Beginner’s Guide to Retouching Old Photographs in Adobe Photoshop | Evgeniya & Dominic Righini-Brand | Skillshare

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Beginner’s Guide to Retouching Old Photographs in Adobe Photoshop

teacher avatar Evgeniya & Dominic Righini-Brand, Graphic Design & Photography

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction & Class Overview


    • 2.

      Prologue: Where It All Began


    • 3.

      Non-Destructive Retouching Workflow


    • 4.

      Clone Stamp


    • 5.

      Spot Healing Brush


    • 6.

      Healing Brush


    • 7.



    • 8.

      Using Curves to Enhance Your Images


    • 9.

      Using Different Colour Modes


    • 10.

      Saving Your Photographs


    • 11.

      Final Thoughts & Conclusion


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About This Class

Master a range of Photoshop’s retouching tools and show some love to old family photographs, dirty scanned negatives or those digital pictures you took with a dusty camera, so you can proudly showcase them online or get them printed!

I am Dominic Righini-Brand, a professional photographer with a passion for chemical photography and film processing. During my career as a photographer and teacher of photography, I have retouched a huge number of photographs, perfecting the way I use various retouching tools in Photoshop, and I am excited to share with you my tips to help you get started with retouching old photographs, master a range of Photoshop's tools and ultimately speed up your retouching workflow!

This class is designed for beginners and anyone who wants to learn about how to retouch and restore images in Adobe Photoshop. It is also suitable to anyone who is interested in digitising Lomography photographs, students and anyone starting out in photography who has been experimenting with chemical photography and now wants to digitise their work. All of the tools which I’m going to be showing in this class can also be used on digital photographs, so if you have not got any scanned negatives, don’t worry, this class will still be useful.

For the best experience possible you’ll need a Creative Cloud version of Adobe Photoshop, but you’ll still be able to complete this class using older versions. You can download the latest trial version of Adobe Photoshop CC from

In this class you'll learn:

  • how to use the Clone Stamp, Spot Healing Brush, Healing Brush and Patch tools to clean and retouch your photographs;
  • what each of these tools works best for;
  • how to retouch your photographs non-destructively to have more flexibility and a more streamlined workflow;
  • how to quickly and non-destructively enhance your photographs using Curves;
  • what different Colour Modes are best used for;
  • how to save your image for use and archival purposes.

So grab something you want to retouch, and let’s get started!


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Evgeniya & Dominic Righini-Brand

Graphic Design & Photography

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1. Introduction & Class Overview: Last Christmas I decided to do something a little different. Instead of getting my parents a standard present, the usual bottle of plonk or questionable interior design item, I decided to make them a book using old photographs which I took in 35 millimeter color and black and white film. During our family's holidays in Southford throughout my childhood. Unfortunately, I discovered that careless treatments of the negatives by the teenage version of myself and the intervening years have not been kinds to the negatives. Many of which now contain dust and scratches. I begun a long and laborious process of retouching and caring for these images. That said, many of the problems which we'll be working to resolve in this class are inevitable. Dusting scratches and photographic negatives are chemical photography's version of a deity digital sensor. I'm Dominic Righini-Brand. During my career as a photographer and teacher of photography, I've retouched a huge number of photographs, perfecting the way I use various retouching tools in Photoshop. I'm excited to share with you my tips to help you master a range of Photoshop tools, learn what each of the tools works best for and ultimately speed up your retouching workflow. In this class, you'll learn how to retouch your photographs non-destructively, to have more flexibility and a more streamlined workflow. I'll also share a few tips for enhancing your photographs and getting them ready to be used and archived. This class is designed for beginners and anyone who wants to learn about how to retouch and restore images in Adobe Photoshop. It is also suitable for anyone who's interested in digitizing Lomography photographs. Students and anyone starting out in photography who's been experimenting with chemical photography and now wants to digitize their work. All of the tools that I'm going to be showing in this class can also be used in digital photographs. If you've not got any scan negatives, don't worry. This class will still be useful. For the best experience possible, you'll need to create a cloud version of Adobe Photoshop, but you'll still be able to complete this class using older versions. Grab something you want to retouch and let's get started. 2. Prologue: Where It All Began: Every year we would holiday as a family in Salford, which is acquaint English seaside town on Britain's East Coast. We'd always miss the first week of school because it was cheaper and my parents would rent a large house which could accommodate all of us. I guess over time it became tradition. Every year was the same until we finally stopped going when I was in university. During high school, I became interested in photography and my parents showed me how to process black and white film and develop prints in our small dark room at home. I was given an old Pentax spot metric and started to record the world around me, particularly our holidays in Salford. I've kept all of my negatives and have recently started to digitize these photographs, 35 mm black and white photographs are actually very high-quality, often comparable or better than any digital photos. Plus, I simply love their settings. Chemical photography has [inaudible] encapsulated in family albums and old memories. Digital is new, contemporary and brilliant, but there is the problem. It cannot yet compete with film on a motive level. Unfortunately, many of my old negatives now have dust marks and scratches. Whilst I very carefully looked after them in recent years, the teenage version of me was a little impatient and careless, and whilst unlike me, you may not have a large archive of photographs from 20 years ago. You can use the tools covered in this class to retouch scanned negatives as well as scanned or digital photographs. 3. Non-Destructive Retouching Workflow: Before we dive into Photoshop and start exploring different tools for restoring and manipulating images, let's talk about workflow. Much has changed in Photoshop over the years. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the move towards non-destructive workflows and processes, which allow us to work on an image, but still retain the unchanged original. All of the tools I'm going to be covering in this class were destructive tools in that original guides, meaning the changes you implemented using them were permanent. Now, through the wizardry of technology, we can edit and manipulate and change digital images, but still revert back to the original if needs must. However, to do this, we need to work in Photoshop in a slightly different way. What I'm going to show you now, will apply to all of the tools I'll be showing in the following videos. Open the image you want to edit in Photoshop. Throughout the class, I'll be using a few photographs to demonstrate how each of the retouching tools works best. If you want, you can download the worksheet with fragments of these images in the Projects and Resources tab, and use it for practice before you move on to retouching your own photographs. With your image open, go to the Layers panel. If you cannot see it in your workspace, go to the Window menu and select Layers. The Layers panel create a new layer by clicking on the "Create a new layer" button here. This will create a new layer above the background layer, which contains your photograph. Let's double-click on the layer's name and rename it to edit. We will be using this layer for all the restorative edits will be making to our photograph. Because everything will be contained in a separate layer. We can turn this layer on and off as needed. When you're working on your image, make sure you have this layer selected at all times, and not the background layer beneath. With the new edits layer selected, click the "Lock position" button at the top of the layers panel to keep the new layer aligned with the background layer. This is important because if your edits love is to shift any changes made using Photoshop's retouching tools, will also be moved. Now before we start exploring Photoshop's tools for storing digital images, let's quickly save this file as a Photoshop document. Go to the File menu and select Save As or simply press Command Shift S or Control Shift S if you're working in Windows. Set the file format to Photoshop in this list. Make sure layers are checked here. This will allow you to retain all separate layers and edits in your document and go back and re-edit it in future if necessary. When the format is set up, let's click Save. This will be the master file for this photograph. Don't delete it until you are satisfied with the results of your image restoration process. Now we're ready to start looking at the first retouching tool. 4. Clone Stamp: Photoshop's Clone Stamp Tool has been there from the beginning. In fact, I cannot remember a version of Photoshop which did not have this tool. However, that does not mean that it is dated or useless. The Clone Stamp Tool has been improved over the years and it's probably one of Photoshop's best tools. Whilst there are more modern retouching tools, like the spot healing brush, which we'll cover later in the class. With skillful application, you can accomplish a lot using the humble Clone Stamp. The Clone Stamp Tool is used for pixel to pixel cloning of one part of a digital image to another. Because it was originally developed before today's algorithmic processes, which can automatically select an appropriate part of the image to clone. With the Clone Stamp Tool, you have to decide what you want to copy to where in the image you're editing. The Clone Stamp Tool is a workhorse. Before more modern tools were introduced, we used to use the Clone Stamp Tool for everything. Whilst it cannot blend pixels together or smartly select an area to sample, the Clone Stamp Tool is brilliant for those tricky situations where you cannot trust the computer and the human eye works best. For example, removing marks which cover complex shapes. Whilst you can use Clone Stamp Tool and all the other retouching tools destructively by working directly on the image layer. If your version of Photoshop supports non-destructive workflows, you might as well work non-destructively and that's what I'll be showing you in this class. So make sure you've got your edits layer selected in the Layers panel, and select the Clone Stamp Tool in the Tools panel. If you are using the provided worksheets, go to the fragments labeled Clone Stamp, find an area of your image which you want to retouch. For example, I want to start removing these dust mugs and scratches here. In the options bar up top, take on the sample drop-down menu here and set it to current and below. This means the Clone Stamp Tool can sample both layers in the layers panel. Now, auto click on an area of detail which looks similar to set the sample point. Remember that the clone stamp copies pixels from one area to another. If you select an area which is different from what you want to cover, the tool will not produce good results. It needs to be as similar as possible. Move the mouse to the area you want to cover. Note, the cursor has a nifty little preview within the brush head, giving you an idea of how things will look. I find this preview can also be really useful for lining samples. For example, if you're editing something for straight edge. Before you clone the sampled area, setup your brush type and size. You can change the brush settings in the options bar, or by right-clicking on the image you're editing with the clone stamp tool selected to access the brush options in this pop-up dialog. I prefer using a regular round brush with soft edges and the hardness set to about 50 percent. Having selected an appropriate brush type and set the desired size and hardness, hit "Enter" to return to the image. The size of the brush will depend on the size of your image and the level of detail and you can change it, while it's looking at your Clone Stamp preview by pressing the square bracket keys on your keyboard. When your brush looks right, paint over the area you want to cover. As you work, watch out from this cross hair, which indicates where the detail is copied from. Notice that it moves as you paint. Meaning that you need to be careful not to do too much. When tackling large defects in areas you want to cover, for example, like this watermark here, use a small brush size and define multiple different sample points, whilst retouching certain areas so that the cloned areas are less obvious. If you're working with circular shapes, you can also take advantage of the rotate clone source option via the clone source panel here, which you can open though the Window menu. To see how the sample is aligned with what you're trying to repair, take within the rotate angle value field to make it active and then move your clone preview in the desired spot and use the up and down arrow keys to change the angle, or hold down Shift and press these keys to increase or decrease the angle by one degree at a time. You can use the flip vertical or flip horizontal options here if you need to repair some symmetrical elements in your image. Using the clone preview and all these features, you can get everything aligned perfectly. Which makes the Clone Stamp Tool very useful three touching tricky areas. I've been using the Clone Stamp Tool for years, and its great to strength, its also its greatest weakness. You have to define the sample point. This makes using the Clone Stamp Tool for long periods of time laborious and somewhat repetitive. Adobe, and it's never-ending quest to develop their products has introduced newer tools like the healing and spot healing brushes, which have attempted to build on and introduce a modicum of automation to the workflow. However, sometimes with patchy results. Ergo, the Clone Stamp Tool remains a household favorite for the descending photographer. Whilst the algorithmic processes of the spot healing brush are very good, sometimes you simply cannot be the human eye. 5. Spot Healing Brush: Unlike the Clone Stamp Tool, Spot Healing Brush Tool is automatic. It analyzes the area adjacent to the images imperfection you want to retouch and finds the best way to convincingly blend with surrounding details to remove the defect or an object. I find Spot Healing Brush Tool works best in small uncomplicated imperfections, such as dust or tiny scratches on negatives. As an example, I'll be using this image. I've already added, unlocked the position of the edits layer. You can carry on working on the same image or if you're using the worksheet provided, go to the fragment labeled Spot Healing Brush. If your edit is now active,select the Spot Healing Brush in the tools panel. Check sample layers in the options bar and make sure that the mode is set to normal times an area in your image which you want to edit. I'm going to remove this dusk specks here. Set up your brush size and hardness depending on what you're working with. I'm going to use quite a small brush, slightly bigger than the dust specks I intend to cover. As for hardness, I recommend setting it to 50 percent to start with, but play around with the settings until you get desirable results. Before we get started, we also need to set a source sampling type. I'm going to set my Spot Healing Brush tool content U-F-O. Now simply paint on the area you want to remove. Try not to be too greedy. You only need to simply click or paint enough to cover the imperfection you want to rectify. If you paint over a too larger area, you increase the chance that Spot Healing Brushes algorithm, will get it wrong. When using this tool, best monitor the results of each and every patch carefully. If you're working non-destructively you can always remove something that you reattach to anytime, for example, by using the Eraser Tool. But if you work constructively, you definitely don't want to be going on a long quest with the undo option, also discarding the results of your later steps in the process. The Spot Healing brush can be a huge time-saver. If you work carefully with small brushes and need to remove a lot of small imperfections in your image. But sometimes the Spot Healing Brush Tool does not work well on complex shapes and structures. In this situations, you can use the Healing Brush Tool instead. 6. Healing Brush: The Healing Brush Tool works in a similar way to the Spot Healing Brush Tool with advanced algorithms including content OF fell, except you have to define the sample area. Basically, the Healing Brush Tool combines the best of both worlds. I will be using this image and continue to work non-destructively. I've got my edit snare selected in the layers panel. If you are using the provided worksheet, go to the fragments labeled Healing Brush, or carry on using your own image and keep your edits layer selected. I have got these image imperfections which I want to remove using the Healing Brush Tool, so let's select it in the Tools Panel. The Healing Brush Tool is fairly straight forward. However, there are some controls and settings we need to quickly cover before jumping in and retouching our image. Make sure the sample setting here in the Options bar is set to current and below. The tool samples both layers and that the source is set to sampled here. Like with the clone stamp, you can set the brush type, hardness, and size in the Options bar up top or by right-clicking in the image area. You can also change the diffusion value here, which controls how quickly resampled region adapts to the surrounding image. Select a lower value for images with grain with fine details or a high value for smooth images. Find an adjacent image area which looks similar to the area you want to restore. Alt click on the image area you want to copy. After defining a sample, you'll also see the sample preview within the brush and can use it to set up the brush in relation to the defects you want to hail. Press the square bracket keys to change the size of the brush and press curly brackets or Shift and square bracket keys to change the hardness. I usually stick to medium hardness and use a relatively small brush size. Now paint onto the area you want to restore. Remember that the Healing Brush is a little different from the clone stamp tool. It does not simply copy a sampled area, but attempts to seamlessly blend it together with the area you're restoring. It uses some pretty powerful algorithms, which can replicate textures and patterns. But sometimes like the Spot Healing Brush Tool, it gets things wrong so monitor the results very carefully. 7. Patch: Unlike the previous free tools, the patch tool is great when you need to repair large areas with a consistent texture or tone. For better results, I recommend using patch tool after removing the small imperfections in your image with the other retouching tools. As an example, I will use this photograph here with quite a few drawing marks. In the worksheet, the fragment of this image is labeled patch. To use this tool non-destructively, check Sample All Layers option here and select your separate edits layer in the Layers panel. When using the patch tool, you need to draw around the area you want to patch using its last [inaudible] , and then drag that selected target area to a suitable sample area to create the patch. The patch tool is content-aware like the healing brush and spot healing brush tools. But be careful because a patch tool can produce patchy results. You've also got the structure and color options here, which can be adjusted to get things just right. The best bit is you can adjust them after you've created your patch, but before you release the selection. The structure setting controls how closely the patch tool replicates the existing patterns, structures, and textures in the image. The higher the value, the stronger the patch tool will adhere to the existing image patterns. Play around with the setting until the patch looks right. This works fine for me. The color setting controls the extent to which you want Photoshop to play algorithmic, color blending to the patch. If you enter zero, color blending is disabled and a color value of 10 applies the maximum color blending. I found that the color setting makes a difference even if you're working with a black and white image. I rarely have to use patch tool, but it's really good at removing negative drying marks in the sky of my images. After creating your patches, you can also retouch the patch there using the healing brush tool just a little, to make the patches even less apparent. 8. Using Curves to Enhance Your Images: Sometimes your scanned images might lack contrast or look a little faded. You can give them that all important boost with Photoshops curves adjustment tool. To use curves non-destructively, click on the add new fill or adjustment layer button in the bottom of the layers panel. Select curves here. Make sure your curves adjustment layer is above all other layers, including any edit slaves you have in your document. When you add a new curves adjustment layer, the properties panel should open automatically. If not, just double-click on the adjustment layers thumbnail to open it up. For consistency, when working with curves in different color modes. Go to the menu in the top right corner of the curves properties panel. Select curve display options from the list. In this dialogue, select, show amounts of light. Click okay to apply changes. You should see this graph with a histogram and a diagonal line going through it. The point in the bottom left corner is the black point. If you move it to the right, you'll make more of the darker areas black. If your image looks faded, this is something to start with. The point in the top right corner is the white point. You can make more of the highlights white if you move it to the left. If you do this, try to avoid creating blown-out highlights. Moving either of these points along the vertical axis will do the opposite, making the black appear faded or the whites darker. This can be useful stylistically if you prefer not having deep blacks and shadows in your image. Or if you want softer whites and highlights, and a faded look. Though, when dealing with film photographs, you probably won't have super bright whites and highlights to begin with or super dark pitch black areas. This is because chemical photography responds to light differently and effectively has an enhanced dynamic range. Using the curves this way is more useful if you want to make digital photographs look more like film. To adjust the contrast using curves, let's click on the curve and add several more points. One in the lines and one in the shadows. Drag the point in the lights to make the light tons even lighter. Then drag the points in the shadows down to make the shadow is darker. This will increase the contrast in your image. Note that the change is gradual to the whole image, and the black and white points stay where they are. Depending on your image, you can play around with the curves and move the points around until you get the desired look. Using the curves non-destructively means you can toggle them on and off to compare two different states of your image. 9. Using Different Colour Modes: I also want to talk a little about color modes. This is important because you'll probably be dealing with images with different or incorrect color modes depending on how the negatives were scanned and the scanning software. Photoshop supports a range of color modes, and you can see the color mode of your image next to the file name at the top of a document tab or image window. Or you can go to the Image menu, mode, and see what color mode your images using by the tick here. Remember, that just because your image appears to be black and white, does not mean that it is using the grayscale color mode. Scanned black and white negatives are frequently saved using the RGB color mode. So if you're working with a black and white image and your file is saved in RGB, it is a good idea to convert your image to grayscale to save some disc space and have a true black and white image. If you're working with a color image, you can keep it in RGB. So you can easily share it or send it to most printers. Convert your color image to CMYK, only when using professional print shops, which require files to be submitted in CMYK. CMYK files are larger than RGB. So RGB mode for color images is also better for archival purposes. 10. Saving Your Photographs: If you have been working non-destructively, and want to keep a version of your image, with all of the edits and adjustments so you can revisit things later, resave your PSD master file with all of the layers. However, if you're happy with the results and don't want to keep large Photoshop documents, save your image as a JPEG or uncompressed TIFF without layers. If you are saving your image in a JPEG format, bear in mind that it is a compressed image format. You can specify the level of compression via the image quality setting in the second Save As dialog box here. It is fine to reduce the quality and size of the image slightly, for sharing online. But if you are saving it for print or high-quality digital display, best keep the quality set to maximum. If you're saving your file as a flattened TIFF, make sure to uncheck lays here. Then click Save. In the secondary dialog box, select the desired compression type. I'm going to set the image compression to LZW. Which offers limited lossless compression. To archive your images, best keep them together, and tell them apart by the file extension. Use them for what they're designed for. PSD documents, to make further adjustments. JPGs, for sharing your work, and TIFFs, for professional printing. 11. Final Thoughts & Conclusion: I'd love to see how you put into practice what you've learned in this class. Be sure to post your project and share your own retouched photographs and the originals so everybody can see the before and after and all the work you've done. If you're going to share your work on Instagram, please tag us @attitudecreative, and use the attitudeskills# so we can easily find your posts. If you want to see more of my photographic work, don't hesitate to follow my personal Instagram account @dfrighini. If you want to learn how to process your black and white films, be sure to check out my class developing and digitizing black and white film at home. If you're into experimental photography, we also have a unique class where I'll show you how to build your own matchbox pinhole camera. If you want to learn to tone your images and imitate different photographic looks, don't hesitate to checkout and watch. Again, here's class mastering duotones in Photoshop. That's it for this class. I hope you've enjoyed it and learned something new. If you found this class helpful, please leave a review so more people can discover it and be sure to follow us here on Skillshare, to be the first to know about a new classes, updates, and announcements. If you have any questions, please leave the comments on the community board for this class and I will happily answer and provide feedback. Also, be sure to check out in follow our page on Facebook to see what we're up to get all the latest updates, send this private messages if you need to get in touch about something, and not to miss if you're featured in our students spotlight gallery. Thank you for joining me in this class. I hope to see you and our other classes.