Nostalgia Graphics

Restoring Very Old Photographs

Elizabeth Borrows Her Sister Barbara's Blouse


The photograph at the right was taken in Northern Scotland in the late 19th century.

The seated lady is my great-grandmother, standing are her daughters, Elizabeth on the left, and Barbara on the right. Looking at the original picture, you can see that Barbara survived the past 100 or so years, with much less damage than Elizabeth.

There is a nasty rip across Elizabeth's shirt and another bad tear on her hand. Of course, one can't ignore the fact that poor Barbara has been almost decapitated, but at least her clothes are all in one piece. I don't know if these sisters ever borrowed each otherís clothes in the past but we can make that happen now with a computer graphics program by using the clone stamp!

Here is the restored photograph

Below shows the steps taken to restore this photograph
I use Adobe Photoshop and Jasc [now Corel] Paint Shop Pro to restore photographs.

If you have an interest purchasing Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro,you need to know that they are both good programs. Photoshop, being the more expensive program, is superb. Paint Shop Pro is a very good program too, and much more affordable. I encourage you to try either one of them.

Since I am not good at writing tutorials, and there are hundreds of great tutorials already on the Internet, I am just going to explain the basic steps I used to repair this old photograph.
Links to tutorials for the tools used for restoring the photographs are listed on this page.

The first thing I did with the photo was to deepen the contrast. That makes things much clearer

The clone stamp can copy and pick up a piece of the picture from one place and drop it in another place. So, okay, we can pick up Barbara's hand and give it to Elizabeth, but that's no good, it would be backwards, right?
That's easy to change.

Now we use the most wonderful feature of both Photoshop and PSP, layers. Layers are what make things easy. Here is how they work.
Picture in your mind a photo lying on a table; on top of the photograph you place a transparent sheet. A layer is the digital equivalent of that transparent sheet. We are able to pick up that transparent sheet that is on top of the photograph. We can flip it over and turn it upside down, whatever; the photograph is always there underneath unchanged and unharmed.

Layers are the same as that, we can invert them and flip them over too, and that is how we can give Elizabeth a new shirt and hand.

I picked up Barbara's hand and dropped it on a new layer, I flipped it over, erased the bits that weren't wanted and placed it over top of Elizabeth's damaged hand.
Next I did the same thing with the shirt. I cloned the shirt from Barbara, put it on a second layer, flipped it over, erased the extra bits and gave it to Elizabeth.
I added a few buttons on the shirt.
When I was satisfied, I merged the photograph and the layers together.
It is that easy!

Restoring photographs this way is so rewarding. I encourage anyone who has an inclination to try it. Like me, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish.

With this particular photograph, the background posed a bigger problem the subjects. As you can see, the to left corner of the picture is all but destroyed. I tried a few things. My first thought was to eliminate the background completely and add a new one. Yuck, nothing about that was right. The photo looked flat and a lot of the detail around the peoples' heads was lost. Back to the clone stamp. I started by fixing up scratches on the main part of the background. A bit tedious but easy.
Now, how to repair that top left corner? I began by cloning some of the lighter parts of the wall over the white and darker parts. It looked very patchy so tried another very handy tool. The smudge tool, this tool does exactly what one would think, it smudges. The more I smudged, the more it began to look like a lace curtain, what luck! So I smudged and cloned, and smudged and cloned some more. Finally I cloned that little bit that looks like the leaf of a houseplant to make it look a bit bigger houseplant.

My job requires me to go into the homes of seniors.

When I spot old faded photos like this one, I usually offer to restore them. Actually I have to use persuasion sometimes, as the are afraid that I am going to work on their original photograph.

They are always delighted with the restored photos. This photograph was not really damaged, just faded.

There was a distinct oval mark from where the photograph had been in a small frame for years. I took out the faded part of the photograph, and played around with the contrast and colour.

Sitting is my maternal Grandmother. The same lady whose photograph is on the home page. She is with her younger sister. We can date it about 1912.

This photograph is in remarkably good shape and required only a tweaking of the contrast and color.


This photograph of a nurse was not in good shape.

Besides being very faded, it had been sprayed all over with something sticky. Deepening the contrast was the first step.

After that most of the restoration was achieved by using the clone stamp and smudge tool.

I don't know who the subject is.

This photograph is obviously from the 1920's. The right collar of her coat was torn completely away.First I deepened the contrast and cropped the picture.

With the clone stamp/brush, in Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, you can pick up one part of the photograph and 'clone' it to another part. Using this tool it is easy to 'rebuild' the coat.

One thing I like the most about working with old photographs is the fashion. I love the shoes this young lady is wearing

The photograph to the left is my mum.

It was badly damaged because my dad carried it in his wallet for many years.

Does every daughter think that her mother is beautiful?
I think she looks a lot like Barbara Stanwick

My Grandmother again.

This photograph is very faded. Her left eyebrow has faded completely away. When I first started using Paint Shop Pro, I tried to draw one on with a the some brush tools; I wasn't very successful.

Later I discovered the smudge tool, in Photoshop, it is such a useful tool. I put just a tiny dot of colour, cloned from the right eyebrow over her left eye and 'smudged' the new eyebrow.


page 1
Elizabeth Borrows Barbara's Blouse

page 2
Turning Wrong Colour Coats into Right Colour Coats

page 3
Saying " I Do'' in 1887

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