Thursday, October 6, 2011

Photo Friday - Step by Step to my Photo Repair

Original Photo
Repaired and Cropped Photo

Often when I post photos that I've repaired I get asked what software I use and how I did it, so I finally decided to do a post showing what I did.  This was a relatively basic repair so I figured it was a good place to start.  I'm sure that there are people out there with much more experience than I have in photo repair.  I'm self-taught and the tricks I've learned have suited me well so far.

Not every step is covered, but the most important parts are.  You'll have to play with your software's opacity levels and the various sizes of brushes to use with the cloning tool, but I imagine that most programs are relatively similar.  For this photo repair I used Microsoft Office Picture Manager to adjust the contrast and then Serif Photo Plus X2 for the rest of the repair.  It was a cheap and well rated photo editing software that I purchased through

I don't know who the people are in this photo (maybe my family can help me out here when they read this post), but I've been told that my aunt was the artist that drew on the photo!  It wasn't a difficult repair, but if you're new to using photo-editing software there may be one or two swear words that escape your mouth as you go through your learning curve (at least there was for me when I first started!)

I opened the photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager and adjusted the contrast to 10 then to 20.  Adjusting the contrast usually works well in grayscale photos, but you'll want to increase the percentage of contrast slowly so if you go too far and don't like the results, you can bring it down a little.

Contrast increased to 10%

Contrast increased to 20%

You can notice the big change in the scribbles in the sky of the photo.  The contrast removed much of it, without removing detail from the rest of the photo.

You then should familiarize yourself as to what the controls for your software's cloning tool and zoom look like.  This is what the Serif's look like:

After selecting the cloning tool the brush and opacity box automatically appeared at the top of the screen

I then zoomed in on the area I wanted to work on first.  In this case it was the sky.  Since this is a black & white photo the sky came across as white so this was a fairly easy fix with the cloning tool (set at 100% opacity in this case and I used a fairly large brush).  For my software I moved the brush circle to an area I wanted to clone, held down the Shift key, and left-clicked my mouse (you won't notice anything when you do this).  Then I moved to the area I wanted to replace with what I just copied and left-clicked my mouse.

NOTE: When cloning it does not simply copy that small area you clicked on.  It anchors the cloning to that specific area in relation to the next place you click.  So as you move the clone brush down the area you are painting over, both areas move together.  This means that if you aren't careful you may copy something that doesn't match: 

The circle is where I am cloning to and the "+" is where I am copying from.

As you can see in the example above, I've accidentally copied part of the building as I tried to repair the sky.  It's an easy fix.  You just click the undo button.

Eventually (and relatively painlessly) the sky was fixed and I moved on to areas on the bride's dress and white spots on the groom's suit.

The sky fixed

When repairing the groom's suit I used 100% opacity.  It's fairly dark so I really didn't need to be concerned with blending.  For the bride's gown, I used an opacity between 60-70% depending on what looks best.  The undo command is your friend as you figure it out.  I also used a fairly small sized brush so I could work in the much smaller area.

Remember that you don't need to click and drag while cloning.  When doing small repairs just left-click a little at a time.  You may need to experiment as to which areas are the best to "copy" or "clone" from.  You want something that is close in color/texture to the area you are repairing.  The opacity tool allows for better blending.  When I repaired the bride's gown, had I selected an opacity of 100% it would have copied the area exactly and it would have looked awful.  Copying at 60% opacity allowed the crayon/pencil area to be repaired with the copied area but it only matched the color at 60% of the original so the change looked much nicer.  For my lack of communication skills, allow me to show the difference:

100% opacity
60% opacity

At 100% you can actually see a circle where I clicked to repair the area.  With 60% you can see the repair, but only because the flaw to the left and right remain.  In the finished product it is barely noticeable.  If I had repaired the entire area at 100% opacity the result would have been a completely discolored (and brighter) line.  The point of a repair isn't to change the essence of the picture, but to remove the flaws.

I finally completed all the repairs that I wanted and saved the image.  I then went back to Microsoft Office's Picture Manager and cropped the picture to remove the white at the right side of the picture.

After cropping
Before cropping

NOTE:  Always remember to save the project you are working on under a different name so that if you don't like the results you can start over with the original.  If you just save your work, the original will be gone and the undo button won't work after a "save".

Photo repair takes a little patience, but once you get the hang of it, I promise that it does get quicker!