When I get old photos that need to be restored and the photo is tattered and torn, with a stained and faded background, perhaps with cracks and tears, it would be very tempting to replace it.

Short answer don’t!

Frankly, I am not a fan of this practice. Most are done very badly, with the old, ‘render clouds’ filter and then over blurred with no attempt to match the grain.

Take time to repair the scratches, and tears, correct the fading and stains and when you’re done with the initial clean up you may find it hasn’t improved that much. Try experimenting with the dust and scratches filter to even out the tones in the background. Then when you have found a setting that works, add a layer mask and reveal the restored image through the cleaned background. You may need to match in some grain at this final stage. The background should now look much more convincing than if you simply used a filter to produce some random, over smoothed clouds.

If there comes a time when you absolutely must do it then do it right and watch this video course on how to replace a background the right way do so.

Do not use replacing the background as an excuse for photo restoration laziness. What you think is a quicker way to tackle the creases will, in fact, throw the whole photo off and it can easily look out of place and wrong. It is best to keep the original background.

If you have a photo with a damaged background and want a photo restoration, check out my main photo repair page for more details on how I can help you and how you can hire me.