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How to Restore Old Photos

June 05, 2023 5 min read

How to restore old photos

It’s disappointing to have faded or damaged photos. Tears, fading, yellowing, and other unsightly blemishes take away from the history and joy of the picture. It’s difficult to learn how to restore old photos on your own, as the process takes a lot of dedication and experience to get right, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of hope. 

Professional photo restoration, like the service offered by Pixels Photo Art, eliminates all the imperfections ruining your picture. Photographs are delicate by nature. They easily tear, burn, take on water damage, and more. It’s difficult to reverse those issues for physical photographs, but digital restoration gives your pictures a new lease on life. 

The restoration process is fascinating, and each step along the way is quite important. A fantastic final product depends on handling each component expertly. Some of those begin with (or involve) the customer. To better understand how to restore and improve the quality of old photos and bring them back in a better shape, keep reading! 

How to Enhance Old Photos

How to Enhance Old Photos

It takes time and patience while learning how to repair old photos. The actual process begins with the customer and the initial scanning. For the best restoration job, experts need a solid, clear starting point. That means they require the highest-quality image possible. 

Once scanning is complete, experts use programs like Adobe Photoshop to enhance and restore photos. This may include tools like healing brushes and the clone stamp to remove blemishes, repair tearing, and more. 

Begin With Flatbed Scanning  

After you’ve chosen the photo you want to restore, you’ll scan it or take a picture. This is the first major step in how to restore old damaged photos. Scanning typically produces clearer imagery and is the preferred option. All scanners aren’t made equal, though. If you choose to scan your photo for restoration, you must use a flatbed scanner

Copy machines (like Xerox machines) or other devices meant for scanning and duplicating documents are not recommended, as they may result in muddy images. The digital version will have additional damage, and most likely it will be pixelated. To avoid all of that, opt for a flatbed scanner instead. 

It's critical to send in clear images. For proper and complete restoration, professionals must see all the important details of a photograph. This allows the photo restorer to fill in missing elements and choose the right approach for the job. If the original scan or picture is of poor quality, it's more difficult to restore, and the results would be limited.

Try Taking a Picture 

If you can't access a flatbed scanner, your other option is to submit a picture of the photograph. It is also possible to enhance old photos with this method as experts know how to restore old photos from these pictures. Mobile devices tend to be more accessible than flatbed scanners, too, so don’t worry if this is your only option. 

Once you knowwhy it’s harder to work with pictures taken with phones instead of scanned, you’ll know what to avoid. Phones tend to affect pictures by: 

  • Capturing glare
  • Casting shadows
  • Picking up additional blemishes
  • Including surrounding surfaces
  • Using odd angles

It’s possible to minimize these problems. If you can’t use a scanner and must take a picture instead, just follow these steps for the best quality image. The professionals at Pixels Photo Art understand how to restore old photos from phone pictures. 

  1. Download a scanning app (such as Photoscan) or open the Notes app if you have an iPhone 11 or higher. 
  2. If you're using, Photoscan align your phone with the four dots you'll see. This app does a lot of the work for you. It removes glare and finds the edges of the image. 
  3. If you’re using an iPhone 11 or higher, there’s a “Scan Documents” option in the Notes app. Once you open it, you’ll see a set of instructions. Follow them to align your photo correctly. Take as many scans as necessary, as you’ll need to capture a clear image for restoration. 
  4. If you can’t access either of the apps above, search for similar options on the App Store or Google Play. 

Alternatively, if you can’t (or don’t wish to) take the photo with your phone, use a digital camera. Doing so requires several additional steps to set up the shot, depending on whether you intend to use a tripod. Phones or mobile devices are considerably more convenient, and the images are sufficient if you take proper care.

The Tools and Restoration Process

Once you’ve submitted a clear image, the professionals at Pixels Photo Art get to work. Restoration is a multi-step process, and the work is done in pieces. No one snaps their fingers and makes magic happen. 

Whether you scan your image or take a picture, it must be correctly sized and fitted before the rest of the work begins. It's cropped, removing any extraneous background or images around the photograph. If you managed to get a clear shot with your phone but caught a bit of your kitchen counter at the bottom, don't worry. It's taken care of. 

The picture gets resized to a particular dimension. While some people only keep digital copies of their custom restoration photos, many want at least one printed copy. Resizing and properly shaping improves that final product. 

Removing Damage

If your photograph has scratches, creases, tears, or cuts, taking them out seems impossible. Fortunately, experts have access to digital tools for removing all sorts of damage. 

  • Healing Brushes - Healing brushes blend sections with the surrounding pixels, blurring out minor imperfections and damage. This brush eliminates wrinkles, dust, and other categories of surface blemishes. 
  • Cloning Tool - The clone stamp or tool in Adobe Photoshop copies selected pixels and puts them in another location. Experts use this for similar reasons as the healing tool, and it may be helpful if tears leave small areas missing. 
  • Patch Tool - Healing brushes and the clone tool mainly focus on small damaged areas. The patch tool, in contrast, handles large blemishes. 


With the blemishes and damage removed, reconstruction work begins. Some photos suffer mainly from fading or yellowing. In that case, adjusting brightness and restoring true colors helps. 

Light and dark spots get exaggerated and cause fading. The image begins to get lost in confusion, and restoring balance is one step toward clearing the image. 

Fading happens with age, and it's a slow process. Additionally, sunlight exposure yellows your photos. Even when photographs are reasonably well preserved, it happens. Colorizing old photographs profoundly changes their appearance, adding new vibrance and life. 

Certain types of damage or tearing may result in sections of an image getting lost. If that happens, it doesn't mean there's "nothing" to work with. Missing parts may be restored and recreated through mirroring. For example, a professional may mirror an existing portion on the other side, and then use tools to create a natural look. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you're interested in learning how to restore old photos yourself or just want a look behind the process before ordering a personalized restoration, the results are impressive. Photo restoration brings back cherished memories and the faces of loved ones. It helps memorialize those who have passed on and even celebrate things like sports teams and former student classes. 

If you have photographs at home that need extra care, contact the team at Pixels Photo Art. Restoration returns something nearly lost and allows you, your family, friends, and your community to enjoy it for future years.