Photo restoration is an artistic process used to fix old photos or restore damaged photographs. Before computers, restoring old photos took a lot of professional skill, but today’s sophisticated software can make photo retouching a breeze. Practically anyone can remove scratches and blemishes, or restore the vibrant colors of the original shot.
Retouched photos can make a big difference when the lighting in the shot was too dim, or someone’s eyes are glowing bright red. Practically every computer today comes with digital photo restoration software that allows for a photo touch-up. Even amateurs can restore a digital photograph in a matter of minutes by choosing “quick fix” and tweaking the result, if necessary.
Some photographs need a picture fix that requires professional help, and most graphic artists are experts at restoring photos. A good graphic artist can retouch photos to remove other people from the shot or add natural-looking color to a black-and-white photograph. Professional graphic artists often use a technique called airbrushing that can soften skin tone and remove wrinkles and blemishes in a photographic portrait. Professional photo restoration can make a model look thinner, tanner, bustier, or even change her eye color.
There are also graphic artists who specialize in difficult photo restoration projects, where large portions of the photographic image are damaged or missing. The artist will first scan the old photograph and make a digital copy, usually in a jpeg format. Professional software, such as Adobe® PhotoShop® and Adobe® Illustrator®, are then used to enhance faded areas, erase blemishes, and restore damaged areas. The restored photograph is then printed on photographic paper in its improved state, and the damaged photo is returned to the client.
Sometimes, an old picture from many years ago holds a sentimental value that cannot be replaced by a digital picture fix. There are still some photo restoration experts who rely on manual techniques for restoring photos. Many fine art galleries employ these artistic individuals to be responsible for restoring antique photographs and tintypes.
It is a painstaking process to fix old photos by hand. First, the gallery-quality photo restoration artist will carefully clean the photograph and patch any torn areas. The paper may be pressed for a time to reduce the appearance of cracks and creases. The damaged portions are then retouched with a fine painter’s hand, paying special attention to matching the original color and lighting. A photo restorer can often make significant improvement to an old photo, depending on the extent of the damage.