Photo Restoration Part 4 / by Laura Daly

Previously on Photo Restoration:Import and conversion to black and white? Done. Spot repair on the damage to the lower half of the image? Relatively simple thanks to the spot healing brush, an extremely powerful tool from Adobe. Minimising the impact of the tear across the scanned photo? Surprisingly straightforward, using the techniques discussed before...

12 Curves before

And now...curves adjustment.

For me (a relative newbie in terms of Photoshop ability) getting the top and bottom halves of the image to match up in terms of tones was was always going to be the biggest challenge. But hey, why bother doing a project like this if you aren't going to learn from it?

13 Curves first adjustment

A simple curves adjustment layer was applied to a selection of the top half of the image. This part was kinda struggling with a lack of sharpness, contrast and clarity, along with it being a (seemingly, because of the glass adhesion issue) different brightness. So, I bumped up the blacks and shadows, while also trying to make the whites a bit more white, but not having it look blown out. I'll admit, it took a LOT of tweaking, deleting, re-doing to get an effect that started to look OK. Of course, the issue with doing this is that more noise and damage was brought out in the paler upper section. Hmmm...

13 Curves first adjustment

It also seemed to have an effect on the part of the picture stuck most to the glass, making it an even darker shade! (In hindsight, seems like an issue with my selection tool. Something to look out for in the future.) So bearing this in mind, a bit of painting with a feathered brush to change the area with the curves adjustment applied and hey presto, the effect was gone.

14 Curves second adjustment

Completing this adjustment at this stage was actually pretty useful, as it did show up a lot of the damage to the top, lighter half of the image (a lot of this was not visible before). So, just like I did before (see Part 2) I corrected these spots using the trusty spot healing tool.

15 Top damage before

16 Top damage after

I have to say, the effect was pretty transformative. I was, and continue to be, extremely impressed with what Photoshop CC can do. One thing to note - clearly, the sharpness and clarity of the details on her face are not amazing. However this image, as I have said before, was taken in the 1930s AND was scanned through slightly frosted glass. Pretty impressive the file retains as much detail as it does! Anyway, there was more work to be done, such as bumping contrast, further work on the tones of the top half, and a little more damage repair. But, it was getting there. More to come...