A few days ago I was presented with the task of restoring a very badly damaged old board based photo. It had been kept in a garage and had been subjected to moisture and excessive heat. This has caused the unprotected photo emulsion to the first crack and then flake off, leaving the photo in a seemingly unrepairable state.

Extreme photo restoration

Extreme photo restoration

 

This is the top left quarter of the photo in question.

In this close up you can see the flaked emulsion and cracks very clearly, there is not much original image left!

close up flaked emulsion and cracks

close up flaked emulsion and cracks

 

The normal way to tackle this would be to use some sort of de-crack filter. The only problem with using this is that it can’t deal with such a vast amount of white, yes it will work on small cracks but not ones as big as these.  In using such a filter it will only go so far and other methods to repair the damage and cracks have to be found.

It turned out that a clever use of the patch tool and one of my own custom actions, (sorry top secret I can’t post it) helped me fill in a vast amount of cracks, but it had to be small sections at a time, to retain the correct tones throughout the damaged parts of the image.

The background was replaced with a custom graduated fill and then wallpaper and door frame details were added, with a mask around the main figure to blend it all in. The grain was then matched as best as possible and the foreground tones and shadows were evened out and enhanced.

Extreme photo restoration complete

Extreme photo restoration complete

 

Once complete a surprising amount of detail showed through the maze of cracked and flaked emulsion.