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Repair old photo with Photoshop

RichardRichard Registered User regular
edited June 2016 in Help / Advice Forum
I recently found my grandfather's old driving license. It's 60 years old so the photo unfortunately has lots of cracks in it. Is there any way to use the magic of Photoshop to repair it? I understand there are limitations but any improvement would be welcome.

I found this guide on Youtube but even when trying different variations I couldn't get a good result.

The photo is available in higher resolution if anyone would like to take a shot at it themselves but I know my way around the basics of Photoshop so if anyone has a guide I would be happy to try it. (Image in spoiler)

Grandfather bonus trivia
He passed away six months before I was born at the age of 50 so I have never met him. He was into photography, drawing and from what I have been told had a small acting role in a low budget sci-fi movie about aliens.

Richard on


  • DerrickDerrick Registered User regular
    I think the bark is worse than the bite on this one. There are a lot of cracks, but the picture is fairly monotone as well as being mid range on the value scale (After you finish fixing it, it will probably look better if you widen the scale to include something closer to true blacks).

    I would use the patch and clone tools, with maybe just a pinch of soft brush here and there. The important thing will be to make sure you're keeping the values correct (light and shadow).

    Good luck!

    Steam and CFN: Enexemander
  • WiseManTobesWiseManTobes Registered User regular
    edited June 2016
    Your grandpa was a stud

    edit: and that's a driver's license photo to boot? Sheesh, better than most model's headshots!

    WiseManTobes on
    Steam! Battlenet:Wisemantobes#1508
  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    This photo seems pretty severely cracked - if I were going to fix it I'd just start by painting out the cracks directly. It's good this is monochrome and there are large areas where the value is basically the same (like in his suit jacket, the shadowed part of his hair, etc).

    You can try using the filters [Filter>Blur>Surface Blur] or [Filter>Noise>Dust & Scratches] to help you get a good base to work from, though these filters may blur out some of the hard edges and details you want to keep, so you may need to go back in and clean those areas up (the best way to do this in my opinion is to ALWAYS keep a layer with the can bring back parts of it, especially for important detailed areas like the eyes).

    Clever use of the "Lighten" and "Darken" brush modes will also an example, colorpick the lightest part of the dark suit, and set your brush to "darker color". Then run your brush over all the cracks in the suit. The brush won't 100% hide all of them, but it also won't go over any details in the suit that need to be there (because you've selected the lightest color in the suit, and Darken tells Photoshop to just darken anything brighter than your selected color.

    That would be a good method to take care of the suit, the background, and the shadowed areas of his hair. Any area with large sections that don't have any small detail in them.

  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    Here's a really quick example of the "base" that you can achieve with the above techniques:


    Like I mentioned, it's not going to make the photo perfect yet, but for a photo this heavily damaged I think it's a really fast way to give yourself a solid base to work from. After this, it'll likely need some more elbow grease with you zooming in and painting things directly (which you can still do using Darken and Lighten, just on a smaller scale).

    Always have the original on another layer so you can flip back and forth to ensure you're not introducing any new darks or lights in any area. Good luck! :) Hope that's helpful.

  • EchoEcho Moderator mod
    edited June 2016
    Yeah, that video is essentially how I used to do this, except I didn't have that fancy content-aware fill way back when. You'll still need a bit of manual labor to get it looking good after doing the quick fixes.

    Echo on
    Echo wrote: »
    Let they who have not posted about their balls in the wrong thread cast the first stone.
  • RichardRichard Registered User regular
    Thank you for all your help. Inspired by your suggestions and the work of @NightDragon I will start repairing it right away.

    @WiseManTobes I guess you didn't have to go to the DMV, stand in line and get your picture taken by a machine back in those days.

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