Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Buffing the Past

A couple of years ago I started scanning old family photos. This Polaroid was taken sometime in 1976, just after Sean was born in Leaf Rapids, Manitoba. If you click to embiggen, you'll see that the scan is marred by several scratches and countless dust motes. This image has been shrunk so that I don't use up all of my free Blogger space any sooner than I must; at the original scan size, it looks even worse.

Here's the same image after about an hour and a half's worth of correction. First, I corrected the levels as Jeff Shyluk taught me last year, trying to approximate a nice bell curve on the histogram. Then, I used the clone stamp and the spot healing brush to erase the dust motes and scratches. Finally, I used the burn tool to darken the image; this may have been a mistake or at least unorthodox, I don't really know. But I think it's an improvement. I probably should have tried to use the unsharp mask filter too, but my confidence with that tool is still minimal.

One thing's for sure: to minimize headaches later on, you should always keep your scanner glass as clean as possible. Every dust mote, fingerprint and imperfection on the glass will show up on your scanned image. I've learned this the hard way.

3 comments:

Totty said...

You should check out the new "content aware fill" tool in PS CS5. Demo videos on the web. It's amazing and would have simplified your life a lot.

Earl J. Woods said...

Thanks Mike, I'll definitely take a look!

"The Conscience Of The Jeff" said...

You young whippersnappers who can afford Photoshop with the CS suffix! Back in my day, when Photoshop just had a number, we had to do all of that manually. Still do! And we had to walk ten miles in snow up to our eyebrows backwards in bare feet just to get a thimble of kerosene to put in the monitor to make it light up and another twenty miles for ten grains of mildewy wheat to feed the hamster that ran on the wheel that powered our Pentium I's.

Sometimes, overautomation is over-rated. Well, sometimes it's not, too, but there is a value in crafting by hand, especially in Photoshop. Looking good, Earl!

Artistic effect aside, you're using too much burn if the edges of colour fields start to generate artefacts. I rarely set D or B past 10%.

If you are looking for a global effect, play with the Curves rather than paint with dodge and burn, which are normally reserved for spot touch-ups. Also, keep referring to your histogram.

Unsharp mask is a bear, but it is tame-able. You really need it for posting on Blogger. The Google™ people keep making adjustments to their image algorythms (witness the hiccup of a few days ago), with the result that they use this crazy lossy compresssion that just blurs stuff silly. Unsharp mask can counter that.