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In Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos, professional photo restorer Janine Smith shows how to bring new life to old photos. The course begins with a look at the types of photos that may require restoration, including slides, negatives, prints, and newspaper photos, and options for scanning them. She discusses the types of scanners that are available, from flatbed to film, and the best settings to use for originals. The course then delves into Photoshop Elements tools and techniques to help restore clarity to faded photos and fix problems such as dust, scratches, and tears. Exercise files are included with the course.
Well, I have to admit, I hardly ever find myself adjusting the contrast of a photo using the brightness/contrast adjustment layer. It's always a good idea to know all your options and to at least try them on every photo you restore. The properties of each individual photo are just that individual and different. You may eventually have a pretty good idea what may or may not work just by looking at a damaged photograph, but you can never know for sure. So you should try everything. You're looking for the best restoration possible and sometimes an option you've hardly ever found yourself using may surprise you by giving the best result.
With your original photo selected, go to Create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the layer panel and select Brightness/Contrast. The Brightness slider controls the highlights and shadows. If you move it over to the right too far, you can blow out everything, too far to the left and it gets too dark. You want to find a nice midpoint that leaves your photo looking really good and not blowing anything out. Let's try it about -60. That looks good.
The Contrast slider controls the mid tone values. Towards the left, make your photo a little grayer, and towards the right a little brighter. Again, you want to find a nice moderate place that looks good, about 75 in this case I think. Yeah, that looks good. Now let's see our before and after and see how much difference that made. That made a pretty good difference. In this case, it's usable. Even though levels and curves work better for adjusting contrast, the Brightness/Contrast adjustment shouldn't be completely discounted and should always have a chance to show you what it can do.
It can even be used to make little adjustment tweaks to a photo that's nearly perfect.
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