A good friend of mine came across an old photo and asked if I were up to a restoration. Not a staple of my business, but something I do enjoy and was happy to give a shot.
I love old photos, the moment I saw this one, I had to bring it back. 70′s all over the place and just plain and simply, a beautiful shot.
The photo had been, eek, rolled and stored for several years if not a decade or two. It was cracked, discolored, torn, and all in all, in really poor shape.
My first real issue was scanning the image into a digital format so I could tackle all of the other flaws. Problem. My flatbed scanner does not have a large enough platen to catch the entire print at once. Hmm.
First things first. I covered a large table with felt. carefully unrolled the print backside down. I then covered the face of the print with a very nice tissue paper. Twice. I then covered this paper with more felt and placed a solid piece of plywood over the top of that. All the while being very careful to make sure the print did not roll itself back up – remember it had been rolled up for years and wanted to remain that way. Finally, I added some weights on top of the plywood and left it for a few days.
The curling eased. Time to try and scan. I could catch about 85% of the print in my scanner. I decided to scan it four times, rotating the corners so that in the end, I would have plenty of overlap and excess making it easier to merge.
Here is a relatively close look at what I was restoring.
And an even closer look. This is roughly 1.75 times true dimension of the original. Lots to fix.
Now that I had all the pieces, it was time to get to work.
Assembling the four scans was really not all that difficult. Once that process was done, I saved the layered file as a PSD. From there I cropped the image to manageable size (16×20 at 300 dpi. (I had scanned it in at 600 dpi to retain as much detail as possible in the hair and eyes.) I saved this cropped version, flattened, as a PSD file called Working.
The various cracks that effected the background were a non-issue. Quick fix with some clone work and a feathered brush with a paint color picked from the canvas got it looking good enough so that it was no longer a distraction as I focused on the skin.
The skin was a tough. I did not want to airbrush it to death and hand over a 4×6 that looked like it was painted. At the same time, with the extent of the cracking, I found it difficult to clone or heal away the damage. There just really wasn’t a good source to pick from for either of those two methods. I did what I could stealing bits of skin from here and there. I increase some shadows. Fixed some cracks in the hair and eyes. Polished his watch and then started to stare at the skin again.
This photo was originally black and white. The more I looked at it, the more I realized getting it back to that, fixing the contrast and leveling it out, the easier it would be fix the skin issues. The whole image was currently rather flat. I could tell where the highs and lows could and should be. Their absence was the problem. At least for me.
I have a set of Photoshop Actions that I made for turning images to black and white and then tweaking contrast and so forth. I will share those in another post, but for now, suffice it to say I ran them and could see the light! Once I had converted it, I sat back and could then see clearly what needed attention, what could be airbrushed and what could be cloned what I could get away with and what would fail.
I used the catch light in their eyes as a springboard. The strobe was high left of the camera. That meant that I could blow out some of the detail on the left side of the image by playing with a curves layer. (I tend to set the curves then fill the layer and paint out where the effect is not needed. Sometimes I paint it in. Sometimes I go back and forth.) This helped a lot. A little more airbrushing on the skin, little more contrast on the hair and it was getting really close.
Finally, after multiple saves along the way with different file names, I flattened it all down and gave it a pass with NIK’s Darken/Lighten Center. I hid this newly created layer and ran Photoshop’s built in Unsharp Mask on the bottom layer, paying attention to eyes. I then proceeded to bring the previously hidden lay back to life, this is the top layer, and began erasing it around and over the eyes. This brought visible the underlying, sharpened layer. I used an eraser at about 50% opacity and completely feather so I could maintain a natural look around the eyelashes.
Then end result? My friend was ecstatic and order several prints. My friend is pictured with the handlebars. Great pic Patrick!
Hope you enjoyed the post. Have specific questions? Please feel free to shoot me a message. I would be happy to go in to more detail.