Were you sorting through that box of old photos and found a gem from years gone by that you’d love to display? Or maybe you’re fascinated with the art of photo restoration and want to learn more, maybe even get into this field…if either of these are you, read on! We offer some fabulous information about photo restoration, from the basics to beyond.

What is Photo Restoration?

It is what it sounds like, but much more than that simple phrase. Photo restoration is the art of bringing an old photo back to life by restoring details and repairing damage and any wear and tear. However, the art is in keeping the integrity of the age and time of the photo. You don’t want a photo from 100 years ago to look like you took it with your iPhone. Photo restorers first make an image of the original photo so they don’t work directly on the old photo. This allows you to keep that old treasure while having a restored piece, too.

Yes, photo restoration has become easier and more accessible over the years with technology. However, there is an art to creating a genuine-looking restored photo. Let’s look back at photo history first.

Back in the day, you took photos on film (what?!). You had that film developed and received a handful of photos. And before that, well, photography was a big deal and your great-great-grandparents probably had very few photos. However those old film photos were taken, people usually stored them in boxes or albums. And this was in a time when inks and papers weren’t what they are now. Photos saw a lot of damage – from weather conditions to water or wear and tear and age. They often were bent or folded, you’ll see creases or torn corners. But photo restoration can take one of these worn and battered photos and make it new.

Unfortunately, these printed photos have a limited lifespan because the quality of the photo paper and ink used wasn’t as good as the quality of what we use now. As the years went by, deterioration would set in, leaving us with photo albums and boxes full of old, damaged photos with faded ink, tattered edges, and even some scratches and stains here and there. (Adorama

The Basics of Restoring Photos

So you have an amazing photo of your great-grandfather frolicking through Paris in the 1920s. Maybe it’s small and you want a large copy to hang on your wall, or it’s damaged and you just want a good image. That’s when photo restoration enters the picture.  Remember we said that the first thing in photo restoration is to make a digital copy? That ensures the safety of the original and gives you a good base to work from. So let’s start there.

The Digital Copy

There are a few ways to make a digital copy and the goal here is to make a good copy to work with. Often people like to scan their photos to create digital copies. This is a great way to organize them, too. You can categorize and organize them and not have all the shoeboxes scattered around your house. But that’s another story. Let’s stick with restoring one photo at a time! So you can scan the photos with a scanner or use an app on your phone, like photoscan, to scan them into your phone. Once you have that copy, you’re set to get to work.

The Photo Structure

This is the easy part. You can crop, resize, or straighten your photo pretty easily and refurbish it like that. Most of these tools are fairly straightforward and you can do them right on your phone without extra apps or software. That may be enough and you can send it off for enlargements or prints (more on that in a bit).  Check out some of our information on graphic design to learn some great composition and tips you may want to work with.

The Hard Stuff

So your photo has some water damage or a missing corner. Maybe a crease throughout the photo. Can you fix these? Even if you can’t, someone can. Here’s how to go about it, whether it’s you giving it a go or a professional.

Adorama tells us you can use a few beginner-friendly spot correction Photoshop tools: the Spot Healing Brush, the Patch Tool, and the Clone Stamp. This does require a good eye for detail and some patience or you’ll end up with a funky looking photo. You can also use some filters to get rid of dust spots or to make the image clearer. Sure you could add fun filters, too, but that will drastically change the aesthetic of your photo. But maybe that’s what you want – go for it!

photo restoration for photographers

Should You Do This Yourself?

Doing this yourself or hiring someone is one of the big questions about photo restoration. But it’s not so hard to decide. Think about these things:

  • How damaged is your photo? If your photo just needs a little cropping or you simply want a digital copy, you can probably manage it yourself. If it has accrued some severe damage from age, water, weather, or even fire, you may want to look at using a photo restoration service and let a professional handle it. Remember, design professionals already have that great eye for aesthetics.
  • Do you have Adobe Photoshop or Luminar 4?  These are two great programs to use for photo restoration. however, they do take some time to master, and if this isn’t your thing, hand it off to someone who knows it.
  • Do you have an artistic eye?  You’ll need to be able to see not only the damage but also if the repair looks authentic. Again, if this isn’t your jive, take it to someone who can do it.

There are plenty of photo restoration sites around if you don’t want to tackle this yourself. For some, you do send in the original, for others, you can send them a digital copy. Just like any type of graphic design or art, find a service that works well for your needs.

If you want to look for photo restoration, ask around or browse online. You can learn a bit more about graphic design through our library at Bunny Studio, and this can point you in the right direction or maybe even inspire you to give photo restoration a go yourself.

Ideas to Display Restored Photos

So now you know you want to restore an old photo or two, maybe more. What are you going to do with them once they’re restored. Don’t just toss them in a shoebox! Let’s think back to that photo of your great-grandfather’s Paris days. Wouldn’t that look great enlarged and placed in your dining room? Maybe in a classic frame or on a canvas? Maybe you’ve got some family wedding photos from years past. How about restoring them and creating an album for your sister, the bride-to-be.

Restored photos make great gifts and beautiful pieces of art. Add them to your walls or shelves, maybe just one special photo is enough, or a grouping where the composition creates a beautiful display. You’ve got the art already, no need to go out and buy art off the shelves. Keep your look unique and personal with restored photos.

Photos go in any type of decor, too. Whether you love the Bauhaus style or a more traditional one, photos work. You can go classic and timeless with black and white frames or more trendy with window frames or clothespins and twine. Just match your style of frames or display to your interior style and you’ll be all set with new artwork. You can also be creative about where they go. Maybe a fun old photo of old fashioned bathing suits in the bathroom or a family tree collage in the guest room.

Should You Be a Photo Restoration Specialist?

Does this all captivate you? You love the fine detail, the history, bringing something old back to life? If this sounds like you and you have a knack for this creativity, consider becoming a photo restorer. Many services take on freelancers, like Bunny Studio. We have freelancers of all fields and talents. Who knows, this could be a new side gig for you or maybe even turn into full time.

Take a look at this

Looking at your ancestors’ photographs does not only tell a lot about what they looked like but also about the time they lived in. Because of their scarcity and importance during that time these photographs are revealing way more than just your grandparents’ biography. They are vivid proof of political, cultural, and religious circumstances of that time. Therefore these photos are not only your very private memory but also part of our collective memory. Restoring and cherishing them is a way of commemorating who we as a family and society are.

This piece from InstaRestoration confirms the importance of keeping old photos in circulation and on display. Each one tells a story, holds a memory, and creates some history. So dig through those shoeboxes and find some old photos. You may never look at your grandparents the same!

Summing Up Photo Restoration

Years ago, decades ago, people didn’t carry around tens of thousands of photos with them. Each photo was a precious memory, and some of us are lucky enough to still have those old beauties. Think about dusting it off and shining it up. Maybe you want to give a restored photo as a gift or display it in your home. Whatever the case, play around or seek the help of a professional. And whether you are the artist yourself and looking for a little more work or you want to work with an artist who you know is a professional, reach out to us at Bunny Studio; we’d love to chat!