Photo Restoration: Sepia

Recently I was contacted by someone conducting an online search for an Oklahoma City Photographer offering Photo Restoration services. He stumbled upon my blog posts about the power of post-processing and a previous color photo restoration project, and asked what I could do to improve this sepia print of his wife as a little girl.


Original Photo, Scanned in Color (Photographer Unknown)


Restored Photo (Photographer Unknown)

Basic Process

Working in Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3, I was able to remove creases, tape, blemishes, stains, and grain.

  1. Remove spots and creases with the Spot Healing Brush on Content Aware Fill, beginning with spots, then erasing lines.
  2. Filter/Noise Reduction – only a small amount. Too much NR in CS5 degraded details in the image further.
  3. Slightly increased contrast and brightness.
  4. Using Quick Selection Tool as explained in this video, delete background and replace with a new layer. (This was the most time consuming part; it took several attempts to get her hair refined properly.)
  5. Delete old background layer, and fill new layer with a color similar to the sepia tone of the original print.
  6. Move image to Lightroom, apply a Sepia Preset to smooth out tones.
  7. Further reduce noise, added sharpness, and make other small adjustments in Lightroom. I attempted using the sharpness tool in CS5, but doing so exacerbated the grain in her hair and eyes, which appeared as bright white dots in the original print. Lightroom’s sharpness slider was more effective at sharpening edges without deepening the grain.

Voila. Done. Several hours of work and trial and error, but the result made my client very happy! Photo Restoration can be done a million ways; how would you have approached this project?


About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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