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Small split specks and spots are some of the everyday problems you'll find in old photos and among the most common repairs you'll need to make when doing restoration. Some of the damage is more obvious, like light specks on dark background or vice versa, and some are barely noticeable, unless the image is highly magnified in Photoshop. Fixing every bit of the damage you can will only make for a better image in the long run. Begin by duplicating the original layer, Ctrl+J on a PC, Command+J on a Mac. Let's do a quick assessment of the damage in this photo at 100%. Use Ctrl+Plus or Command+Plus to zoom in.
You can see all these specks and spots here. If we move over, we can see there's a crack right here. There's a fingerprint really visible right here. There are also a few stains and smudges throughout this, and just a lot of small damage to get rid of. In a case like this with so much small damage, you really don't want to start off having to click sampled areas like you would with the Healing brush, so let's start with the Spot Healing Brush tool, which chooses its own sample areas. Come over here to the toolbar and choose Spot Healing Brush tool.
Make sure the Proximity Match radial is ticked if you have CS4 and before. Lower your brush size using your open or close bracket-- your open bracket to make it smaller. Do it just about the size of some of the damage and start clicking. You only want to click one area of damage at a time; you don't want to try to get too much in one click, or it could get smudgy.
In Photoshop CS5, you can go up to the top and click the Content-Aware radial. With this you can either click or paint the area with the brush, with really good results. With the Content-Aware, you can even get these larger areas, which you can't do with the other tools with quite the same result. For larger areas, you can always go with your Patch tool.
Let's go back here to the toolbar and click Patch tool, and let's surround some of these areas and move them over to the sample area. A good area to do this on is something like this fingerprint, a very large area, and you can bring it down to another area. Then you might have this problem sometimes with the Patch tool of getting it a lighter area and just repeat it and do it in smaller areas until you have a good match.
Find a fairly clear area to bring it up to, and if you haven't cleared that area you might have more specks that you can fix with your Healing Brush tool later. This is fairly tedious work, and we're all tempted to cut corners and skip some-- the stuff we don't think will be seen--but if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. This sort of repetitious work is a great opportunity to listen to some music. Repairing the little spot, specks, and splits is some of the easiest work in restoration, and also the hardest, in terms of monotony, but it's often the difference between a good restoration and a really great one.
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