How Can I Retouch Old Photos?

Most people have old photographs in albums and film negatives stored in trunks, cabinets, or drawers left gathering dust. These photos and films often get worn out and damaged beyond repair and are lost forever. The rest of them are still memories worth saving, don’t you think?

If you’re wondering how to retouch or restore an old photo, this discussion can certainly help you. You might consider using a photo retouching service or restoring it yourself. 

While there are numerous such services, let’s look into what methods and tools you can use to bring your old photos back to life.

Can You Restore and Retouch Old Photos Yourself?

Yes. You most definitely can restore old photos yourself. You don’t have to be a master photo editor or be a super tech-savvy professional to make use of the existing technology and tools that can restore and revitalize your old photos.

Moreover, it’s really easy to digitalize your photos, and you can retouch, modify, and manipulate them with ease. Most importantly, it’s cost-efficient and sometimes free.

How Much Can Photos and Film Negatives Fade or Degrade Over Time?

If you keep printed photos or film negatives sitting in a drawer without proper covers, they degrade and fade away slowly. Films and photo paper are not archival mediums of storage.

The following factors contribute to the degradation of films and photo paper:

  • Humidity 
  • Heat
  • Light exposure
  • Film and photo paper age
  • Original development procedure
  • Abrasion/Physical damage
  • Dust/Debris exposure

What Can You Do About Degraded Photos?

You might find scanned copies of photos and films appearing different than they did when you first printed/developed them. The dye in the film and photo paper fades over time. The result is desaturated colors, degraded sharpness, and details.

How do you prevent this from happening? Firstly, have your photos scanned as soon as you can. The more you wait, the more faded and degraded they will become. 

The good news is there are tools and features in editors you can use to restore and retouch your photos almost close to the original. It doesn’t stop there. You can even make creative modifications to your liking.

How to Restore and Retouch Old Photos?

Rejuvenating photos were taken before technological advancements can sometimes be a challenge. Fortunately, digitization and preserving is a very simple and accessible process nowadays.

If you are looking to restore your photos, follow these steps:

Scan the Photo/Film

If you still have some film negatives, you are in luck. You can use a film scanner to digitize the photos easily. If you’re planning to restore from printed photos, on the other hand, you can use a good quality regular scanner to digitize the photos.

However, fresh copies from film scanners are always better than photo print scans since printed photos tend to degrade more over time. Some photographic details may remain in the films that have worn out in the printed photos. This especially happens when photos are torn, faded, creased, stained, or scratched. 

Store the Scanned Files in Your Phone or Computer

All scanners (film or regular) have their methods of having the scanned photos transferred to a mobile device or a computer. Follow the manufacturer’s directions and have the scanned copies stored in your desired device.

Open the Scanned Photos in a Photo Editing Software or App

When you have successfully digitized your cherished photos and stored them on your phone or computer, you can take the next steps towards restoration—using photo editing software. You can even find completely free ones.

Following is a list of free software and apps for PC and mobile platforms that have a wide range of editing tools that are wonderful for photo repair, restoration, retouch, and enhancement:

For Mobile

  1. Snapseed
  2. Adobe Photoshop Express
  3. Adobe Lightroom CC

For PC

  1. Adobe Photoshop
  2. Pixlr X
  3. Darktable
  4. GIMP Photo Editor
  5. inPixio Photo Editor
  6. Photo Pos Pro

Using the array of tools and features of these apps and software providers, you can retouch, enhance, restore, and modify photos to your preference. Most importantly, these tools require extensive operating knowledge or more than basic software skills.

Final Words

The key to restoration is to preserve original features from the actual photo as closely as possible. Meaning you shouldn’t be making any adjustments to the photo that makes it look unnatural. It’s important to remember that you are simply restoring or retouching the old photos and not manipulating or filtering to post on Instagram.

This amazing technology helps us cherish our memories. Whether you use a retouching service or do it yourself is up to you. But make sure you remember why you’re retouching and restoring the photos in the first place to keep the authentic memories intact. Happy restoring!

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