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The Art Of Photo Restoration

The Art Of Photo Restoration

We take photos to remember precious moments, yet so many of them fade over time. As familiar faces melt into ghostly silhouettes, it can feel like losing touch with your own history – that’s why so many families and individuals look for photo restoration services to restore their old photos.

Although there are many AI-powered programs or editing apps that claim to perfectly restore your photos within seconds, the truth is that nothing beats the trained hand of a professional. Perfect restorations are achieved through years of improving one’s skills, and the process is both an art and a science. 

Read on to find out about how photo restoration professionals navigate the balance!

Art & Science

Art and science seem worlds apart – one exemplifies subjective, creative expression while the other operates within a fixed set of rules and facts. However, the practice of photo restoration demonstrates that the two actually go hand in hand. 

Every restoration requires a well-developed creative skillset alongside a scientific understanding of photography, cameras, and the processes that leave an image faded and damaged. Understanding the type of damage and its cause alongside a working knowledge of light, color, and other artistic principles cuts the guesswork from the process – resulting in faster, more high-quality restorations.

This is especially true for “traditional” photo restoration artists that do physical repairs. A photo’s ink, paper, and even adhesive can impact the restoration process. That said, many professional photo restoration artists today tend to favor “non-destructive” repair methods, opting to restore photos digitally. 

A Keen Eye For Detail And History

More often than not, restorations are done on photos from a time that is no longer familiar to us – some even date hundreds of years in the past. Because of this, photo restoration technicians usually work closely with historical experts to produce a true-to-life product. 

Many decisions have to be made when repairing photos, from how to tackle faded faces to choosing the right colors. It also helps to speak to the photo’s owner for any input they might have on the subjects. 

Small details (like grandma’s favorite red brooch) can spell the difference between a strange, anachronistic reimagining and a realistic photo restoration that would be worthy of display. 

 The Art Of Photo Restoration

Working Knowledge Of Photography

Photo restoration artists don’t have to be photographers, but understanding the craft can help tremendously – industry concepts like the exposure triangle and lighting inform the restoration process. 

This is especially true if the photo is exceptionally damaged or missing a large amount of visual information. The restoration artist will have to rely on their photographic instincts to recreate a beautiful and realistic image.

Empathy In Photo Restoration

Each photo that goes through the restoration process means something to its owner, so you need both empathy and respect when making repairs. But what does that mean exactly for the restoration process?

Cut-and-dry photo restoration may require you to recreate an image’s visual elements, but sometimes families or individuals may be sensitive about the content. You may get requests to remove a person or two, reimagine specific aspects of the photo, or alter subjects to be closer to how their families want to remember them.

Because every image contains real people with their own stories and contexts, the restoration professional has to strike a balance between accuracy and sensitivity. That means recognizing and understanding an image’s emotional significance while also delivering a product that is true to its story. 

What About Artificial Intelligence?

The internet hosts a wealth of photo restoration services that boast lightning-fast speeds, but there is a caveat: many of them use artificial intelligence. 

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using these fast and free services, there’s a rather large margin of error for more complicated restoration work. Precious photos can become garbled by automated digital restoration, and colors may be inaccurate or bleed into strange areas. 

It’s also unusual for these free services to have any means of submitting feedback, so users don’t have much in the way of special requests or revisions. This can work for folks that aren’t extremely particular about the way their photos are restored, but these services simply don’t measure up for cherished photos. 

Photo Restoration: Equal Parts Artform And Science

Photo restoration, in all its forms, requires a critical eye and experienced hands. Years of training and honing one’s skills are required for professional-level restorations, but amateurs can easily try their hand with a little bit of effort and a lot of time. Digital restorations are forgiving and leave the original photo untouched, so many neophyte restoration artists can practice their craft without the fear of ruining an image.