How to Restore Old Family Photos

How to Restore Damaged Family Photos

old, faded photography of fancy couple
Slick, easy-to-use software can help you restore pictures at home, even when the images are cracked and faded.

You don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for professional photo restoration. And you don't need a lot of fancy equipment to do the job yourself.

What you do need is the patience to learn a few basic features of a photo-editing program. You can invest in programs such as Adobe Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Photo Pro, or try a free program like GIMP. If you plan to restore more than one or two pictures, you should probably have access to a flatbed scanner and a digital camera, too.


Before you begin, keep in mind the first rule of restoration -- don't work directly on your original picture. Make a copy. If the picture is too fragile for scanning, that's OK. Find a bright, evenly lit area and use your camera to take a picture of your original. Use your camera's highest resolution setting and turn off the flash.

Once you have a digital copy, set aside your original picture and load your image-editing program. No matter which photo-editing software you choose, it will come with some common features that work well for repairing some types of photo damage. Note that the names of these commands vary slightly depending on the program.

Because they're the fastest way to improve your picture, first try automatic correction features.

With one click, auto color correction may well modify color and contrast to your liking. Similarly, the auto levels feature adjusts overall contrast and often affects color, too. The auto contrast feature, however, leaves color intact and adjusts only contrast.

Auto sharpen will identify edges in your picture and make them more defined, accentuating small details and giving the overall image a crisper look. And the dust and scratches command will eliminate minor imperfections in the picture. This particular feature is great for quickly smoothing out a lot of small problems with one click.

Not all picture fixing goes this smoothly or easily, though. Keep reading to see which software features can help you make more advanced repairs.