I admit it: I'm a total geek. I love electronics, programming, 3D art, vintage Apple hardware, and whisky. I'm always juggling half a dozen projects. I also enjoy documenting it all: my successes, my failures, my experiences... and everything geeky along the way.

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Photo Restoration Project, Part I | Kevin Rye.net - Main

Kevin Rye

Geek Extraordinaire. Yeh, I said it.

Photo Restoration Project, Part I

I’ve been commissioned by my mother-in-law to put together a book of old family photos. She was impressed with my work on the last one I did for my wife.

Can you blame her? This thing looks AMAZING!



But enough patting myself on the back, let’s see what we have here…..

Once I agreed to make the book, I was handed an envelope with no less than 166 old pictures of various size and condition. These pictures have definitely seen their share of handing. A lot of them aren’t in any condition to be showcased in a book of “favorites”. They will all, for the most part, need some sort of photo retouching.

I got to work on scanning every one in. It took a few days to scan them all, but I did it.


I scanned them at a very high resolution so I can really get in there and clean up the details. This is a 60+ year old 4x6 picture zoomed in on my 27” monitor. It is truly “larger than life”. It’s huge! It has to be if you want to clean up the details. Don’t scan you images at 1024x678 and expect great results.


I won’t bore you to death with every picture, but just show you some before and after shots to illustrate what kind of results you can achieve with a little time and patience. Pixelmator is my photo-editing app of choice. It has an amazing feature-set, is easy to use, and the price is unbeatable. A lot of people prefer Photoshop, but it’s too over-priced for me. It also tends to be a little bloated. That, and Adobe treats Mac users like second-rate citizens. But enough about that...

Most of the images I cranked through since they just needed a color correction and some simple touch-ups. The more damaged ones required a little more artistic license and took anywhere from a few hours to a few days to complete.

Again, I had to shrink the examples down considerably for the post, a lot of the finer details will be lost, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

This one had a lot of staining in the top left-hand side. I had to strip it out completely and redraw it. You can’t tell since I shrunk the image down for the post, but it’s slightly textured to match the rest of the wall. There were also several creases throughout that someone had touched up with a black marker. I had to fix those too.


This was a tiny wallet-sized photo from 1946. Old portraits back in the day were printed on an almost cardboard-like material. Since the front was coming away from the back, someone had attempted to laminate it with some tape. All the adhesive had started to leech out from the sides and the whole things was a big mess. I had to redraw a lot of it by hand.

gloria 3 years b&a

This is another one that was falling apart at the seams. A portion on the right had actually torn away and had re-adhered itself a half inch below. I had to completely redraw the wall. Since the wall looked like a hand-painted mural anyway, I think my handiwork will go unnoticed.

gloria child 1 b&a

More torn edges, staining, and scratches. You can’t pick out the details since I shrunk it down, but it’s full of little blemishes.

gloria child 3 b&a

This was originally an 8x10, so the native file is super-huge. Again, I had to shrink it down for the post so you won’t be able pick out all the little blips, spots, and scratches I cleaned up. Hopefully you can make out the tear that I cleaned up that ran the length of the picture.

gloria child b&a

This has been a long-running project that has spanned several months. I’ve been working on it in my spare time. Mostly in between other projects when I’ve hit a snag or I’m waiting for a PCB to come in. I’ve completed restoring all 166 images. Now it’s just a matter of making the book. I think I’ll also have a set of prints made by Snapfish while I’m at it. I’m sure my wife would love to have some old pictures of her Mom printed.

Seeing how great these have come out has inspired me to restore the photos of my own family. I’ve contacted my parents and persuaded them to send me our entire family photo library so that I can scan them all in and create digital copies for archival. I’d hate to see our family photos degrade with time. In addition, everyone in the family will be able to finally have their own set. Since my parents moved away over a decade ago, I haven’t been able to see any of those old photo albums from my childhood. So I’ll be a nice treat to relive all those memories.

See this project from start to finish:
Photo Restoration Project, Part I
Photo Restoration Project, Part II