Trudie Ann before and after using the Camera Raw filter

Restoring Trudie Ann – Part 1

The first step to make an old photo presentable

I’ve often thought that Nova Scotia in the old days must have been rather poor since it couldn’t seem to afford many names for the females. I can’t keep the generations in my family straight for all the Anns and Margarets. By all accounts, Trudie Ann was someone everybody liked, and I think this snapshot shows her as someone who had a good time and didn’t take herself too seriously. Studio portraits take a lot of effort to convey true character—a formal sitting, while lovely to have, is usually more staged than intimate— which makes a rare shot like this one worth taking the time to restore.

Since Camera Raw is so easy to use for basic edits, I like to start there. If my photo is already a PSD, as this one is, I can use Photoshop CC which has the Camera Raw filter built in, allowing it to run as a Smart Object filter on any image layer inside Photoshop. You can’t use the Crop, Straighten, or Rotate tools, but you do have access to almost all other features, and of course, you can non-destructively crop within Photoshop proper.

Layers panel with Camera Raw Smart Filter
Using the Camera Raw Filter as a Smart Filter in Photoshop CC and above.

 

If you’re still on Photoshop CS6 or earlier, there is no Camera Raw Filter. You can, however, open your JPEG or TIFF scan in Camera Raw, then open it as a Smart Object in Photoshop. And if you prefer to start in Lightroom, you have  the same features that are in Camera Raw, and can later use Photoshop layers to help you finish your project.

If you have Photoshop Elements, choose your JPEG or TIFF in the Open Dialog, then select Camera Raw from the Format list at the bottom. PSE has a limited set of features in Camera Raw compared to Photoshop or Lightroom. However, you do get that all-important Basic tab that deals with color and tonality.

Choosing Camera Raw Format in PSE's Open dialog
Selecting Camera Raw in the Format pop-up list after choosing a JPEG file in Photoshop Element’s Open dialog.

After converting my background to a Smart Object, I chose Filter> Camera Raw Filter. The histogram suggested that there was severe clipping in the highlights, but to make sure it was only the white surrounding the oval image, I held down the Option/Alt key while clicking on the Highlights slider. The display clearly showed the image had no clipping.

Camera Raw histogram and clipping triangles
Triangles in the upper right and left corners of the histogram indicate if there is clipping somewhere in the image.
Highlights clipping preview
Displaying Highlights clipping by holding down the Option/Alt key while adjusting the Highlights slider.

 

You can also click on the highlight triangle above the histogram to toggle the clipping display for the overall image. When you Option/Alt click on a single tonality slider (Exposure, Highlights, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks), just the clipping for that region is displayed.

If your software uses an older version of Camera Raw or PSE, you might not have the same sliders, but most of it has similar functions.

Camerea Raw tonality sliders
The settings I used to moderately adjust tonality in the Trudie Ann image.

I used Camera Raw to apply a very little capture sharpening—this is not the same thing as output sharpening to a printer or the web, and should only be used to restore a hint of sharpness to a digital file.

Preview of sharpened regions when holding down the Option/Alt key
The Masking slider in the Sharpening area of the Details tab in Camera Raw limits the areas that get sharpened. Holding the Option/Alt key while adjusting the slider displays the areas in black that are protected from sharpening.

I also adjusted the Luminance noise sliders, turned on B&W in the Hue Saturation section (although you can convert your scan to a neutral B&W by any of your preferred methods) and used the Upright feature in the Lens Corrections section to straighten the photo’s perspective slightly. If you’re using the regular Camera Raw or Lightroom Develop interface and know you want to further crop and straighten, you can do so now.  Why clean more than you have to? And cleaning is the next step I need to take to restore Trudie Ann.

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