Photo Restoration

Photographic prints will often deteriorate or become damaged over time. Once these prints are digitized, there is an opportunity to make corrections to the image. This page presents some strategies for restoring and repairing faded and damaged photographs in an efficient and non-destructive manner.

Workflow objectives
Watch it in action
Workflow steps
File flow

Workflow objectives

This case study looks at 16 different prints that are part of a family archive. Each print has suffered some form of degradation over time, including fading, loss of color, tearing and problems with scanning. Each image is repaired using efficient non-destructive techniques in Photoshop. While this demonstration deals only with scanned photos, many of these time-saving non-destructive techniques can be used with digital originals as well.

This demonstration is what we call a "component workflow", meaning that is does not show end-to-end workflow, but, instead, focuses on a specific set of tasks that are part of a larger process. 

Watch it in action

The embedded videos linked below show the entire workflow in action.

Figure 1 Katrin Eismann demonstrates how to reset levels and assign black and white points.

Figure 2 Katrin Eismann demonstrates the restoration of colorcasted and tintype images using levels, curves, and retouching techniques.

Figure 3 Katrin Eismann demonstrates how to take advantage of auto adjustments and save time by applying adjustments to images that have similar damage.

Figure 4 Katrin Eismann demonstrates techniques for digitizing prints.

Figure 5 Katrin Eismann demonstrates techniques in stacking scans, extracting blue reflections, and managing the diabolical work of printer pygmies.

Workflow steps

The entire workflow illustrated in these movies focuses on images in the Working phase of the lifecycle.

Workflow steps

Part 1

Resetting levels
Naming layers
Saving the layered version
Assigning black and white points
Read more about using layers in the Image Editing Section

Part 2

Using levels to restore a colorcasted image
Using curves to restore tintypes
Retouching damaged photographs

Part 3

Enhancing color images with auto adjustments
Applying colorcast adjustments to multiple images

Part 4

Digitizing the original
Digitizing sensitive prints

Part 5

Stacking scans of the same image
Extracting blue reflections with color range
Getting a fix on the Evil Elf


Image editing software

Adobe Photoshop is shown.


The workflow outlined on this page makes use of a computer and a calibrated monitor.
Read more in the Storage Hardware section
Read more about monitors in the color section



Figure 6 Here's one way to configure the system shown in this workflow.

About the Author

katrin eismann portraitKatrin Eismann is the author of Photoshop Restoration & Retouching and Photoshop Masking & Compositing and co-author of The Creative Digital Darkroom and Real World Digital Photography. Katrin is the chair of the Masters of Professional Studies in Digital Photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.




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Last Updated September 22, 2015