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September 30, 2003

The Fine Art of Photo Restoration

When I first got out of college I was on a design path (graphic, web etc). Sometimes I miss those days, and always jump at the chance to dig out the old theories and tools.

Today was a perfect example, Pete took some photos on a trip to DC, several from inside the plane which looked like they could use some enhancing.

Here's Pete's original photo of DC from the airplane, next to the color corrected image


The original looks like someone put a grey transparency over it.

I opened the image in Adobe Photoshop where the Levels dialog (Image->Adjustments->Levels) indicates a lack of highlight and shadow colors, causing in the grey overcast.

For each of the RGB colors (selectable in the dropdown) I reposition the slider closer to the color range.
This redefines the color range for the image, which essentially redistributes the pixels over the range, making dark ones darker and light ones lighter.

The end result is an image which has the full range of colors.

A word of caution, Photoshop has an "Auto Levels" adjustment which I avoid, it gets close to doing the right thing, but rather than letting you ajust the range it determines the darkest point on the photo and lightest point and uses those to redistribute the pixels. This gets the color back, but in my opinion goes overboard, creating a fake look to the image. Better to use the sliders and carefully govern how to redistribute the pixels.

Posted by mike at September 30, 2003 3:18 PM