Fixing a vintage photo

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Here are some tips on how to fix a vintage photo. Let’s see the before and after first…

1)Let’s start by increasing the contrast with Curves.

Go to the Layer Adjustment icon at the bottom of the layer menu.

Select Curves…

Click and drag a control point on the curve to increase the contrast like my example

The Layer Adjustment allows you to go back to make changes even after you leave the menu.


2) Smooth out the noise in the photo.

Duplicate the original layer by dragging it down to the new layer icon.

Go to Filter-Blur-Surface Blur. Select a low radius and low threshold.

3) Next we will isolate the “edge” information to preserve the details from the blurred layer.

Duplicate the original layer again.

Go to Filter-Stylize-Find Edges, all the edge that Photoshop detected are in black line

Use Gaussian blur to soften the edges

Increase the contrast of the edges by using a Curve adjustment (use shortcut Ctrl+M/Cmd+M)

Select All (Ctrl+A/Cmd+A) on the Edge layer, copy it (Ctrl+C/Cmd+C).

Turn the Edge layer off, and make the Blured layer active by clicking on the layer.

Go to the bottom of the tool box and find the “Edit in Quick Mask Mode” and activate it.

Now that you are in the Quick Mask Mode, paste what you just copied (Ctrl+V/Cmd+V). In quick mask mode, the blacks are represented by red ink, anything that is red will become selection after you exit quick mask mode.

Exit out of the Quick Mask Mode, the Edge information that we just copy and pasted into the quick mask now becomes an active selection.

With the selection active click on the Add Mask icon on the bottom of the layer menu.

The selection now becomes a mask, anything that is white remains opaque and everything that is black becomes transparent.

You’ve just created a mask using the Find Edge filter.

You can turn the blur layer’s new mask on and off to see the effect of the mask. To turn the mask off, hold “SHIFT” and click on the mask.

4) Let’s refine the mask a bit more.

Click to activate the mask besides the Blur layer.

Bring up the Curve adjustment menu from the Image menu or on your keyboard Ctrl+M/Cmd+M and drag the curve to darken the darks.

Use a brush to paint black over any part that is not sharp enough. Some of the areas to consider is the mouth, nose, eyes and any edges that Photoshop missed in the Edge detection filter.

You can also switch to white paint to paint over any area you want to be opaque.

5) Next we will add some color to the image.

Create a blank layer and turn the Layer Blending mode to Color

Any color you paint on this layer is applied to the layer below it.

Continue coloring it until you are finished.

6) The left side of my photo has a darkened bar, lets adjust it by using Curve adjustment in this area.

Activate the rectangle marquee tool, enter a Feather amount so that the selection is soft.

Go to Layer Adjustment icon and select Curves.

The selection we made earlier automatically becomes the mask, now the Curve will only affect the selected area.

Pull the curve up until the color of this area matches the rest of the photo.

7) Sharpen the photo.

Select the entire canvas, go to Edit and Copy Merge (this will copy ALL visible pixels and not just the pixels on the active layer.) and Paste.

Go to Filter-Sharpen-Unsharpened Mask.

Play with the setting until you get what you like and press ok.

Here is the final image after more tweaking using the same methods mentioned above.

I hope you find this tutorial useful, if you have any questions regarding any of the instruction please feel free to ask.

Please comment below to let me know what you think!

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