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Restoring a damaged photograph

All sorts of nasty things can happen to precious old photographs—or precious new photographs, for that matter—and it is often impossible to locate the negative. For this exercise you’ll work with an uncropped version of one of the photos you adjusted in the previous chapter.

The scanned image of an antique photograph that you’ll use in this project is a challenging restoration job, because of large creases in the original print, among other flaws.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix such significant damage in just one or two keystrokes but to rescue an important heirloom photograph like this one, a little effort is worthwhile and the results can be dramatic.

Photoshop Elements provides the tools you’ll need to restore this picture to a convincing simulation of its original condition. You’ll repair creases and replace parts of the image that are actually missing, fix frayed edges, and remove dust and scratches. You may be surprised to discover how easy it is to achieve impressive results.

Preparing a working copy of the image file

The first thing you need to do is to set up a work file with a duplicate layer.

  1. In the Organizer, find and select the file 08_04.psd, a scanned antique photo of twin babies, tagged with the Lesson 8 keyword tag. Click the Editor button in the upper right of the Organizer window and choose Full Edit from the menu.
  2. In the Editor, choose File > Save As. In the Save As dialog box, name the file 08_04_Work and choose Photoshop (PSD) from the Format menu. If the option Save In Version Set With Original is active, be sure to disable it before you save the file to your My CIB Work folder.
  3. Choose Layer > Duplicate Layer and in the Duplicate Layer dialog box, click OK to accept the default name: Background copy.

Using the Clone Stamp tool to fill in missing areas

The first thing you’ll do is to eliminate the creases using the Clone Stamp tool. The Clone Stamp tool paints with information sampled from an image, which is perfect for both covering unwanted objects and replacing detail that is missing, as is the case for the worn areas along the creases.

  1. With the help of the Navigator palette or the Zoom tool, zoom in on the crease in the lower right corner.
  2. In the toolbox, select the Clone Stamp tool (stamp-tool.jpg), which is grouped with the Pattern Stamp tool.
  3. On the left end of the tool options bar, click the triangle and choose Reset Tool from the menu.

    The Reset Tool command reinstates the default values for the Clone Stamp tool: Size: 21 px, Mode: Normal, Opacity: 100%, and the Aligned option is activated.

  4. In the tool options bar, open the Brush Picker. Choose Basic Brushes from the Brushes menu, and then select a hard mechanical brush with the size of 48 pixels. Set the Mode to Normal, the Opacity to 100%, and select Aligned.
  5. Move the Clone Stamp tool to the left of the crease at the bottom of the picture. Hold down the Alt key and click to set the source position—the area to be sampled. Centering the source on a horizontal line makes it easier to align the brush for cloning. The tool duplicates the pixels at this point in your image as you paint.
  6. Position the brush over the damaged area so that it is aligned horizontally with the source reference point. Click and drag to the right over the crease to copy the source image onto the damaged area. As you drag, cross-hairs appear, indicating the source—that is, the area that the Clone Stamp tool is sampling.
  7. To repair the upper part of the crease, set the source position in the area above the crease and drag downwards. This will help you blend the repair with the vertical edges of the photograph’s mount.
  8. Continue to drag the brush over the creased, damaged area, resetting the source position as necessary, until the repair is complete.

    The cross-hairs follow the movement of the brush. With the Aligned option activated in the tool options bar, the cross-hairs maintain the same position relative to the brush that was set when you made the first brush stroke. When the Aligned option is disabled, the cross-hairs return to their original position at the beginning of each new stroke, regardless of where it is made.

  9. Now, smooth out the crease across the upper right corner. For this operation the Healing Brush tool (brush-tool.jpg) is the best choice, because the crease is quite severe and has caused significant variations in the background color. The Healing brush set to a small brush size is also the right tool to restore large white speck on the ear of the baby on the right.
  10. Choose File > Save to save your changes.

Using the Selection Brush tool

The next step in restoring this photo is to use the Dust & Scratches filter to remove the stray spots and frayed edges from the scanned image. This filter smooths out the pixels by blurring the image just slightly. This is fine for the background, but the subjects—the children—should be kept as detailed and sharp as possible. To do that, you’ll need to create a selection that includes only the areas you want to blur.

  1. In the toolbox, select the Selection Brush tool (brusha-tool.jpg), which is grouped with the Quick Selection tool. Be careful to not select a painting brush tool by mistake.
  2. In the tool options bar, select a round brush shape and set the brush size to about 60 pixels. Leave the other options at the default values: Mode should be set to Selection and Hardness should be set to 100%.
  3. Drag the brush around the edges of the photograph and move inwards. Increase or decrease the brush size as needed as you paint the selection to include everything but the children. There’s no need to be too precise around the outlines of the babies. It’s no problem if some of your strokes overlap on the children; you’ll be refining the selection in the next exercise.
  4. Choose Select > Save Selection.
  5. Name the new selection Backdrop and click OK to close the Save Selection dialog box.

    Painting a selection with the Selection Brush tool is an intuitive way to create a complex selection. In images like this one, where there are no distinct color blocks, few sharp boundaries between pictured items, and few crisp geometric shapes, the Selection Brush tool is especially useful.

    Another advantage of the Selection Brush tool is that it is very forgiving. You can hold down the Alt key while dragging to remove an area from a selection. Alternatively, you can use the Selection Brush in Mask mode, which is another intuitive way of refining the selection, which you’ll be doing in the next exercise.

Refining a saved selection

As you progress through this book, you’re gathering lots of experience with saving selections. In this procedure, you’ll amend a saved selection and replace it with your improved version.

  1. In the work area, make sure that your Backdrop selection is still active in the image window. If it’s not still active, choose Selection > Load Selection, choose the saved selection, and then click OK.
  2. Make sure the Selection Brush tool (brusha-tool.jpg) is still selected in the toolbox.
  3. In the tool options bar, select Mask from the brush Mode menu. You can see the mask as a semi-transparent colored overlay on the unselected—or protected—areas of the image. In this mode, the Selection Brush tool paints a mask rather than a selection.
  4. Examine the image, looking for unmasked areas with details that should be protected (places where the Selection Brush strokes overlapped onto the children) and parts of the backdrop that are masked and should not be.

    Use the Navigator palette slider or the Zoom tool (zoom-tool.jpg) to adjust your view of the image, as necessary.

  5. Reduce the brush size for the Selection Brush to about 30 pixels, and then paint in any areas you want to mask. Press the Alt key while painting to remove an area from the mask.
  6. Switch back and forth between Selection and Mask modes, making corrections until you are satisfied with the selection (or the mask, if you like). Your goal is to make sure that fine details you want to preserve are masked.
  7. Choose Select > Save Selection. In the Save Selection dialog box, choose Backdrop from the Selection menu. Under Operation, activate the Replace Selection option and click OK.
  8. While the Selection Brush tool is still active, make sure that the Selection mode—not the Mask mode—is selected in the Mode menu in the tool options bar. Keep the selection active for the next procedure.

Filtering flaws out of the backdrop area

Now that you’ve made your selection, you’re ready to apply the filter that will soften the selected areas, reducing the tiny scratches and dust specks in the background of the image.

  1. If the Backdrop selection is no longer active, choose Select > Load Selection and choose Backdrop before you click OK to close the dialog box.
  2. Choose Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches.
  3. In the Dust & Scratches dialog box, make sure that Preview is selected, and then drag the Radius slider to 6 pixels and the Threshold slider to 10 levels. Move the dialog box so that you can see most of the image window, but don’t close it yet.
  4. Examine the results in the image window. The frayed edges of the image should be softened and the stray dust and tiny scratches eliminated. Move the cursor inside the magnified preview in the Dust & Scratches dialog box and drag with the hand tool to change the area of the image that is displayed.
  5. Make adjustments to the Radius and Threshold values until you are satisfied with the results, and then click OK to close the Dust & Scratches dialog box.
  6. Choose Select > Deselect, and then choose File > Save to save your work.

    The Dust & Scratches filter does a good job of clearing away spots created by flaws on the negative, without affecting the unselected—or masked—areas.

Adding definition with the Smart Brush

The Smart Brush provides a quick and easy way to apply an adjustment to just part of a photo. Unfortunately, like the Quick Selection tool, the Smart Brush makes its selection based on similarities of color and texture in an image, which makes it a little difficult to use on an image such as our example. However, you have already spent time with the Selection Brush to create a selection that will isolate the subjects of the photo from the background; for this exercise you can use that saved selection to quickly tidy up any effect from the Smart brush that extends outside the area you intend to adjust.

  1. In the Layers palette, select the layer Background copy and choose Layer > Duplicate Layer. In the Duplicate Layer dialog box, click OK to accept the default name for the new layer: Background copy 2.
  2. Select the Smart Brush tool (smart_brush.jpg) in the toolbox. The floating Smart Paint palette appears. If the palette does not appear, you can open it by clicking the colored thumbnail in the tool options bar. Drag the Smart Paint palette aside so that you can see the two babies in the Edit window.
  3. From the categories menu at the top of the Smart Paint palette, choose Lighting, and then select Darker from the list of Smart Paint adjustments.
  4. In the tool options bar, open the Brush Picker and set the brush Diameter to 30 px and the Hardness to 75%.
  5. Make sure the layer Background copy 2 is selected. With the Smart Brush, paint over the face of the baby on the left and over the arms and legs of both babies. You can hold down the Alt key as you paint to remove areas from the selection. Don’t worry about the selection spilling over onto the background, but try to exclude the babies’ clothes.
  6. Choose Select > Deselect Layers to make the adjustment inactive.
  7. From the categories menu at the top of the Smart Paint palette, choose Portrait, and then select Details from the list of Smart Paint adjustments.
  8. With the Smart Brush, paint completely over both babies and their clothes. This time you can be even more casual with your brushwork; don’t worry at all if the effect spills over onto the background—you’ll tidy it up in a moment.
  9. Choose Select > Deselect Layers to make the adjustment inactive and close the floating Smart Paint adjustments palette.

Merging layers

You’ll now merge the two Smart Brush adjustment layers with the Background copy 2 layer beneath them.

  1. In the Layers palette, Ctrl-click to select the top three layers: Background copy 2, Darker 1, and Details 1.
  2. Choose Layer > Merge Layers. The three selected layers are merged into one. The new merged layer takes its name from the layer that was on top in the stacking order: Details 1. The Smart Brush adjustments are no longer active or able to be edited.
  3. Make sure the new merged layer is still active in the Layers palette and choose Select > Load Selection.
  4. In the Load Selection dialog box, choose the saved selection Backdrop from the Selection menu, and then click OK.
  5. Choose Edit > Delete, and then Select > Deselect. The background is removed from around the two babies in the merged layer Details 1.
  6. To see the effects of your Smart Brush adjustments, toggle the visibility of the layer Details 1 by clicking the eye icon beside its name in the Layers palette.
  7. In the Layers palette, Ctrl-click to select the top two layers: Background copy and Details 1.
  8. Choose Layer > Merge Layers. The two selected layers are merged into one. The new merged layer takes its name from the layer that was on top in the stacking order: Details 1.

Finishing up the project

Compared to the original condition of the photograph, the image is already vastly improved, but if you’re in a perfectionist mood you can fix just a few more areas before saving your work.

  1. Use the Zoom and Hand tools—or the Navigator palette—to examine the entire image, looking for dark or light flecks created by dust on the negative or the ravages of time, especially in the dark areas of the photograph.
  2. In the toolbox, select the Blur tool (blur-tool.jpg) and type 40 px as the brush Size in the tool options bar.
  3. Click or drag the tool over any dust spots you find, to blend them into the surrounding area.
  4. Use the Clone Stamp tool to remove the pink smudge from the dress of the baby on the right and the Healing Brush to remove the black mark on the calf of the child on the left.
  5. Choose File > Save, and then close the file.

    Congratulations, you’ve finished this lesson on repairing and retouching images. You’ve explored a variety of techniques for fixing visual flaws in your photos, from straightening an image to smoothing wrinkles from skin. You sampled one area of an image to repair another with both the Clone Stamp and the Healing Brush and worked with selections and masks. You learned how to reset a tool to its default settings and worked more with layers and the Smart Brush. Take a moment to review the lesson by reading through the review on the next page before you move on to chapter 9, “Working with Text.”

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