards haven’t.Feedback
almost forgot to mention that this is an excellent shot. It tells a
story: The primary focal point is, of course, the man’s face, but then
the angle of the camera and dynamic composition draws our gaze down to
what he is doing. After looking at the apparatus and clutter our eye is
pulled up to the bicycle wheel in the top corner - perhaps he cycles
around doing his job? When your eye moves around a picture like this it
gives a sense of movement and life to the scene. It’s like a short video
telling a fraction of a story that our mind tries to fill in. On other
words, it’s interesting: It’s an excellent shot.Constructive FeedbackIf
you are aspiring to develop your photography skills, send me a picture
and I may use in one in my articles with some constructive feedback.Send
one picture only, at a small size to suitable for emails to
firstname.lastname@example.org.If you don’t know how to send a photo by email at a small size please look at my Brief Guide to Picasa: www.langford.co.il/courses/PicasaGuide.htmlTom
Langford is an Event and Commercial photographer, website designer, and
professional retoucher. He teaches photography courses for beginners
and improvers. Details of his courses and field trips at: http://www.langford.co.il/courses