A How-To Guide: Photo Restoration, Colorization, and Retouching

I thought we might take a step back from weddings today so I could share with you few little things that may be useful. I recently had someone inquire about photo restoration services. He had a couple childhood photos from years ago that he wanted to get printed but one was in pretty tough shape and the other was black and white. He wanted to restore the color photo and colorize the black and white one.


This is not something I normally do, but I always love to figure out and learn new techniques in Photoshop so I told him I’d give it a go. The restoration of the color photo wasn’t too difficult (though it is time consuming) since it employs a lot of the same techniques as retouching a fashion photo would. The colorization was something I had never done before.


Let’s start with the restoration. Below you can see a before and after. I’ll just run through a high-level description if the process since there’s already millions of specific Photoshop tutorials out there on how to use the specific tools within.


Photo Restoration

The first step, if the image is intended for print, is to crop to the proper aspect ratio. In this case, the intended print size was 8×10. Next, the background was removed by masking it off and deleting it. A layer was created below the main image and placed a black and white radial gradient on it. Any background you want could be used in this step. After that, a new layer was created on the top of the stack and the heavy lifting starts. All of the deterioration of the scanned photo needed to be removed – the rips, crinkles, folds, stains, etc… This is easier in some places than it is in others. A lot of time and patience pays off here as you move through the photo with the spot removal tool and fix each blemish one by one.


Once finished, it’s time to color correct the image as the original had extremely strong red hues. I added a layer of blue, changed the layer style, and adjusted the opacity to balance the red. I also added a hue/saturation layer, a contrast layer, and a levels adjustment to fix some of the toning. That was about the extent of it. Here’s the after and before (yes, they’re backwards):


Blueflash Photography Wedding


Photo Colorization

I’ve never colorized a black and white photo before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I started with the same steps as the photo restoration – cropping for the proper aspect ratio, removing the background, and adding the new gradient background to match the previous photo. I then started making masks for each individual piece of clothing, along with grouping all the skin areas of the photo. This made it easy to apply different colors to different parts of the photo. Once all the masks were created, I was able to simply make a hue/saturation layer for each different part, apply the appropriate mask to that layer, set the ‘colorize’ option, and adjust as necessary. It actually was much easier than I anticipated. The hardest part was deciding what colors to make the clothes. I had to consult Tara for that. Below is a screenshot of the Photoshop layers and below that is a before and after.


Blueflash Photography Wedding


Blueflash Photography Wedding


I hope that was either useful or interesting to you. I am by no means an expert in photo restoration, but I figured I’d share my experiences in case someone else out there is trying to do the same type of thing.