Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Repairing Damaged Photos

By Christina VanGinkel

My mother-in-law borrowed me an old black and white picture of her mother and two aunts. It is from when they are teenagers and the three of them are standing with their arms looped around each other. It is the perfect picture to complement any family grouping of photographs, save for the fact that is has a terrible stain of some sort in the upper right hand corner and numerous scratches across the face of all three girls. It is also complete with several other blemishes in just about every corner. To top that all off, the whole picture is about an inch and a half high by about three inches wide, not big enough to show up much detail. It will look fantastic when I blow it up and have it framed! What?

Do not, I repeat, do not throw away, or give up on a family heirloom picture just because it may have damage to its surface, or it is so small you wonder what the original developer was thinking of. With the capabilities built into the most basic computer, you can fix most of these problems with just a few basic tools included in your photo editing software. There are even scanners that have this capability built right into them, but I am not even talking about anything as fancy as that. Just the basic software included in most photo editing software sold for today's computers.

Open up whatever photo editing software is on your computer. If you have more than one suite of software for this purpose, check each one, even if you find these right away in the first one you look at, as some will be easier to use than others. What you are looking for is the 'scratch removers' tool, and the 'clone' brush. Both work in a similar way, but the clone brush gives you more freedom as to both size and what you are actually cloning. After selecting the clone brush for example, adjust the size and shape of the brush. Then, zoom in on the area that you need to fix, but allow your screen to include part of the picture that is in relatively good shape. Right click your mouse pointer on an area of the picture whose background is intact, and would work to replace the damaged area. Place your cursor over the damaged area next, and left click to clone the good area into the damaged area. This may take some practice, but when you grasp the concept, you will be amazed at how easy it is to fix a damaged picture. The scratch remover works in a similar fashion, but I have not had as much luck with gaining control over it. You click on the scratch and it selects the area around it, then by clicking again, it works by smoothing the area.

Be sure to try these simple tricks before trashing any older heirloom photos that have obviously seen better days, or even newly damaged photographs that you do not have the original files for or the negatives. Thanks to modern technology and a few clicks of your computer's mouse, they can be as good as new in hardly any time.

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