Digital Photo Restoration with Adobe Photoshop


Many photographs on paper can be damaged for various reasons such as: poor environment conditions, improper packaging, storage location, bad handling, and in some cases is caused by the presence of chemical residues used in photographic processes or because of the usage of chemicals whose expiration date is not even traceable.

It is natural that problems mentioned in photographs on paper, at some point require to keep a backup of the negative or other kinds of preservation tecnhiques; since from its earliest beginnings, photography was meant to preserve historical memory, like big events in the history of time or no less important family events. From birth to funerals, photography shows us the different moments of our beloved ones.

Thus, Adobe Photoshop is a great tool by which you can restore your photos professionally, and despite being an arduous task going detail by detail, if you are patient enough good results can be obtained.

As there are many ways to restore a photograph, in this article will focus on the basic way to remove noise as well as imperfections from black&white or grayscale pictures, also the steps needed to restore color images.

The elements needed to perform a photo restoration job are:

  • A photograph on paper to be restored (not required if you already have a digitized photograph)
  • Scanner to digitize paper photography (not required if you already have a digitized photograph)
  • Adobe Photoshop, to process and restore digital photography

The steps to restore a damaged image are:

1. Scan the picture with the best resolution possible, in case you want to do a professional job is very important to have access to a good scanner. For best results it is also important to clean the physical picture and the scanner glass to make sure it is free of dust (less noise) and is convenient to obtain a scanned color file and save the image in TIFF and Adobe RGB format to avoid compression information and prevent loss of detail.
The following sample the image to be restored shows us we require a mid-level restoration according to noise presented.

Digital Photo Restoration with Adobe Photoshop

2. In this case, to start the restoration process, and according to the area you want to restore, these are the tools needed: SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J) PATCH TOOL (J) and CLONE STAMP TOOL (S). To explain better how the restoration works I am going to work side-by-side at some area of a copy of the original image.


3. SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), this tool is used to compose broken or uneven areas and thus fixing them. When you select the tool you must keep the ALT key and mark the damaged area of the image, it will adapt to the surrounding areas (this process is called sampling).


Note by right clicking you can vary the intensity of the correction parameterized size, hardness, and spacing. It is very important to use the zoom tool for editing details of the image.

4. As SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J) can sometimes fail if applied near areas where brightness changes, is best to use the brush HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), sampling from a source as close as possible in tone. HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), as SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), is used to compose sectors that differ in tone but do not need several resampling to be applied. In other words, you are blending the damaged pixels with pixels nearby the area you are working on.


Note that you should make a similar point to clean noise.

5. PATCH TOOL (J) can restore an entire sector by selecting an area and moving to a desired sector. It is more than enough to serve areas who need complex restoration techniques. Similar to the HEALING BRUSH TOOL, it works by integrating the targeted pixels at a more seamless way; this offers us greater flexibility and a more accurate way of working when it comes to size, shape of the object you are trying to duplicate.


For this task the most used features at the toolbar options are Source and Destination: the first is to blur the initial sector over another and the second option is to take as a base a sector to another destination, blurring it during the process.

6. CLONE STAMP TOOL (S), an initial area cloned from a point marked with ALT + Click, is for areas that require precision in copying another sector which needs equal contrast or brightness values.

The best results are achieved when using the healing brush and patch combined.


As well as with the other tools you can adjust the size and hardness of the brush

With patience and enough time to the care of the details for the restoration you can get a result like this one:



  • There are many different approaches to perform the restoration task, and solutions will depend on the type and quality of the image to be restored.
  • It is advisable to practice using the tools SPOT HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), HEALING BRUSH TOOL (J), PATCH TOOL (J) and CLONE STAMP TOOL (S) at a test image to find out what is the best tool for whichever scenario may arise. In either option it is useful to zoom in the image in order to be precise.
  • For getting a good quality of detail, the longer you need to work at the file.
  • Have patience in correcting details of the digital image to get a better result of restoration.
  • When working with Adobe Photoshop you should save the project constantly in order to avoid crashes (going out of RAM), and be sure to make different versions of it prior to applying big changes. You can also increase the capacity of your autosave history.

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