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Old 11-13-2005, 09:40 PM   #1
JVegVT
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Default My very challenging photo

Hi Everyone--

I haven't been around here as much as I'd like--too many irons in the fire and I'm having a lot of trouble keeping up with my e-mail and various forums. One thing I've been working on recently is a very challenging photo.

My 85-year-old uncle from Michigan is visiting my 87-year-old mother, who lives across the road. He brought along a snapshot that is about 73 years old and he's hoping I can fix it up.

It's 2 inches by 3 inches and in very bad condition, with creases, discoloration, and some surface damage. In the middle of this tiny photo is a group of three boys standing with their horse, cow, and goat. The boys are my uncles. They are so small in the picture that you need a magnifying glass to see where their faces are, and you certainly can't get a clear picture of their faces even with magnification. Most of the picture is sky and grass. My uncle wants me to enlarge the people.

I'm using Photoshop Elements. I've never had time to get good with this program--I've used it for quick fixes such as simple cropping and color adjustments. I've had to look in my various Photoshop books and I've also found some good how-to material on the Web.

I scanned the area I was interested in (the boys and animals) at 600 dpi, which is the maximum optical resolution of my old scanner. I got more than enough pixels through the scan to print the part I want at 6" by 4". The scanned photo needs a lot of work. The tone is very uneven because of the age of and damage to the picture. I have my work cut out for me!

Today I printed out some copies of one of my previous edits of this picture, which I was unsatisfied with and will not be using. I just wanted to see if there was any hope at all. To my surprise, my edited photo is much nicer than the original and you can actually get some idea of what the boys looked like. I think when I do what I can to get rid of the defects, work on the levels to get better tone and contrast, blur the background somewhat, and do an unsharp mask on the people and animals, the picture will be good enough to be meaningful to the younger generation of relatives. It'll never be a clear and detailed picture--there is too little to work with for that.

One good thing is that I'm getting a crash course in Photoshop techniques.<g>

I did another old photo project recently. I found an old page from an employees' newsletter put out by my uncle's company in 1947 with a wedding picture of him and my aunt. They are both dead now. I knew my cousin would cherish that picture and would like copies for her children, and my mother and uncle would also be happy to have such a picture. The picture in the newsletter was about 2" by 3". I scanned it at 600 dpi, descreened it, adjusted the tone, and fixed up some defects and then printed it out on photo paper. It looked really good and my cousin was so happy to get it. Fixing up that photo was a fair amount of work, but nothing like what I'm facing with the snapshot of my uncles as boys.
--Judy M.

   
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Old 11-14-2005, 05:58 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JVegVT
He brought along a snapshot that is about 73 years old and he's hoping I can fix it up.
I found a studio portrait of my father at about 9 and the two of his sisters alive by then, all of them in white (he in white linen suit with short pants, the girls in white dresses). It was dated 1918, and was badly faded, and the most visible part of the image was the creases in his linen outfit. (And the dot of one of his eyes, which had been inked in by someone at some point.)

But scanning it and opening it up in Photoshop, almost before I did anything at all, I saw many details in the image that were lost to the naked eye. It is quite amazing, really.

But as you say, to make it into a decent photo again is a lot of work, and I left it because I lacked the skill. So I hope you are preparing a log of the steps that work and will share them! <g>

   
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Old 11-17-2005, 07:27 PM   #3
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I hope you are preparing a log of the steps that work and will share them! <g>
Too late for that! There are a LOT of steps. I'll keep records of the basic sequence I'm following. As I told Terrie, I decided to fix the defects and even out the tones before I do anything with levels, blurs, or sharpens.

I do see some details that are impossible to see on the original, but I think that's mostly because it's such a small picture and the important part--the people--is even smaller.

I'm finally being forced to learn Photoshop Elements and do things in a rational manner, instead of my usual seat-of-the-pants approach. One of my retirement projects is to scan several albums and shoeboxes full of old family pictures, so this is a skill I really need to work on.
--Judy M.

   
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Old 11-14-2005, 03:43 PM   #4
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Sounds really cool...if you would like, I'd be happy to scan the original for you--my Epson 2450 could give you quite a bit more res on the scan--I'm sure that there is point of diminishing returns--but you might get more there, there...'-}}

Email me if you want me to do that for you...I'd also be happy to play with it in Photoshop for you...

Also...maybe you could attach a jpg or 2 or 3 so we can see what you are working on--or put some up on a page someplace? I love old photos...

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Old 11-17-2005, 07:13 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by terrie
Sounds really cool...if you would like, I'd be happy to scan the original for you--my Epson 2450 could give you quite a bit more res on the scan--I'm sure that there is point of diminishing returns--but you might get more there, there...'-}}
Thanks so much for the offer. I'd take you up on it except that I don't want to have the photo out of my hands. If it got lost, my uncle would be beyond distressed.

I did some work on the photo and decided I didn't have a clue, so I downloaded a bunch of stuff on how to work with layers, layer masks, clone tool, etc., etc., and started over. I decided to get rid of crease defects and even out the tones before I did anything with levels, blurs, or sharpens. It's going pretty well. I showed my uncle a printout of a version I decided to abandon and he was thrilled--absolutely couldn't believe I was able to improve the photo so much. And that was a throwaway version on plain paper! So I know he'll love the final version.

I'll post a "before" and "after" when I finish. This is turning out to be a wonderful learning opportunity for me because I can't just BS my way through it as I've done for most photos.<g>

Thanks again for your kind offer.
--Judy M.

   
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Old 11-20-2005, 07:10 AM   #6
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save sharpening until the very last step

photoshop's smart sharpen is best
(i use the sharpening feature in the power retouche plugin set)

sometimes when working on a drastic enlargement, you can get good results from 'de-graining'. i use the grain surgery plugin for this, as it allows sharpening and de-graining, so the finished result won't go too soft.

power retouche also has a good quality toning filter ('toned prints') that are much better than the generic, overly brown sepia that is commonly used.

but aside from all of this NOTHING makes a bigger difference, than working from a good quality scan.

i wouldn't send off that print either, but you could take it to a kinko's etc. and get a better scan than what you have.

if 600dpi is your highest rez available, do you also have the option to enlarge the scan at the same time? if so, try 400% and 600 dpi.

good luck,
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Old 11-27-2005, 03:47 PM   #7
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Thanks for the tips. I'll see if a Kinko's or some other place in the area offers higher-res scanning. There isn't much detail in the photo no matter what--I've looked with a loupe. For the faces of two of my uncles, their features are distinct enough. But for one uncle, you absolutely cannot see his mouth at all on the original, so you can't see it on the scan, either. No mouth, no chin. It's the most challenging part of the photo.
--Judy M.

   
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Old 11-20-2005, 02:05 PM   #8
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judy: Thanks so much for the offer. I'd take you up on it except that I don't want to have the photo out of my hands. If it got lost, my uncle would be beyond distressed.
I thought of that...I can well understand your reluctance...

I'm so very glad that it's turned out so well and that your uncle is pleased...

>>I'll post a "before" and "after" when I finish.

Cool! I can't wait to see them...

>>This is turning out to be a wonderful learning opportunity for me because I can't just BS my way through it as I've done for most photos.<g>

LOL! I know the feeling...'-}]

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