My parents and aunts have boxes and boxes of old photos of themselves and my grandparents. Many of them are fading or yellowed, and some of them have been damaged. I have set aside some time each month to scan and restore these photos – I would hate it if they were lost forever to the elements. Some of the photos take more time to restore than others, but showing my parents and aunts their fixed pictures has been worth the effort.

To restore old photos, you need a scanner and photo editing software. It doesn’t have to be fancy software – anything with basic color controls and a correction tool. I used photoshop for these pictures, but in the past I’ve used Picasa, Picnik, Windows Live Photo Gallery, PicMonkey, and HP Photo Creations, so it can easily be done on free software!

I restored two photos for this: One of my Nana that was yellowed, and one of my mom and her siblings that was folded and damaged:



1) Before you do anything, make sure your photo and scanner are clean. Place your photo on the scanner and make sure you scan at at least 300 dpi (dots per inch).

2) After you scan your photo, do not be afraid to crop. Not only is it a great way to remove problem areas in the photo (stains, folds, tears, etc), but you can also make the focal point of the image more prominent.With the picture of my mom and her siblings, I cropped out a lot of damage.

3) Adjust the “lighting” in your photo. Use the exposure tools to alter the brightness, contrast, and saturation levels of your image. Brightness affects light levels, contrast helps distinguish between light and dark, and saturation will add vibrancy to the colors within your photo. I used this to restore the photo of my Nana from yellow to a much more vibrant black and white.


4) Once you have your photo perfectly lit, correct its color. This step is really important, because old photos will fade and discolor over time. Look for the “adjust color” tool in your photo editing software. Play around with the slider until the colors look fresh and pop. If there are tools for temperature, tint, and saturation levels, use those as well. This is obviously very important with old color photos, but even black and white photos need some color adjusting.

5) Remove scratches and other blemishes with the correction tool. It often looks like a little band-aid. Carefully repair the damaged areas by zooming in on them in your workspace – you’ll get a more precise fix. If your photo is blurry, use the sharpen tool to make the image sharper. It took me two hours of carefully clicking on each pixel in each tear and fold in the picture of my mom and her siblings, but look how well it turned out!

My mom is the baby in the front. Annie calls her “Baby Gramma.”

These are some of my parents’ and aunts’ most treasured photos, and I am so excited to show them the results. I’m going to print them out and re-frame them!

Have you restored a photo? I’d love to see the results! Leave a link in the comments below.

You can find more photo restoration tips here!