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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Art of Photo Restoration

Let's face it, it can be very disappointing when your favorite photo of a loved one is marred by red eye or poor exposure, or when a cherished photograph from your past fades and cracks.

Luckily, with today's superb technology, along with a lot of hard work and talent, repairing just about any photograph, film or digital, is possible, whether restoring that which has been lost, fixing incorrect exposures, erasing dust and scratches, or even recreating reality.

But, as many of us know, not all restoration artists are alike. To restore an image properly, one must have an eye for photography, the technical savvy to solve any given problem, and, most importantly, artistic skill.

Because there are thousands of books and websites dedicated to the technical aspect of photo restoration, I'm going to concentrate on the artistry of the craft and offer restoration tips that will help you transform a nice yet damaged photo into a cherished heirloom.

                                               THE EYES HAVE IT

When was the last time you felt the urge to repair an old photo of your swimming pool? Or your TV? Or your stereo?

If you're like most people, probably not very often. Most people want to repair images of their loved ones, that special baby picture that was damaged in a house fire, Grandma's old wedding photos that faded and turned yellow, those wonderful pictures of Grandpa in his military uniform that Fido got a hold of. We want to restore those familiar faces, those special moments, those souls. And the most important aspect of the face is the eyes. Eyes captivate us. They run in the family. They tell a story.

Unfortunately, many restoration artists tend to neglect the eyes. They work diligently on the background, they sharpen the fingers, they patch the clothing, they correct the color, and they neglect the very thing that the reveals character of the subject.

Don't let that happen to you. When restoring a photo, pay close attention to the eyes. Ask yourself these questions, Are they soft and out of focus? Do they appear flat and one dimensional? Do they reflect true color? Or do they only reflect the yellow associated with an aging photograph? Study the eyes in quality photographs. Notice how the curve of the eye almost always captures points of light. Notice how most eyes are multicolored and have specks and streaks in them. Then return to your old photo and ask yourself how you can incorporate those characteristics into the eyes of your subject. 

                                            Mona Lisa Smiles

After the eyes, the second most important aspect of a portrait is the mouth. Is your subject smiling? If so, pay close attention to the teeth, the gum line, the tiny creases at the corner of the lips. Like eyes, the mouth, lips, gums are composed of many shades of color and all reflect light. Make sure your portrait, or more specifically, your subject's mouth, captures and reflects those subtle shifts in tones and light.

More restoration tip coming soon!

Kevin Winkler