Let’s say a huge chunk of an image is missing, an object or someone’s torso or perhaps a sky. These missing elements can be replaced using other photos taken at a similar time. This is very handy and it can work very well but what if there are no other photos and the owner of the original has no idea what would have been worn at that time or what the weather was doing or what the missing object in the photo was, what then? Restoring is one thing, healing and patching away cracks, removing stains and revealing details hidden by grime and years of neglect, but where does this stop and the inventing begin?.
It is not just about sculpting something out of thin air, is it? When was the photo taken? What were the trends of that period? What were the clothing styles? I try to work out what is likely to be missing and work inventively. It may take a while to find what I am looking for, period clothes, toys, furniture, backdrops but it is worth the search.
Most importantly of all when I have found some reference material that can be used I match the grain, the lighting and shadows. I cringe every time I see restorations with beautifully smooth skies or some replaced clothing where the grain and texture have not been matched up and it looks terrible. Shadows are a tell-tale sign as well so match these in too and don’t forget the highlights. The whole idea of restoration is for it to look un-restored like it was never damaged in the first place. This is the hardest trick to master, do this and you surely can not put a foot wrong.