One of the treasures from my genealogy collection that I hold dear to my heart is an old card photograph from 1912 of my grandmother as a baby. Her sweet smile shines through sepia tones as she sits patiently waiting for the photographer to take her picture. Luckily the picture has survived these many years with no major damage, but other photos that have been passed down to me have not fared as well.
Wanting to see the rest of the photos the same way I see my grandmother’s photo led me to start researching how to restore old photos. Surprisingly, I found there were some restorations I could do myself.
Can Old Photographs Be Restored?
In most cases, yes, old photographs can be restored. If you know how to use a computer with photo enhancing software, scratches and dings can be quite easy to erase. However, if an old photo is heavily damaged or brittle, you may want to call a professional to prevent further damage.
Enhancing Old Photographs
Enhancing old photographs can be quite fun once you know how to do it. I use Photoshop, but there are loads of photo editing software available that allow for image enhancement and corrections. The clone tool in Photoshop allows you to copy small segments from around the damaged area and paste them over the blemish to hide the damage. You can also alter the color settings, apply filters, or color over the image. Just remember to make a copy of the photo file for practicing on, especially if it is the only copy you have.
Keep in mind, I use Photoshop every day for work, so I am very familiar with the program. If you are not comfortable using a photo editing software and want to learn more, a simple search of YouTube will provide you with hours of video tutorials.
This Photoshop tutorial by Premiere Gal shows not only how you can repair an old image, but how you can bring it to life with color.
Enlarge Old Photographs
Changing the size of an image sounds simple enough, but in reality, it is tricky business. If you have the negative of the original picture, a larger print may be made if the negative is in good condition. If you don’t have the negative, the image will have to be scanned and saved to a computer.
The problem is when you scan an image into a computer, you computer saves is as a series of pixels that at the correct size, the human eye does not see. If you take that image and enlarge it to a size bigger than the original, the image will start to look blurred and grainy, showing the pixels that make up the image. You may be able to enlarge an image slightly, but the larger you make it, the blurrier it will become.
How to Clean Old Photographs
I know it is tempting, but if you want to clean your old Daguerreotypes, Ambrotypes, Tintypes, or card photographs, STOP! To clean these originals can do more harm than good. Heat, cleaning solutions, and chemicals can damage your photos causing irreversible damage. To preserve your old photographs, The National Archives recommends contacting the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation to find a conservator in your area.
The Legal Stuff
Please keep in mind that when you click our links and make purchases, we may receive a small commissions. This does not impact our reviews and comparisons as I try my best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.