It ended up that I was able to get my hands on photos to do restoration with. I don’t have any personal ones here in Australia because all the ones my mother would take when I was growing up are with her and she doesn’t live here. So I relied on the ones provided by Lucas, who recently went back to his mother land and brought some photos, negatives and slides back to be digitized.
Now, be mindful that this is the first time I’m doing this kind of thing and it is a learning process. I am a beginner Photoshop user and as such, it not only takes me a long time to do something, but it takes attempting more than one technique to reach the desired outcome.
Before we actually get into the editing/restoring itself, we must first capture (digitize) the photo. When doing this, we need to remember that this interaction is based on 2 main surfaces: the printed photo (or negative or slide) and the scanner glass. It is of the utmost importance that both of these are free of dirt and dust. Some of the photo scanners have dust removal technology, but not all do and the more mechanical removal is done the better it is. I’m currently not using a photo scanner so I must rely exclusively on the mechanical dust removal before editing the photos.
To clean the surfaces I use a number of different devices/techniques. To clean the scanner glass, I use the dust blower, the filter brush (less often due to the large area to brush) and a combination of Windex and microfiber cloth for cleaning lenses. I chose the microfiber cloth over the regular paper towel to clean it because the towel isn’t as soft as the cloth and may start creating micro-scratches on the glass. Those micro-scratches can’t really be seen with the naked eye, but can be amplified by the scanner, especially when you scan at resolutions above 300 dpi. Once you clean the scanner surface, make sure you close the lid to let it dry without allowing more dust to settle on it.
The printed photo, negative or slide are a bit more delicate for cleaning. Again, I use the dust blower and the filter brush, but I also use a combination of cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol for cleaning the media. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly and doesn’t damage the pigments of the photo. I only use the alcohol when I see a stain on the media that might be removable. I gently dip the cotton swab in the alcohol and applying very little pressure, I go over the stained area in the photo until the stain is removed (or I’m convinced that it can’t be removed).
My next step is to let the photo dry for a few seconds and then I put it in the scanner and fire the scanning application up. As a default, I try scanning with the highest available resolution. For most of the photos I’ve been doing, I’ve done on my Brother multi-function printer. It has a resolution of up to 1200 dpi, but it isn’t great with some color acuracy/gradient. I prioritize this scanner due to the high resolution, but when I need smoother transitions/colors, I then go to the CanonScan LiDE 400. The color accuracy of this scanner is much better (still not what I would like), but I can only get up to 600 dpi in resolution.
What is the driver for looking for the highest resolution I can scan in? The higher the resolution, the bigger the photo can be and more detail will be captured. Let’s keep in mind that there is a limit to how much detail you can capture, but mostly it will help with covering up out-of-focus and any other visual defects you may find. A good photo printer (in your residence or in a lab) will require a 300 dpi resolution for a good print. Working above that number will help maintain the quality of the photo when you resize to the desired size. A 10 x 15 cm (4 x 6 inches) photo that is scanned at 300 dpi can only, without losing quality, be printed at 10 x 15 cm or smaller. If you increase the image to be 10 x 15 cm at 600dpi, that will allow you to quadruple the area of the photo, enabling an enlargement of up to 20 x 30cm at 300 dpi.
In the case of slides and negatives, this becomes even more crucial as 24 x 36 mm frame will need to be enlarged significantly to be able to print a 10 x 15cm photo. If you scan 24 x 36 mm at 300 dpi, you only get a 24 x 36 mm printed photo. Having this in mind, I am planning to by a dedicated scanner for slides and negatives that can scan with the resolution of up to 7200 dpi. This is a future investment and currently I’m working with restoring printed photos only.
Last, but not least, I always scan to TIFF files, as they contain the most color information and have no loss due to compression. I import the files to Lightroom (or Photoshop) and edit them as TIFF.
Note: The photo on this post is not mine, but I have permission to use it in my posts as part of my restoration work.