Restoring An Old Photograph With Adobe Lightroom
March 25, 2014
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A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a print from when I was two. Prints are paper representations of images. Back in the old days, our ancestors used to send rolls of film (analog memory cards) to a place that would magically transform the little plastic cartridge of images in to paper. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Ask your parents.

Being of Generation X, the first thing I did when I received the print was to scan it in. It should go without saying that you should take care scanning in your images. Wipe them off first to remove any dust and use a good quality scan. Garbage in, garbage out, so if your scan is bad, no amount of Lightroom retouching can correct for that.

On with the show! Here I am, circa 1980.

Restoring An Old Photograph With Adobe Lightroom

Adorable, I know. But as much as I am rocking the toddler Speed-o, the scan came in looking flat and rather dingy and with a lot of dust spots, so I’m not exactly looking my best. To Lightroom!

Restoring an old photograph in Lightroom isn’t difficult, but it’s easy to overdo it. I won’t be able to get this picture looking like it came out of my modern-day Nikon, but I don’t want it to. I want the picture to look like it was taken 30+ years ago because it was. I just want the digital version to pop a bit more and to clean up some signs of wear.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom

Lightroom Fanatic – Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom

First things first, I tweaked the white balance of the image to remove some of the yellow cast that the picture has taken on. Since this was a scanned JPG, my preset options were limited. I tried Auto, which was ok, but I also experimented with the eye dropper and the Temp and Tint sliders until I got something a little more natural.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - White Balance

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted White Balance

Next, the image was a bit on the dark side and muddled, so I adjusted the exposure and contrast. I didn’t go crazy with either adjustment, just enough to get some definition.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - White Balance

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted Exposure and Contrast

I also went in and played with the Tone Curve for a little more refinement. I brought in the edges a bit to independently bring up my highlights and darken my shadows. It’s hard to see, but the tonal shape took on a slight S-curve with hooks on the top and bottom.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Tone Curve

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted Tone Curve

I boosted the vibrance up, as well, which exaggerated the old colorization and the 80’s-ness of our bathing suits.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Vibrance

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted Vibrance

Noise reduction was next. I moved my preview window to an area of the grass and hedges that really showed the high degree of noise that was in the image, due both to the paper and the scan itself.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Noise Reduction

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted Noise Reduction

Lightroom’s noise reduction did a great job removing a lot of the noise, but again, I didn’t go crazy. Removing all of the noise from an image looks terrible, fake, and plastic. Don’t do it.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Noise Reduction

Lightroom Fanatic – Post-Noise Reduction

Now, I wanted to remove damaged areas of the image. Using Lightroom’s clone and healing capabilities, it was easy to zoom in and take out water spots or nicks in the print. Remember here that sometimes the Crop tool is also your friend. If there are damaged edges on an image, sometimes the best or only way to take care of those is by cropping them out completely.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Repair Damage

Lightroom Fanatic – Repairing Damaged Areas

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Repair Damage

Lightroom Fanatic – Repairing Damaged Areas

Finally, with everything else out of the way, I boosted up the sharpness and also used the Clarity slider a touch. Again, not trying to do anything that looks unnatural, just trying to bring back some of the sharpness that was lost over time and due to the noise reduction.

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom - Sharpness and Clarity

Lightroom Fanatic – Adjusted Sharpness and Clarity

And, viola! A true-to-the-era restoration of yours truly in digital form!

Restoring An Old Photograph In Adobe Lightroom

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