Suggestions/Opinions on an Image Restoration Effort

DP
Posted By
Daryl_Pritchard
Dec 16, 2003
Views
376
Replies
8
Status
Closed
Hello all,

The photo at <http://jazzdiver.com/photoshop/restoration.jpg> (205KB, 870×600 px) shows my efforts of editing an old family photo in an attemtpt to clean up flaws in the image and give it a bit of more contrast snap; the original is on the left, the edited version on the right. While I feel I’ve done relatively well, I’m sure the image could be further improved upon if I knew the best techniques to apply (I’ll be studying Katrin Eismann’s "Photoshop Restoration & Retouching" over the holidays).

The original image I used was scanned at 720ppi from a 3.5×5-inch photo, which I’m guessing may have even been a duplicate itself of the true original photo, as the blemishes in the image were not all evident in the emulsion of the photo I worked from. My edits consisted of cleanup of dust specks and other larger blemishes, boosting contrast some via levels adjustments, trying to remove some of the texture of the photo paper via a light gaussian blur, sharpening the image a bit overall, and ultimately applying a subtle sepia tint (not shown in the image here). I wanted to brighten up the woman’s dress without totatlly blowing out the few details in it and wasn’t sure how best to achieve that; ultimately I simply used the dodge tool in conjunction with my pen tablet, the pressure dynamics allowing me to basically "feather-dust" the image, applying gradual brightness changes in a random pattern of brush strokes that weren’t as obvious.

As I say, I’m pretty pleased with the result, given the limited detail in the original image. However, boosting the contrast and applying some sharpening did seem to diminish any sense of smoothness in the skin tones and I’m curious as to the opinions of others on the result I obtained. Also, can you suggest any way to further improve the appearance of the skin? It seemed to me that most any approach seemed to risk increasing the noise present in the image such that there was a very limited degree of improvement that might be realized here. I’d liked to have brought out more detail in the faces, but there simply was little to work with…zooming into the image showed me that the texture in the paper was dominating over the actual image detail, so I avoided doing anything that would exaggerate the texture.

Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Daryl
J
JohnSWhite
Dec 16, 2003
Daryl
It may sound a bit odd but try using the blur tool on the skin. When you do this it looks to be ruining the focus, but avoid blurring facial features, the eyes, eyebrows, any facial hair etc. The rest can be blurred and it really turns it into smooth skin again.
The rest you seem to have done well considering the problems with original that are outside your control.
John
BO
Burton_Ogden
Dec 16, 2003
Daryl,

You seem to be making good progress. The larger blemishes do need to be dealt with manually. There is a light smudged area in the abdominal area of the male subject that seems a bit wrong. And you are picking up a bit of purple color cast. I couldn’t tell how much noise you are dealing with based on these low-pixel samples, but I think there is a chance that Neat Image could help you with this project. I use Neat Image a lot. For more info and a possible free demo download, see:

<http://www.neatimage.com>

You might want to explore at:

<http://www.retouchpro.com/>

— Burton —
GT
Gene Trujillo
Dec 16, 2003
I would lighten up her arms quite a bit using a levels or curves adjustment layer and painting it in by using low opacity feathered brush on the layer mask.

To smooth things out, use gaussian blur or median the same way — i.e. painted in using a layer mask and low opacity brush. You have to experiment with the opacity some until it smooths it without looking too unnatural. The face is especially important, so is other skin.

You’re probably going to have to manually paint in the eyes. You could try playing with levels or curves to bring out whatever detail might exist to serve you as a guide. You might have to paint the mouths too.

I’ve mostly concentrated on the face, because it’s going to be the focal point of the photo.
DP
Daryl_Pritchard
Dec 17, 2003
John,

Thanks for the blur tool suggestion…I had given that some consideration and decided against it, but it may well be useful to reconsider.

Burton,

I’d overlooked the RTP forum when I first posted here, but have since put this posting there as well. The RTP forum visitors have given me similar feedback, recommending Neat Image, and it does looks worth exploring from what I can tell of the demo. A quick look finds Neat Image smooting the photo a little more than I liked, but one person suggested apply the Neat Image-processed image as a layer over the original, and tweaking the opacity to see how that looks. As for that blotched ab area on the man, you’re right, and that is my fault entirely. I’d tried applying the Dodge Tool there and it didn’t work well. Oddly, while I thought I undid the edit enough to help, it still really stands out in this lower-res JPEG. I’ll fix that tonight. Ditto on the tip of the shoe, where some edits I made look particularly noisy here (if "noisy" is the right term).

Gene,

Your suggestions are great but perhaps a bit beyond my level of skills right now, and also striving toward even more of a restoration than I planned. For example, I didn’t plan to paint in the eyes…I’d be hard pressed to do that I think, unless perhaps I cloned in someone else’s eyes. My sister is the artist, not me. Ha! I’ve got little time to work any further on this particular photo before I leave to drive home from Texas to Tennessee for the holidays, and this is one of several photos I’m restoring as a gift to my parents. But, they’ll be pleased with what I’ve done as is, and the icing on the cake would be if I do learn more to even further improve upon the images at some later time.

Thanks,

Daryl
BO
Burton_Ogden
Dec 17, 2003
Daryl,

A quick look finds Neat Image smoothing the photo a little more than I liked, but one person suggested apply the Neat Image-processed image as a layer over the original, and tweaking the opacity to see how that looks.

I prefer to control Neat Image from within Neat Image. That’s better than blending an over-smoothed image with the original noise. Neat Image has many manual controls, including several percentage sliders. Also, in Photoshop you can manually select just certain areas that are representative of the noise you want Neat Image to remove. There are many ways to control the construction of the noise profile, and once built, you have a lot of different controls for how that profile is used. The power of Neat Image is that it does use a specific Noise Profile rather than just blur everything.

For problem images, I frequently remove the noise in stages, because you can always apply Neat Image a second or third time. Sometimes trying to do everything on the first try is overly complicated.

Also, if you are using the Photoshop plug-in that comes with the Pro Plus version of Neat Image, you can make a selection in your image and apply your Neat Image processing just to that selection. I think it helps to Feather the selection some so that its boundaries don’t become perceptible in the final result.

You can use the same selection twice, once to filter the image inside the selection and then invert it to apply somewhat different processing to that part of the image outside the selection. Or, you can just use selections to process individual areas differently.

But in any case, there is some learning curve involved in getting the best results out of Neat Image. Your "quick look" didn’t show you the full capabilities inherent in Neat Image.

Be careful on your drive home from Texas to Tennessee, and best wishes for the holidays.

— Burton —
DP
Daryl_Pritchard
Dec 17, 2003
Burton,

Thanks for the advice and tips. Rather than both with the demo of Neat Image, I just submitted my order for the Pro+ version. There seem to be quite a number of folks recommending it and it does look to be a great supplement to Photoshop.

My holiday trip should be interesting…my sister has gotten involved in her painting again after many years and recently sold 12 of 20 paintings at a showing at the gallery where she works. It was their 2nd-best showing ever and I’m anxious to see what the range of paintings are that she’s done….not to mention perhaps bringing home one!

Thanks for the wishes…and I hope you enjoy your holidays as well.

Daryl
BO
Burton_Ogden
Dec 17, 2003
Daryl,

Thanks for the holiday wishes. I think you were wise to go for the maximum Neat Image Pro+. The included Photoshop plug-in version is a definite good extra thing to have. Sometimes I use both the standalone and the plug-in on the same image.

Another third party plug-in for Photoshop that you might want to take a look at is Acclaim Software’s Focus Magic. It also has a standalone version. It is commonly believed that you can’t restore focus to an image that is out of focus, but that isn’t strictly true. Focus Magic uses a computation-intensive mathematical process called "deconvolution" that can, to a limited extent, reverse the process by which an image is put out out-of-focus. I find re-focusing an image to be superior to applying Photoshop’s Unsharp Mask, because Focus Magic’s focusing applies to the entire image and not just the edges. For a comparison of Focus Magic and Unsharp Mask, see:

<http://www.focusmagic.com/exampleunsharpmask.htm>

Most images that I process are at least a little out-of-focus for any of several reasons: the camera moved slightly, the subject moved slightly, the lens wasn’t focused with maximum accuracy, the optics of the lens weren’t of maximum quality, or whatever. For more details on that, see:

<http://www.focusmagic.com/howimagesgetblurred.htm>

Almost every image benefits from at least a little focusing, sometimes only a pixel or two, sometimes much more. I use both Neat Image and Focus Magic routinely. It works much better to apply Neat Image first, before focusing with Focus Magic, to avoid focusing spurious noise. That lets Focus Magic concentrate on focusing "real" stuff. Focus Magic has a downloadable demo. For some more Focus Magic examples, see:

<http://www.focusmagic.com/examplefocusing.htm>

<http://www.focusmagic.com/examplemotionblur.htm>

<http://www.focusmagic.com/exampledespeckle.htm>

— Burton — (not associated with Focus Magic or Neat Image)
DP
Daryl_Pritchard
Dec 17, 2003
You know Burton, before long maybe there WILL be a plug-in or 3rd party app that renders an image with all our photo-taking mistakes magically erased! Ha!

I’ll try and keep Focus Magic in mind as another weapon in my editing arsenal. Over the years I’ve acquired enough plug-ins and such that I’ve never really explored to the merit of their full potential, but hopefully the particularly useful ones such as Neat Image will defy me to ignore them! If I spent as much time with my plug-ins as I have with just the PhotoBars part of PhotoTools, I’d be much farther along….not to mention even learning more about the native Photoshop capabilities.

Thanks again,

Daryl

Related Discussion Topics

Nice and short text about related topics in discussion sections