Old photos are a window into the past. You place a photo on the mantel, dusting it every so often, and one day you notice the face has faded, and many of those little details have vanished. Faded photos are just what happens when images age.
But if you lack a digital backup, how do you bring back faded photographs? Is that magical moment or that inspirational family member’s memory gone forever? Not necessarily.
With the advent of modern technology, there are ways to restore old photos. Here’s how to restore old photos and bring the past back into the present.
How do Photos Fade?
Fading photography can be unnerving if you don’t have any other copies you can refer to. Photos can fade for any number of reasons.
Let’s dive into why photos become faded in the first place:
- Light – By far the leading cause of a loss of detail, photodegradation is the technical term for when ultraviolet rays break down the chemical bonds within the colors of an image. If left in bright light for long enough, a photo can disappear entirely.
- Environmental – Photos were never designed to be permanent. They absorb elements from the air, such as dust, air, and smoke. It’s why people place their images behind glass and in albums.
- Damage – Various types of damage could also impact a photograph, such as water damage, mold, and silvering.
- Improper Storage – Anything acidic has a high likelihood of ruining a photo. Tape, cardboard, and mats can gradually eat away at the perfect snapshot.
- Unstable Color Photography – When color photography first appeared, it was unstable. It wasn’t until the 1980s and 1990s that color photography became stable for the first time. It’s why black and white photographs from a century ago are still visible today.
- Photo Proofs – Some images were designed to fade. Professional photographers from decades ago would send unfixed proofs to their clients. The idea behind this sneaky business practice was to force people into buying the more expensive final prints. Thankfully, this is a practice that has long since died out.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your older photos could be at risk of disappearing entirely. Several ways exist for you to preserve your photos and keep the memories alive.
How to Protect Old Photos
Do you have old photos bound within countless albums within your attic or down in the basement? Act now to save them.
Before discussing how to restore old photos and innovative color photo restoration techniques, here are the steps you can take now to protect your beloved images.
Identify the People
It’s amazing how quickly people forget who the figures are in their photos. Most people pencil in their names, but graphite fades over time. With especially old photographs, you may never know for sure who those people are.
Talk to your relatives and note down the names on the back with an archival felt-tipped pen. Never use a ballpoint pen!
Make Digital Copies
Invest in a scanner and begin producing digital copies of your images in their current condition. While you can’t halt the decline of the original photograph, you can avoid the damage becoming any worse by digitizing your library.
Keep the scanned images inside an archival box just like the experts. These boxes are not especially expensive and are a worthwhile investment.
Share Your Photos
Not only is sharing a great way to get all nostalgic and reminisce about the good old days, but it’s also a protective measure. Say you experience a house fire or a flood; if you’re the only person with a copy, no professional can restore those images.
Having multiple copies shared with family and friends ensures access should you lose your copies.
Photocopy Original Writing
The value of an image isn’t just in the photo itself but the writing that comes with it. Make sure to preserve any quotes, names, or dates using a simple photocopier.
If you can’t identify the photographer, a piece of handwriting can enable you to trace your photos. This is especially important when dealing with historical photographs.
Frame the Right Way
If you’re looking to frame and display a photo of a cherished family memory, take the time to have it matted. Mount it behind archival glass rather than any old picture frame.
Archival glass is better equipped to protect the image against sunlight and humidity. Note that even special glass and professional framing won’t protect faded images forever. It simply postpones the process.
Practice Proper Album Storage
Albums are a great way to store large amounts of photos. The traditional way of storing photos in albums was to use glue or tape to adhere the image to the page. These practices worked well in the past, but they can damage the photo.
Choose an album with sleeves instead. Make sure you store any albums in a cool, dry place to save them from environmental damage.
The Benefits of Using a Professional to Restore Old Photos
Professional photographers know how to restore old photos by using state-of-the-art photography techniques. Saving your precious photographs and restoring pictures with the help of a professional can yield incredible results.
Although they’ll never look as good as the originals, you’ll be surprised at how modern faded photo restoration can make a difference.
Here are some of the benefits of hiring a professional and what they can do when restoring pictures.
Enlarge Your Photos
The last copy in existence of a family member may still be of good quality but lacks the size. Older cameras weren’t equipped to produce the massive prints we see today.
However, with the power of modern technology, you can restore old photos and take them beyond their former glories with specialized enlargement services.
Restoration utilizes electronic capture in a way that makes old photos suitable for larger prints.
Eliminate Common Photo Damage
Folds, scratches, tears, and general fading are normal symptoms of a photograph’s wear and tear. Professional photo restorers utilize digital techniques to eliminate all these types of damage and more. Common photo restoration software includes Adobe Photoshop, Inpaint, Retouch Pilot, and Luminar.
There are several ways to address photo damage using software:
- Adjusting contrast – Old photos fade with time, with darker colors becoming lighter and lighter colors becoming darker (in other words, losing color contrast). Even if you store your photos carefully and avoid leaving them in direct light, fading is unavoidable as time goes on. Luckily, this can be fixed in most software programs by adjusting the contrast. There are several different tools and methods, but the most common include adjusting layers, tweaking lightness, increasing/decreasing saturation, applying curves, using an opacity brush, and many more.
- Color correction – Have you ever found an old photo that has a yellow-ish tinge to it? This is the most common form of color casting. Photoshop offers a quick fix for mild cases where you can work with the whiteness balance tool. You can either adjust the photo as a whole for color casting, or you can manually balance the colors out by adjusting warmth and coolness in various parts of the photo. Keep in mind this can be a very tedious process, but effective when done well. However, for more severe color casting, it’s best to consult a professional.
- Correcting Localized Damage – Old photos suffer scratches and rips from being transported, stored, or simply from normal wear and tear. Most photo editing software options offer cloning, in which you can duplicate parts of the photo and use them to cover up blemishes. This is great for removing lines or cracks from the physical photo having been folded. Another option is called “healing,” which replaces texture rather than the image itself. This can hide small imperfections and can smooth out areas where you may have used the cloning tool.
These are the most common types of damage to old photos, but there are many other ways to go about the process. While some free programs exist to help with the restorations, you’ll always get better results when using a professional for restoring faded photos.
Build Your Family Tree
The genealogical benefits are immeasurable. Help future generations to trace their histories with your old photographs. Give them insights into their ancestors and empower them to put names to faces.
Restorers don’t just bring history to life. They restore the details that can so easily be lost to the passage of time.
Protect, Store, and Share Forever
Returning faded photos from the dead also allows them to be digitized and stored electronically.
Electronic storage captures the restored image in its finest form. Access these files at any time, protect them with the cloud/external hard drive, and share them with family and friends across the generations.
You can even duplicate them to put in several photo albums and to preserve them long into the future.
The Investment that Keeps on Giving
No free program can beat the results you get from a professional restorer with experience in how to restore old photos. See these services as an investment that provides constant dividends for future generations.
It’s not only about the photo itself but the happiness a restored version can bring to generations yet unborn.
Faded photos look like they cannot be brought back from the dead. But digital photography has come a long way, and it’s possible for your local photographer to restore, share and digitize photos.
Investing in a professional photography service is the way to celebrate your past and to preserve your family’s story for your sons and daughters.
Get only the best in professional photo restoration with EverPresent. With a full suite of photography services for digitizing, organizing, and sharing, contact EverPresent and revive those landmark moments in your family’s history.