Updated: Sep 22, 2022
How many of us have a box in the closet full of old family photos? I know I do! They could be old polaroids, old family photos or photos passed down through generations. Photos are such important story tellers. They capture priceless memories and can take you right back in time to remember something special in your past or help to shape your families' history and as they are passed down, they preserve that history forever.
When you open that box and look at these photos, you might see creases, fading, scratches, stains, tears, discoloring, etc. Well, there is good news! Most of those photos can likely be brought back to life digitally. No matter how bad the photo looks, never assume they are ruined forever until you know for sure! Photo repair, restoration or colorization might be just what you need. The image below is a perfect example!
A few years ago, my father in law approached me with this image which he had inside an old folder. His wife is in the photo which was taken in the 1950's or early 60's during a Luau in Hawaii. Due to the condition of the photo, his wife suggested they just throw it away, but he knew this was a special photo and he held onto it, this was a wise decision! He asked me if this photo could be repaired because if it could, he wanted to surprise his wife with it. This was a very challenging task, but I knew how special it was and I wanted to give it my best effort. This project could not be rushed nor just fixed with and AI program. It required meticulous effort. In the end, his decision to hold onto it, preserved that photo to be passed down. Sadly both of them passed away recently, but now, this photo, which almost disappeared from existence, remains in the family. That is priceless! The finished repair is below.
What are your options?
So you decided you want to restore an old photo...now what? You will likely have a few questions. How do you repair damaged photos? Can I do it myself? Is there an app? Is there a simple program? Well, with the constant advances in AI technology, those things are out there, kind of, but in my opinion, they have drawbacks which in some cases may or may not matter to you. AI "one click fix" programs limit your creativity, limit control and usually just replaces instead of repairs. The AI technology works wonders for certain things, but with many complex repairs, they fall short, but AI technology is for another article.
Of course photoshop can do some amazing things with just a few clicks too, but photo repair work can be very complex, difficult and so far, I have never repaired any photo with just one click. If only it were that easy.
When it comes to options, there is no easy answer because every photo has different issues and usually many different issues all in one. If you have a solid understanding of photoshop, or other retouch programs, then you might be able to fix them yourself, but there is a cost. Is it worth it to purchase one or more programs, pay the fees, try to figure them out and if you do, maybe only use them once or twice? That is up to you, but trust me, trying to figure these programs out can be a real test of patience and again AI programs will tout a one click fix, but scrutinize them very closely if you decide to go that route. As you make that decision, keep in mind that many programs are designed to add filters, enhance clarity, resize, remove backgrounds and even "fix blur" etc. with minimal workflow, but when you have to piece a torn photo back together, colorize it, remove stains, fix fade, remove wrinkles etc., Do you really want a one click fixes all? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. True photo repair takes a lot of patience, attention to detail, a solid knowledge of your software, and quite a bit of skill. I often spend hours on my repair projects.
In the photo below for example, you can see that many layers as well as layer masks were created throughout the photo repair process. There were actually several challenges in repairing this image which had to be addressed one by one. It might be that you just want someone or something removed or. replaced in an image. That can present an entirely different set of challenges depending on the image, background etc. especially when you want someone added to the photo. Each challenge requires a strong understanding of the software you use and the tools within that software.
What does it cost to repair a photo?
A question that comes up often is why photo repair can be so expensive. Like with photography, many people do not understand the amount of time, work and knowledge, not to mention expense that goes into learning these crafts. That being said, having numerous photos repaired can add up quickly, I have seen quotes from companies starting at $250.00 just for one image regardless of how complex it is. Others charge you based off the size of the image. Prices will vary. I try to keep my prices affordable because I believe it is more important for people to have their photos repaired than choosing to let them fade away due to repair costs. Visit glanderos.com/photo-repair for more info.
I have had a few clients tell me they sent images to a large, well known company which touts photo repair, but when they got their photos back, they were very disappointed. In my opinion, some of these companies with a photo department do a basic "photo repair" and anything beyond that is a crap shoot. Others do amazing work. There is a big difference between touch up and repair. When I work on a photo, I put passion into every single image. I treat it as though it were my own. Depending on the repair, it can take hours and sometimes days to fix one image. I consider it a privilege to be able to help resurrect a special photo and I will take whatever time needed and I will never rush or take short cuts that jeopardize quality. I think that is the difference, if you care enough, you will work hard and the results will show.
If you have questions about a photo you are considering fixing or need photos repaired, please feel free to contact me and we can discuss your options. You can send me the image to look at and I will view it on a large monitor and give you an honest assessment.