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Uneven fading over old photo


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I am trying to restore this photo. I think it is over 90 years old, so, not surprisingly, age has taken its toll and the photo is quite faded. I thought that I could still see details, and therefore I could bring this back to life, but I think I'm hitting the limit of my limited skills. The big problem, at least to me, is that the fading or tarnish is uneven.

I tried the limited tricks that I know, and while there is some improvement, there still looks to be an uneven haze over the picture. The picture below was made by taking the blue channel of the original. Then I created a mask from the original using Select->color range... on the haze. I applied the mask to a level adjustment layer over the blue channel copy. It looks a bit better, but still not right and further tweaks seem to bring more haze back or make the photo too dark.
scan0020 try.jpg

I'm feeling a bit defeated by this one. Is this picture too far gone? If not, can anyone suggest a plan of attack? Is it just a manual process of burn, dodge, and heal from this point, or is there a more general approach? Should I create a lot more masks based on color and adjust levels for each? I am tempted to just mask the men and the posts and then rebuild or substitute the background with another door, brick, and fencing even though that really violates the rules of restoring photos.

Any suggestions would be appreciated (including suggesting giving up on this one). Thanks.


From tips I received on here I've had some good results with old ones like yours...set your blending mode to Multiply, adjust opacity and repeat several more times.... applies gradual shading to bring color forth, also haze tool removal works well for final haze. Probably already know but heal, clone, patch any damage before using multiplying as it multiplies and enhances the damage as you deepen also adjust shadows, highlights, levels and curves...I just usually throw the kitchen sink at it trying what works till I hit the sweet spot then move from there
The Pros can give you further tips but that photo is savable
Bildschirmfoto 2017-02-28 um 12.05.59.png
1. I copied the blue channel into the red and the green channel.
2. I made a selection of the darker parts, softened it and matched it to the rest by using curves.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-02-28 um 12.16.22.png
3. I used curves again on the whole image in each channel...

...to get this result.

Bildschirmfoto 2017-02-28 um 12.19.03.png
4. Finally I applied unsharp masking on the image.
Last edited:

Tom Mann

Started with the blue channel (like everyone else), but then:

1) ACR lowered clarity and increased contrast to compensate

2) Spotted the obvious larger point and line imperfections using the patch tool & healing brush (not spot healing brush)

3) Topaz detail. This made the biggest single step improvement.

4) Dust & scratches on a layer set to "lighten"

5) Final adjustments for brightness and contrast using just the RGB channel in curves.