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How to digitize, retouch and color old photos

So much time to spend and an archive of photographic memories to save (and fix?): Here are all the tips

coloring old photos(Photo: Pixabay)

With forced stay at home, you have so much free time to occupy. It is no coincidence that video games are depopulating, but to better spend this large amount of hours available, there are those who are rightly recovering. activities and tasks left pending for months if not years. Among these, the digitize the family photo archive to secure memories even a century old, legacy of past generations. And why not take advantage of the chance not only to scan photos, but also for retouch them and give new life by coloring them when am i black and white? We have selected a number of resources to fix old photos, here they are.


To scan old photos you have two options. The first is the one that offers the best result ie the scanner, the device that captures the very high resolution image by immediately creating a file on the computer.

If you don't have this device at home, you can take advantage of the camera – better SLR – or even the smartphone. You will have to place the photo on a flat surface and create the most uniform lighting possible. So take a photo of the photo. For a perfect result, sunlight is recommended, placing the photograph on a support inclined or perpendicular to the ground and positioning itself in such a way as not to create shadows, placing the camera on a tripod (or, in any case, on a plane), therefore opt for the self-timer so as to eliminate wavy effects and have a more than acceptable definition.

slide scanner(Photo: Jumbl)

As regards the slides or filmsinstead, there are two ways. The first to go through the appropriate scanners such as those found online (even at this time, they can be purchased) with expenses from about 60 euros up: they connect to the PC and digitize on the fly and / or saving on a stick or sd card.

The second takes advantage of a digital camera, better SLR, on the last beach also the smartphone. The film is placed on a well lit surface (like an opaque shelf with a light source behind it) you shoot in macro mode.

Just this first step it can take hours and hours, if not days. Once you have passed all the digital photos, you are ready for the next step, that of retouching.

Touch up

We start from a fundamental premise: retouching does not necessarily mean erasing dark circles and lifting the cheekbones from the great-great-grandmother or straightening the great-uncle's smile. It is mostly about correct all those elements such as folds or damaged parts of the photograph which, as a tangible object and produced by chemical reaction, may have suffered decades and decades of life and manipulation. In addition, you can improve the shot with small tricks that we will list below.

Second assumption: always create (at least) two rows of each photograph, one original and immaculate for reference and archive and the other to be retouched.

adjust color(Photo: Adobe)

Whatever software you are using, from Photoshop to Gimp passing from the various alternatives, here is a series of practical tips open even to those who do not chew too much information:

Cut out: many images have a background, floor or in any case unnecessary space that can be cut out with a crop, improving the frame. Often, folds, damages and defects of the photograph are found on the edges or on the edges and do not compromise the true fulcrum therefore they can be directly eliminated.

Straighten up: in the same way, often the frame is crooked and can be seen from the horizon, a mirror of water or perspective lines. You can therefore rotate it until you find balance.

Eliminates noise and small defects: with Photoshop (but also alternative apps) whose monthly subscription starts from 12.19 euros there are always preset filters such as the one known as Dust & Scratches or Dust and grain that automatically recognizes and eliminates noise due to the age of photography and small scratches.

Correct defects manually: if desired, you can operate manually zooming to the maximum, sampling color near the affected area and acting with precision and caution almost pixel by pixel. In Photoshop and the like there are several very useful tools like the On-the-fly corrective brush (patch) which focuses on small areas "covering" following the background and eliminating elements (such as the wrinkles of the VIPs), even people; it does everything by itself, just select the desired area et voil.

photoshop tools(Photo: Adobe)

The second tool Patchto isolate a portion to be arranged chromatically e Clone stamp to copy a part of a level by replicating it in another area of ??the same.

Adjust the light: the most delicate point. Needless to hide that this skill divides professional retouchers (who have been practicing and studying it for years, by profession) from amateur ones, but by dedicating our guide to those who belong to the second set, we try to isolate a few simple commands to learn.

Adobe has prepared a small official tutorial for beginners that explains more in detail and that we recommend. For automatic tools you switch from Image then you can choose Automatic contrast that precisely fixes the contrast o Automatic color which acts on a predominant color (like faded yellow), finally we suggest Image> Adjustments> Equalize to balance the brightness values ??and complete the simpler process.

To color

We come to the end point or how to color old photos. Anything previously suggested that is valid and necessary from digitizing to retouching for example damage or imperfections, even if in black and white. With the file fixed, you can try to color it. Again there are tools for beginners and more experienced users.

colorize app(Photo: Colorize)

There are several smartphone applications that can automatically color with more than acceptable results since they take advantage of machine learning. On iPhone there is Colorize which is free for a trial for three days and then costs 4.99 euros per month (if you want), but keep an eye on the final resolution. On Android there is Colorize Images which we suggest because it allows you to set some color parameters manually; this app is also free to download but requires a small subscription, an acceptable expense that starts from 99 cents for 8 hours of use at 30.99 euros unlimited.

Among the online tools, ColouriseSg stands out, which is part of a government project in Singapore and which offers truly excellent results, guaranteeing that the treated photos are not shared. Alternatively, there is the well-known MyHeritage that guarantees more shades (less for the complexion) but affixes a watermark. Other solution and Algorithmia.

colourise(Photo: ColouriseSg)

Switching from Photoshop, there is a special tool in Elements passing through Enhance> Color Photo. After acting automatically you can touch up by choosing Manual then Quick Selection or Magic Wand to select a specific area and change the color using the Drop tool which opens a palette of colors to choose from and apply for details.

Finally, you can color photos in manual and it goes without saying that the most complex choice. Simplifying to the maximum, with the lasso tool you can select the larger or smaller area to be colored then command + j or ctrl + j to create a specific level, open the Image> Adjustments menu by manually acting on the hue and saturation. With the eraser tool you can smooth out the excess color. For example, for the complexion the suggested values ??are red +50, green -15 and blue -40 while for the lips red +40, green -15 and blue 0.


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