Old photographs are precious. They have a lot of value as a memento, an heirloom, or an artifact from another era. And those little pieces of paper require huge care to stay intact for a long time. But what can be done to mend the damage that is already done? Quite a lot, actually.
A lot of issues common to old photos that bear some wear and tear can be fixed to a degree. If you have some old photographs that could use a repair, read this guide and learn some tricks you can do to bring new life into them.
Do It Manually
Chances are you don’t have a spare copy of an old photo, meaning there are no second chances. However, manual retouching for minor damage is not that difficult, as long as you are careful enough. If you are determined to try it yourself, here’s what you can do:
- Put on rubber gloves. If you don’t want to mess the paper up with your fingerprints and sweat, consider covering your hands.
- Start with cleaning. To brush off the dust, it is best to use a soft brush. Dealing with stains is not as simple. You may try using a fabric or a cotton pad soaked in warm water and rubbing the stain gently. If this is not enough, then it’s probably wiser to leave this stain be to avoid further damage.
- Straight out the curls. Paper photographs tend to curl due to drying out. This can be mended by humidifying the photo and letting it dry again. To do this, take a tray, fill it with water, put a wire rack therein (note: rack’s top should stay above the water!), put the photo on the rack, cover it with a lid, and leave it be for a few hours. Then put your photo under a weight for a few hours more.
- Apply tape. If there is a thing that can’t be fixed with tape, photographs are not among them. You can use transparent tape to mend torn edges, however, make sure the tape is acid-free.
Do It With Photoshop
Another option you have on the table is digitizing your old photographs. These images may not carry as much weight as material ones, but their longevity is much easier to preserve. Plus, you may use this method in combination with the previous one.
So, what can you do in this regard? Firstly, you have to scan the pictures. Secondly, you need to get photo editing software. Since Photoshop is the first one that comes to mind for most people, let’s run with it.
- Run the program and open your file. Then click Layer > Duplicate layer.
- Now use Spot Healing Brush or Clone Stamp to edit out defects.
- Use an AI-powered colorization tool that comes in later versions if you wish.
- If your picture already has color, use Curves to increase saturation, correct the tones, and make the image more vibrant.
There are many other useful tools for photo retouching and restoration in Photoshop. However, be ready to invest some time and effort into mastering it.
Let a Professional Do It
The last but not the least thing to do is to let someone else do the job. Sometimes old photos simply have more damage than you can fix yourself without special skills and equipment. In this situation, it is best to trust a professional. Finding and paying a specialist like this can become an ordeal. On the other hand, if there are no more options available, why not? The real question is whether preserving those old photographs is worth the trouble.
But this is up to you. There are many other tricks that can help you bring old photos to a new life. Should you wish to learn more, check out this guide on how to restore old damaged photos. Evaluating the damage and risks is up to you, no one else knows what condition your photos are in. But, if you’re still looking for a way to rejuvenate the photographs and memories that come with them, you know what to begin with.
Meg is an author at Cinnamon Hollow. She writes on a variety of topics sharing tips and ideas for daily life.