April 15, 2023

Guide to the best photo restoring software available

The view from a professional photo editor:

As a seasoned photo editor, I have gained extensive knowledge and experience in photo restoration, which is why I have put together this guide on the top options for restoring old photos using photo restoration software. I will provide you with sufficient info so you can decide what is the appropriate photo restoration software options to suit your needs and skill level.

To my mind, photo restoration is a critical process that involves the repair and enhancement of damaged or deteriorated photos to restore them to their original condition. It is an essential practice in preserving family history, as it ensures that valuable memories are not lost over time. Old photographs can be irreplaceable family heirlooms that offer a glimpse into the past. Preserving these photos can help keep family memories alive for future generations. 

The process of photo restoration can vary depending on the type and extent of the damage. However, it typically involves scanning the original photograph, making digital adjustments to restore the image, and then printing the restored photograph. By restoring old photos, we can help future generations understand and appreciate their heritage.

When it comes to photo restoration, there are several software options available, including Photoshop, Lightroom, GIMP, Pixlr, and Luminar AI. Each software has its strengths and weaknesses, making it crucial to understand what each software offers.

Adobe Photoshop - still the original and best

Photoshop is one of the most popular software options for photo restoration.Its photo restoration capabilities are extensive, with features such as content-aware fill, healing brushes, and the ability to adjust color and contrast. It is a professional-level software that requires some experience to use effectively. A basic routine would usually include the following processes:

  • Open the damaged photograph in Photoshop.
  • Use the spot healing brush tool to remove scratches or blemishes.
  • Use the clone stamp tool to fill in missing areas or to remove larger blemishes.
  • Use the levels or curves tool to adjust the brightness and contrast of the image.
  • Use the color balance or hue/saturation tool to adjust the color balance and saturation.
  • Save the restored photograph.

Adobe offers a subscription-based pricing model, making it accessible for users to get started with the software.


Pros and cons of using Photoshop for photo restoration:

  • Pros: Extensive capabilities, advanced tools for color correction and manipulation, industry-standard software.
  • Cons: Expensive, steep learning curve, requires a powerful computer.


Lightroom is another popular software option for photo restoration. It is a simpler software than Photoshop, making it easier to use for beginners. Its features include color correction, noise reduction, and contrast adjustments, however it does not offer dedicated tools for local and precise editing within an image. Like Photoshop, Lightroom is also subscription-based.

photo editing software woman

An Open-Source Photo Editing Alternative:

GIMP is an open-source software that is free to download and use, you can begin by downloading and installing the software on your computer. Once installed, open the program and import the photo you wish to restore. From there, you can begin using GIMP's various tools and filters to remove scratches, stains, and other damage from the photo.


One of the benefits of using GIMP for photo restoration is that it is a free and open-source software, making it accessible to a wider range of users. However, it may not have all the advanced features of more expensive software options. While GIMP is a great option for those on a budget, it may take some time to learn how to use it effectively.

Some Cloud Based Options include:

Pixlr is a cloud-based photo editor that provides a user-friendly interface for photo restoration. It offers a range of features, including colour correction, cropping, and resizing. It has both free and paid subscription options available.

Luminar is a newer software option that offers artificial intelligence-powered tools to make photo restoration easier and more efficient. Its features include sky replacement, object removal, and colour adjustments. It is a subscription-based software and is best suited for those with some experience in photo editing.

While photo restoration software is a great option for those who are interested in restoring old photos themselves, it may not be the best option for everyone. Professional photo restoration services such as my own offer a higher level of expertise and specialised equipment, making me better suited for more complex restoration projects. Some factors you should consider when deciding between tackling the editing yourself and professional photo restoration include the time and effort required, the level of damage to the photo, and the desired outcome.

When choosing a photo restoration service, no matter who you go with, it is essential to consider factors such as the service's reputation, the level of experience of its employees, and the pricing model.

Ask as many questions as you want in order to feel confident that your photos are in good hands.

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