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Cleaning Up Scratches and Stains

While this photo is not in too bad shape for being about 140 years old, it has a few pits in it, and the album page has some stains and/or mold.  Unfortunately, some of our photos have mold growing on the actual photo. If you are interested in preserving the photo itself under such conditions, it may be worth consulting a photo restoration expert.   Cleaning up the digital image is an easier task.

Take a look at a close-up of the tintype:

Notice the pits in the photo around his head, seen as white spots in the image.   These defects in the photo surface are distracting to my eye, and I would like to get rid of them.  It is worth noting that it is sometimes hard to tell on the digital image what is a defect and what belongs in the photo.  For example, I originally thought he had a scratch going across the uniform from what appears to be his right shoulder to his left pocket.  On closer inspection under high magnification, this "scratch" appears to be a cord running from his epaulette to a button above his shirt pocket.  If anyone into militaria knows what this represents, I would be interested in hearing.

I am going to use the Clone command in Picture Window to get rid of these specks.   In some photo packages, this is known as the rubber stamp command.  The clone command essentially clones one portion of the image (or another image) onto another portion of the image.  Below is a screen shot of using the command.

You can see two circles on the image.  One circle is the area you are copying from, and the other is where you are copying to.  So you simply need to put the copy from circle over an area with similar color, brightness, and texture as the area you are trying to repair, and then place the copy to circle over the defect, and click and drag a bit to cover the area over.  This is a command that is worth playing around with a bit to get the feel of it.  I tend to zoom to high magnification, and copy a small area at a time.  I vary the source I am copying from as much as possible; if you copy a large area to an area immediately adjacent, you can get some very weird looking repetitive patterns.  With a little practice, and a touch of an artistic eye, you can cover over some fairly large tears and defects in the photo.  One photo we've done had enough mold on the face that it looked like the subject had a particularly nasty case of either acne or smallpox.  We were able to clone in skin with similar tones onto the face (from unaffected portions of the face and neck) that in the final image you could not tell there was a problem.

Here is a close-up of the tintype after cloning.

And here is the full photo.  While I was using the cloning tool I cleaned up some of the stains on the album page also (compare this photo to that on the prior page).

I find the Clone command very helpful for cleaning up photos.  Interestingly, Picture Window has a Speck Removal command, which is designed to take care of problems such as the ones above by interpolating the areas between pixels, but I find the clone command works much better for producing a resulting image that you could never tell had a problem originally.  You can also clone out or clone in objects from elsewhere in the photo (or from another photo).  Since my goal here is to try and restore the photo to what it would have looked like when new, not to change the image, I do not using cloning for this function in this type of work.  I have used the composite command (discussed later) to overlay a portion of one image on another, but this has been to overlay a photo onto a different album page if the original page has been ruined (so while I'm adding an album border in better condition, I'm not changing the nature of the photo itself).

The next step is to sharpen the image to see if we can bring out a bit more detail.


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