Repairing an old photo that has faded to red

I have been given an old photo that has faded to what seems to be mainly red.  I need to repair this photo using PS / PSP and wondered what the best approach is.  I've tried Histogram functions, RGB alterations etc but am getting nowhere.  Everything I try seems to make the photo look like it was originally black and white!

The photo at present looks as though it has been 'greyscaled' then given a red hue above it.

Any ideas...?
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billmercerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
One other thing to bear in mind is that any adjustments you make are only as good as the original scan. The higher the quality of your initial scan, the more information you'll have to work with when trying to enhance the image. A 16 bit-per-channel scan with a high-end scanner may be worthwhile.

Here's an article about 16 bit color and scanning that includes an example image that sounds similar to yours. His results look pretty impressive. 
Lobo042399Connect With a Mentor Commented:
Hi rouchie,

That's a tough one. When colour fades away, well... it's gone. What I would suggest for you to try is creating several selections for areas of certain colours and use one of several colorization techniques. That will require some hard work and some knowledge of adjustment layers.

Here are some colorizing tutorials you can use:

Good Vibes!

RouchieAuthor Commented:
Hmm I see.  I thought that with 'red' predominantly remaining in the image, then the light over time had faded what would be 'green' and 'blue' on a digital image.  I hoped there would be some simple way of applying a green and blue filter to the image as a whole to simulate the reverse effect, but I'm not sure where to start, and which tool is best to use...!
If I use the RGB tools I get some horrid effects, but subtracting red then altering the curves leaves a nice looking b+w version.  It's just that the original was apparently in colour!
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Yes, you're right on the colours that have faded. The problem is, those colours were not evenly distributed all over the image, there was more blue or more green in certain areas than in other ones. If you use Curves over the whole image then the increase of green/blue will be even, which is not what we want. That's why it's important to know what colours go where. Only after that you can modify the colouring on those areas.
billmercerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
You might also want to take a look at the Channels palette in Photoshop. It allows direct editing of the red, blue and green channels of an RGB image.  and touch up specific areas, apply filters, etc. The Equalize adjustment can be useful to amplify the weaker channels.
MHenryConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Or you could just make it a grayscale and then colorize. Here's a tut I found (there's hundreds of others out there):

It's kind of like what the Turner Network did to Casablanca. ;)


RouchieAuthor Commented:

I tried that tutorial thanks, and although quite useful for the example image, my own image is much more complicated and includes heavily patterned clothing etc, which would take a massive amount of time (and guesswork) to re-colour manually.  The US flag can be re-coloured manually quite easily, but crazy 60's clothing and hairstyles I can't even begin to guess at without offending those involved - it was well before my time...!!!  ;-D

I'll leave the question open for a while in case there are any further points, but otherwise the answers have made interesting reading...

Yeah, it's labor intensive. And if you're trying for perfect realism it won't work. But it is fun and can generate pretty good results if you take the time.

I did a thing for my father. An old Army picture. I had no idea what the car colors were, just that they were dark. Didn't know what color the barracks were etc.  Half the fun of it was trying to guess what colors were. For larger areas like the grass & sky I just did a wash. It wasn't perfect. It turned out looking pretty good though.
RouchieAuthor Commented:
That's a very interesting article indeed.  My £200 HP scanner that I thought was seriously cool has just dropped in my estimations!  I think I might post another 500pt question with a link to the image and let some Experts try their luck...  

I'm can't get a 16bit/channel scan without investing big money, so based on what the article says there may be a handful of people who can achieve the same result in 8bits/channel.

'Know-how will prevail where time and patience don't...'!
billmercerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Try this:

Open the RGB image in Photoshop
Switch to Channels view
Select just the RED channel.
Run the Equalize adjustment
Select just the GREEN channel
Run Equalize again.
Select just the BLUE channel
Run Equalize once more
Select all three channels, and compare the color balance now to what it was like before. It should be noticeably better.

Equalize is cool, because it looks at the range of values currently available, and basically stretches them out to fill the entire range of possible values. The more limited the range of values available, the bigger the change Equalize will make. Applying the equalize to each color channel separately will cause the calculations it makes to be based on that color alone, so the weaker green and blue colors will be amplified more than the red.

You can get similar results by futzing around with levels or curves on each channel, but Equalize makes a good starting point, and you can always fade or adjust each channel afterwards.

RouchieAuthor Commented:

Thanks for that, however it didn't work too well.  The shadows in the photo certainly now appear correctly, but the red is still present, now joined by an equal amount of green in certain areas.  I think the original has possibly faded a little too much for my scanner to capture the remaining colours accurately.
billmercerConnect With a Mentor Commented:
Could be a high-end drum scan would help, but most likely you've lost too much color information to get a good image. If that's the case, then colorizing is basically your only option.

RouchieAuthor Commented:
Cheers guys
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