|1926, Mom at 6|
Since its invention photographs have opened a fascinating window on the past. Antique images allow us to get a first hand view of the habits and life styles of previous generations, and to capture the life in eyes that are long departed. Almost fifteen years ago I spent weeks restoring over 700 images for a video celebrating my mother's 80th birthday. I was using simple editing software to effect basic repairs on images dating back to the late 19th century. It was a remarkable experience, but I was often frustrated by the struggle, given the tools at hand, to adequately correct years of damage and deterioration. Happily things have changed a lot since then.
Recently I have been working on a treasure chest of images from the life of Madame Sherri, the queen of Madame Sherri's fabled castle in the woods of Chesterfield, New Hampshire. The story of
|Madame Antoinette Sherri|
|Madame & the Pigeons|
There about as many ways to achieve a result in Photoshop as there are people doing the editing. What follows is an overview of my general approach and not a detailed discussion of the techniques for the use of the specific tools. I hope to come back to the details in future articles.
|Madame at the Ball 1920's|
The first step in digital restoration is generally to obtain a high quality scan of the original image. Care has to be taken to avoid damage to the originals. Some of our images were glued into a decaying photo album making it difficult to arrange pictures on the scanner deck, and occasionally, an original may only be safely
captured with a high resolution photograph. Scanned images should
be recorded at high resolution. Care should be taken to thoroughly clean the scanner bed and gently remove free dust from the image.
Initial Global Adjustments
After bringing the full resolution scan of an image into Photoshop, I first like to do some simple global adjustments. Many of these
|Lightroom Develop Module|
Correcting the Flaws
This is the real work of photo restoration. Images almost always have scratches, specks, stains, folds, and clipped edges . This is
|Scratches and Spots|
In this image I also had to deal with the clipped corners on the top. The right side was not an issue, since I planned to crop the top of the image close to the peak of the mountainous headdress. On the left some major filing was required. I
|Content Aware Fill Result|
It seems that there are always more flaws to correct, especially when it comes to the tiny specks, but after the close-up work it is time to pull back and take one more look at the whole image. It is at this time that I look for areas needing local adjustments. In this image I felt that the wonderful detail in Madame's headdress appeared a bit washed out. I made a curves adjustment to lower the brightness and add contrast and then used a mask to apply this change only to the headdress.
The final steps are cropping and sharpening for the desired purpose. I tend to apply sharpening sparingly on antique images since excessive sharpening can exaggerate the impact of defects and in some areas selective noise reduction and blurring may be more appropriate.
The restoration of antique photographs can be time consuming, but it is wonderfully rewarding. It is especially exciting to bring people from the faded past to vibrant life, and the new tools in Photoshop make the process much easier than even a few years ago.
Come back next week for many more images, and history illustrating the remarkable life of Madame Antoinette Sherri.