Restoring old photos is three stage process, and is one of the most common requests we receive - but is also one of the most rewarding types of work we do.
FIRST STAGE - SCANNING/ DIGITISING
There are two options open to you, firstly if you have access to a desktop scanner then you can use this to scan the photo and then email it to us.
Its important however that you select a scanning resolution of at least 600 dpi, and save the file as a jpg. Lots of desktop scanners are made primarily for scanning office documents, so their default setting suits that purpose. For getting a high resolution scan of a photograph you may need to click about in the scanning application in order to find the manual settings, where you can choose the scanning resolution yourself. If your photo is curled at the corners, or a bit warped or bent, then you should put something heavy on the scanner lid to ensure it presses the photo flat to the scanner glass.
Alternatively if you don’t have access to a scanner, you can post the photo to us and we will scan it here. The address to send to is Airbrushing.ie, ℅ Mill Studios, Greenmount Ind Est, Harolds Cross, D12. Please ensure to include your email address and phone number. Once we receive the print, we delicately lay it on our flatbed scanner and scan it at anywhere between 600 and 1200 dots per inch. Once saved as a digital file we then retain a copy of the original scan, and then are able to return the photograph to the owner once the restoration work is complete.
SECOND STAGE - HEALING & REPAIRING
Once we have the file on our workstation, we email you with our quote. The figure we provide is based on our estimation of how much time is needed to do a great job. Once our quote is approved we work our way across the image, left to right and top to bottom removing any marks, fixing any rips or creases, cloning away any scratches or signs of mould. We pay particular attention to faces and clothing. This stage can take a good deal of time if the image is badly damaged.
This work is all done in Adobe Photoshop, using a variety of tools depending on the type of damage that needs repairing. How much time this takes depends on the size of the photograph, the amount of detail in the image, and the likely display or final print size the client has in mind. For example, when restoring some old photos for Guinness, the finished pictures were going to be displayed in large format on a wall, so we knew we had to zoom it close in order to attend to all the small details, that might not have been visible if it were only going to be printed at a standard 10x8 inch print size.
If you are interested, I have written a guide to digital photo restoration where you can learn about the tools used, and decide if you would like to have a go at it yourself.
THIRD STAGE - CONTRAST & SHARPENING
Once the image has been rid of its blemishes, we can then begin to restore and enhance the tonal range of the image, to ensure it looks punchy with the correct amount of contrast. Theres a variety of different techniques we can use to ake the important parts of the photo stand out from the background. Applying differing amounts of contrast can prevent a restored image from looking flat.
Typically a lot of old photos were over or under exposed, so its important that we correct for that too. Then we apply a couple of different types of sharpening to the image, the final one being appropriate to the size of the print i.e. its display size. We can even add colour! If you would like to know more about how we colour up an old black and white photograph, you can read our ‘Guide to colourising black and white photos’.
Once we are happy with the photo, we then email it to the client for their approval/ feedback. Once that is given, we can arrange for prints if requested, and then we request payment, either by bank transfer, or else we can take card details over the phone.