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Old Photo Repair

Restoring old photos to their former glory...

Repairing old photos which have faded used to be a challenge! Professionals would spend hours matching color palettes and adjusting levels, but no longer!

Photoshop Elements makes old photo repair simple! Just alter a slider or two, and it will do all the hard work for you.

This tutorial deals with repairing color, but if you are looking for information on how to restore cracked or torn photos, take a look at my other Photo Restoration Tutorials.

Getting Started

Firstly, open up your discolored old photo. The example image I am using is shown here:

Old Photo

Next, we will change the editor to 'Quick Fix' mode. This is a special section of Photoshop dedicated to making complex image alterations both simple, and easy to 'tweak' until you are completely happy.

Click on the 'Quick Fix' button in the top right hand corner of the editor, shown below:

Quick Fix

Once you are in this mode, you should see your image in the middle of the screen. There are several different ways you can view the image, and these can be changed by the 'View' drop down box in the bottom left hand corner.

When attempting to restore old photos, I like to see both the before and after view at the same time. To do this, select 'Before and After (Portrait)' from the drop down box. This is pictured below:

Before and After View

Restoring the Color

To begin restoring the color, drag the 'Smart Fix' slider to the middle. The slider is located under the first tab on the right of the screen, reading 'General Fixes'. It is shown in the image highlighting the 'Quick Fix' button above.

The image should now look roughly correct, but now we can fine-tune the repair a little.

Moving the slider to the right will emphasize more the blue and green colors. Moving the slider to the left will increase the red and yellow colors.

Only you know how the photo should look, Photoshop isn't that clever! (Yet). Adjust the slider by very small distances until the color looks just how you want it.

When you are happy, click the tick icon at the top of the 'General Fixes' tab. This will accept the changes.

Multiple Smart Fixes

For some photos, repeating this process twice can yield even better results! Below, my example photo is shown before any changes, then after one Smart Fix, and then after another!

Old Discolored Photo Before Repair

Old Discolored Photo After 1 Repair

Old Discolored Photo After 2 Repairs

As you can see, the second repair brought a little extra color and contrast into the image, which improved it again.

The Other Settings

As you will have seen, there are several other sliders which can be altered. It is possible to use these sliders to improve your old photo in just the same way as the Smart Fix slider, but here is the honest truth:

Nine times out of ten Photoshop gets it looking great just with the first slider.

I very rarely need to use the other sliders to fix an image, but just in case you do, here's a quick summary:

The 'Lighting' tab contains sliders which alter the brightness and contrast of an image. If your photo is very poorly lit, for example it was taken in a dark room with no flash, sometimes these sliders can be used to bring out detail.

The 'Color' sliders can be used to change the atmosphere of an image. For example the temperature slider can make an image from a cold, damp cloudy day look like a warm summer sunset!

The 'Sharpen' slider is great for photographs which use very old inks, and have blurred over time. It can help to further define the edges of a slightly fuzzy object.

Other Photo Repair Techniques

Faded color is just one issue which Photoshop Elements can help with when repairing old photos. To find out about the other useful tools at your disposal, why not read my main tutorial on Old Photo Repair.

If you've enjoyed this tutorial, why not sign up to my Free Monthly Newsletter for more great Photoshop tips?

Kind Regards

Robert Redwood Robert Redwood - Bio
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