Restoring Damaged Print Images

A friend in Boone, Gregory Anoufriev, recently asked me to attempt the restoration of a damaged photograph of his great grandfather who had served in World War I.  Gregory had a JPEG image of medium resolution, probably scanned from the original, wrinkled photograph which had been damaged at some time in the past.

Gregory’s description of this image underscores its importance to the family:  “This photograph is the history of my family.  This man never came back from WWI.  This  is his last picture sent to his wife saying: ‘Germany, 1918.’  That’s all we know about his last location.  As physician, he helped (after revolution 1917) to bring Russian army solders back home.  He worked under Red Cross (demilitarized unit), you can see he doesn’t have epaulets with military rank.  He holds a cane, he was wounded in the leg.”

Any attempts at restoration which I could do would involve working on a copy of a digital image using Photoshop CS5, so the original image would not be damaged.  Since my work could not result in further damage to the only original image possessed by the family, I agreed to try to restore the image.  I used a very small content-aware healing brush in Photoshop CS5 to remove the wrinkles or creases and replace them with copies of nearby pixils, giving an amazingly-good match.  The most delicate corrections involved enlarging the image to 500% of the original size and then very carefully replacing the crease marks in the face and other parts of the body with pixils that match the surrounding image area.

This was a tedious process, but one made possible by the magical tools available in Adobe Photoshop CS5.  The result is a restored photograph which still is clearly old but now is much less damaged than the original.  Water spots and torn or wrinkled edges, even those on the face and body of the figure, have been successfully removed.   I am pleased with the result of this process, and I am frankly amazed at how easily the restoration could be accomplished using the powerful tools in Adobe Photoshop CS5.  A framed print produced from this JPEG image will now be acceptable for display in the family home, enhancing the memory of my friend’s great grandfather.

About Tom

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Appalachian State University.

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One Response to Restoring Damaged Print Images

  1. Jim says:

    Impressive. I see a Rhyne’s Photography and Restoration Shop opening up soon.

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