I have lots of old photos from my family. Most are over 70 years old. Trying to understand how to improve them. My question concerns the aging process. I have lots of photos that appear light and/or brownish in color. I do not know if they were originally black and white and just faded into a tannish brown or whether that was a way of processing photos 70 years ago or so.
This is the kind of photo I am referencing.
Sepia prints were very stylish back then, so normally they probably were brown to begin with, if that's your question. However, the yellowing of the paper makes me wonder a bit about the image you posted.
yes, I guess that was my question. So any suggestions how how I make them look a little better.
Would it be better to work with them in photoshop or lightroom!!
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Many of these vintage photographs have the sepia effect. I have found that converting them to black & white is the way to go.
I spent a few minutes on your picture. Try this:
Open a levels adjustment layer above this, and gently work the sliders below the histogram
Duplicate the background copy layer and work on this. If you don't like the result, delete this layer and try again.
Finally sharpen a bit ---Enhance>unsharp mask 70, 0.9, 1
Often you can do wonders on an old faded or yellowed picture by simply running Auto Levels, Auto Color Correction, or a combination of both. Here is one I did:
Auto Levels and Auto Color Correction yielded this:
(I did some other corrections to remove scratches and speckles)
Here are the same corrections with your picture:
Of course there are lots of ways to make further improvements: remove scratches, sharpen, add a frame, convert to sepia, etc.
I also have been scanning many very old photos and have another twist to the topic. I have found that most old portraits, that were done in a studio, were originally sepia toned when my family member got them. This has been the case since at least the early 1900's. In fact, even my old high school photo back in the 60's, was done that way. I scan everything in color, and then make adjustments to retain that slight sepia tone. I think converting them to grayscale isn't appropriate in those cases. However, in Tim's example, it clearly was a regular b/w snapshot and once all the levels, contrast, fixing, etc are done, I think it's OK to convert to grayscale.
It's a lot easier to take a scanned old photo and first use Enhance...Convert to Black and White to get rid of all the colour information. Your retouching (fixing tears, and faded portions of the image) will be a lot easier. When you're finished, it's a very simple matter to add a sepia tone if you wish.
The first thing to do is get rid of the colour. I used Enhance...Convert to Black and White...Scenic Landscape and increased the contrast. Then add a Levels adjustment layer with these settings:
to get this image as a starting point:
After that, it's a matter of painting with the Burn tool and using the Spot Healing brush as previously described.
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