Best software for restoring old B/W antique photos from 1920s

Posted on 2004-04-17
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-18
I'm scanning, archiving and re-printing several old scrapbooks for my parents.

Most pictures are b/w and were taken in the 1920s and 1930s.  

I need some help finding the BEST "automatic" photo restoration software - as I have 100's of photos to scan, restore and re-print.  For a few, I've been manually adjusting levels, contrast, despeckle, etc.  But it takes forever and I really don't know what I'm doing.  I'm just now learning about curves.

The Extensis Intellihance Quick Enhance feature works PERFECTLY on about 25% of the photos.  The rest, it makes worse.  

I have the following tools:

Photoshop Restoration and Retouching - ISBN 0-7357-1350-2

HP office Jet 7100 all in one scanner/printer

Scan resolution, hardware
 Up to 1200 x 4800 DPI
Bit depth
 Up to 48-bit
Adobe Photoshop CS, Fireworks 2004 MX, Paint Shop Pro 7.0

-Extensis Intellihance Pro 4.0

-I am about ready to purchase ImageDoctor - $99

-I am about ready to purchase FocusMagic - $45  

-I'm thinking about purchasing ASF SHO - but their plug ins are a bit pricey.

For my current scrapbook - I've already scanned in all the photos at 300 DPI.  I find 1200 DPI crashes my PC - which is a Pentium 4 with 2.66 mhtz and 992 Ram.

But I'm wondering if I need better scanning software.  I'm using HP's software that came with the hp office jet 7110.  Can you recommend better?

I'm giving 500 points for this complex question.
Question by:aprillougheed
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LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 10851978
NOTHING is going to be perfect %100 of the time. Photo restoration takes time, patience, and skill. At best you could write a Photoshop action but that's not going to help you with the most important things like Levels, Curves, etc that you have to actually SEE in order to properly fix. For fixing tears, wrinkles etc there's only one way to fix it and that's manually.

Expert Comment

ID: 10852174
Weed is giving you the straight up answer. Phoroshop should handle this for you, but if your looking for a program with a garenteed fix all, thou is out of luck... -> Hopefully after the first 50 or so you will start to develope a technice that will enable you to quickly analize a photo and make a list in your mind as to what procesess you will need to use to restore it. This should speed up the process.

Author Comment

ID: 10852337
yeah - I understand - I'm getting there.

I'm seeing how each picture has it problems.

My worst trouble is images with stark white with no detail - surrounded by darking images.  See picture at:

See this image . . .
Any idea how to soften the white? Especially in the little girls dress.

Also is there a good trick for scanning old newspaper articles?  I've been told to scan them in at 76 DPI.  This works great on the text, but not the pictures.

Finally, can you recommend a good flexible multi-featured scan software program?  I'm limited by the software shipped by HP.
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LVL 30

Accepted Solution

weed earned 1600 total points
ID: 10853661
Softening the white can be done through Levels or Curves. Again, something that has to be done manually.

ALL of these scans should be done at 300dpi or higher. NOTHING should be scanned at any less than 150. Most scan software has a descreen function which eliminates most of the moire pattern picked up in newspaper articles. You can also use a slight blue and then unsharp mask after it's scanned to remove the moire pattern.

The HP software is good enough. It doesn't have to do much, just scan. The rest you can do in PS.

Assisted Solution

mhci earned 400 total points
ID: 10853707
Alright, you question is pretty interesting and I am going to attempt to answer it in a couple of ways:

First, understand what is wrong with the old pictures. They are kind of smudged. They might have over exposure or under exposure. They are scratched. They have a lot of noise (kind of dust speckles on the picture).

Second, photoshop can repair these.

Third, you need to spend less time on these pictures. In this regard you should try and use the features of "actions" in photoshop. Actions are like macros and they automate a couple of commands in one single go.

I suggest you make actions for increasing sharpness, decreasing brighness, increasing brightness, decreasing contrast, increasing contrast, removing dust and speckles, removing scratches. Thereafter apply them to each picture accordingly.

You can also make an action that runs a couple of actions in a particular sequence.  

I haven't found an alternative to HP Scanning system and I agree it is slow and does not have much options. It is best to use this through Adobe Photoshop and that will get all the scans into Adobe immediatly for alteration. To do that click file menu under Photoschop and then on get image from and then select HP Scanning system.

LVL 30

Expert Comment

ID: 10853740
I would actually suggest NOT using Actions. Why? Because each photo is different and the same amount of the same filter will not be appropriate for all photos. Youll end up with what you had before. Just making it worse. If you're going to spend the time to really restore these photos correctly, ACTUALLY spend the time to do them correctly.

Author Comment

ID: 10854023
Hi all.

Thank you so much for your thorough answers.  I have a tendency to keep trying (trial and error) to make software do things - that I'm not sure it can do.  In other words, I waste a lot of time.

Now that I know manual is the way to go . . . I'll focus and move on.

You did give me some good tips like "light blue and unsharp".

I don't think there is any filter I haven't tried.  I think that is my problem . . . I make too many changes and I forget which versions are optimal.  I do try to use adjustment layers - but I get lost sometimes.

At this point, I think when I can find the time -- I should sit down and study up on a deeper level.  My background is in marketing, and I'm always finding I need to learn more about graphic arts, photography, etc.

Hope I divided up the points fairly.

Thanks again.  April

P.S.  If you know of any good books on "restoring antique photos", I'm thinking about buying another one.  Maybe "Heirloom Photo Restoration for Dummies" <-  just kidding.   :)


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