A very sentimental photo, Adding Color to a B/W

Registered: Oct 27, 2009
Total Posts: 178
Country: United States

Hey guys, So here's my issue.

I was given a photo, And it is of my Great Grandma, Who my Grandma never knew because her mom died when she was age 3.

So, this is the only single photo in existence and I've been dubbed the task of trying to restore it
in any way possible.

Yes, a Professional will be considered, I just want to see how far I can get before going that route.

I have CS5.5 and min. skill. It's a small photo, and I scanned it with my HP Photosmart multi do computer.

Here is the original.

Here is with basic touch ups...

I wanted to take it slightly further and attempt to add some color. Here is where I have gotten.
NOTE: I've never tried this, I honestly am not happy with it. It almost looks like a cartoon....

Is there a program which will make this easier or perhaps someone here have some free time to kill to
take a shot at seeing what can be done?

Registered: Jan 19, 2003
Total Posts: 10239
Country: United States

I would suggest going back to the original scanned version, and rather than trying to "colorize" it, try to restore some of the lost contrast. It won't look natural with a full range from deepest black to pure white, but you should be able to bring back some of the dimensional feel. Try adding a curves adjustment layer, and pull out an ess curve. Play with it until you get an effect you like.

Peter Figen
Registered: Apr 28, 2007
Total Posts: 4423
Country: United States

I agree about keeping it in the vein that it was created in. I did a really quick - well as quick as you can manage with a bad trackpad and a nine year old version of Ps, but this gives you a pretty good idea. I'm also including a couple of screen shots to show the type of moves you might consider to bring back some of the original vibe. The first screen shot shows the curve and that it's set to Luminosity blending mode. The second is a low amount high radius unsharp mask that adds some more snap. Just an idea...

Tom D
Registered: May 16, 2004
Total Posts: 2315
Country: United States

Here's my attempt. I'm going to guess that you won't be able to take this very far, since the quality of the original is so poor. Maybe there's a retouching expert on the forums that might have a different view, though...

Registered: Feb 02, 2009
Total Posts: 17904
Country: United States

Took a stab at it to pull out the cast .... ended up going this way.

I think either toned or B&W will be the way to go.

There is a lot of damage scattered throughout the image (understood for an image of such age), so it will likely be a balancing act between extracting detail vs. enhancing damage. A professional would be taking the time and care to address each of these damaged areas on a selective basis rather than the quicker global efforts that we have applied.

But, I think it does show that there is some hope for restoration to help provide some "identity" to your family's heritage.

Registered: Dec 13, 2010
Total Posts: 4170
Country: United States

a couple of curves in less than a minute in LAB mode.


Registered: Nov 07, 2005
Total Posts: 10471
Country: Australia

Boosting the contrast and/or clarity is essential. If you want to add colouring then start with a b&w version rather than sepia.

Photograph or scan the original at high resolution and apply suitable noise reduction and capture sharpening. The high resolution gives you more enlargement to work with when painting stuff in, and will look even better when scaled down down again afterwards.