As I explained in the article "Let Image Doctor Cure your Damaged Old Photos," the best quality results come from an original photo, and/or quality scan, and they are sized large enough to do professional repairs to.
But what happens when someone finds an old picture online, and they have no other copy but the tiny little jpeg of themselves?
Well the results will never be top quality but it is possible to repair an image enough to have an undamaged memory.
Small Damaged Jpeg
One of our readers had this exact dilemna. She found a very small jpeg image from an old yearbook photo found online. Its dimensions were tiny, 268 x 213 pixels and only 72 dpi.
Well I said to Tracie, I'm sorry it can't be done. A jpeg that small will be impossible to fix without destroying it more than it already is.
Then the challenge got the better of me. I wanted to see just what I could achieve, I was up for the ultimate test of my retouching skills.
Plus I figured it could make a nice little tutorial for those of you who may be in the same boat with nothing better than a small jpeg to work with.
So here we go...
In the original photo above, you can see it is crooked with light blue staining, a few scratches, and many bleach spots where the photo wasn't developed or fixed carefully in the beginning.
The first step was straightening and cropping the image. I used 'Edit-Transform-Skew to straighten the uneven edges created from the original scan. I then cropped the image to size to remove the background.
Cropped & Straightened
Next I used the spot healing tool to carefully remove all those bleach spots. I selected the content aware option and resized the brush to a small soft brush, just big enough to cover the spots.
For the edges that were too close to her dark hair I used the clone stamp tool and took a sample from just below the damaged section by ctrl clicking the area I wanted to sample, again with a small soft edged brush. I then carefully painted over the scratch. Finally I selected Image - Adust - Black and White to remove the blue staining.
Retouched to remove stains spots and scratches
For the next adjustments I used my Nik Plug ins from the Nik Software Collection avaiable from Google. When you buy the whole set for only $149 they install as Photoshop plug ins so you can use them inside Photoshop.
I used Nik Define 2 and selected Skin and used the Fill option to smooth out the whole image a bit.
I then used Nik Silver Efex Pro and selected a Sepia Soft Touch black n white filter to restore nice film look to the scanned image.
Nik Filters Applied
Next I used the healing brush, selecting a smooth point on her cheek and selecting lighten and 15% opacity from the options box. This allowed me to paint over the dark lines on each side of her mouth and have the healing brush blend and lighten them at the same time.
The image was a little dark so I used Image - Adjust - Auto Contrast to lighten up and increase the overall contrast. I used the Unsharp Mask to do some light sharpening.
The final image is quite soft as you can see and far from perfect but it is a huge improvement from the orginal.
Through every step i worked on a separate layer to avoid damaging the original photo. Working as a Tiff file allowed me to avoid the destructive changes that happen when you adjust a jpeg image.
At the end I selected Layer - Flatten Image. Then Save As and selected jpeg again so it would be ready for printing. The owner should be able to print this as a very small photo and the quality won't be too bad as a keepsake.
Overall not too bad for a tiny jpeg image.
If the owner of our retouched pic would like to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org I can email you the final image. Thanks for sharing your pic and giving us a chance to do this tutorial.
Remember folks, please in future email us larger photos set out like explained in the previous article.