During an open house yesterday, there were a few questions regarding how I go about restoring or repairing a photograph. Most questions and answers were fairly straight forward, but I did realize there was still a bit of confusion after my explanation. Yesterday was my first public appearance, my mind was moving quite quickly, and in several directions, so it is quite possible I could have caused confusion with my explanation. I will briefly describe the process.
Before I get too far in depth with regards to the restoration process, there are a couple of things to think about when determining whether a photograph is a likely candidate or not. First and foremost, to clear up any confusion, nothing is done physically (as a museum might do) to the original image. All work is done on a digital reproduction of that image. Secondly, what kind of damage or irregularity is present? Is it something as simple as a few water stains, scratches, wrinkles, small tears or fading? Or something much more severe such as fire damage, loss of entire areas of the image (physically gone), blistering, etc.? Some images are too damaged or too far gone to have much to work with and unfortunately cannot be fixed.
For those that can be, there are a couple of different methods for capturing the digital reproduction. The first being a simple flatbed scanner, the other a DSLR with a combination of light sources. The second involving the DSLR being my preferred method. If the flatbed scanner is used, the images are scanned as a 300DPI (dot per inch) TIFF image. When the camera is used, the image will be captured in RAW format (just as I do with any other photograph I produce). The captured images are then imported into Photoshop and the real work begins.
Once the work begins, I will use different tools from within Photoshop to start making repairs. Either using spot healing brushes, clone stamps, content-aware fill, eraser tools, or a combination thereof to make the corrections. Once I am satisfied with the repairs, I will then start on contrast adjustments, sharpening, etc.. The images will then be exported as a PSD so all layers remain intact as well as a format and resolution suitable for print.
How long does it take to complete? Unfortunately, until the process begins, there is no real way to know exactly how long a repair or restoration might take. It can range anywhere from a couple of hours for something relatively simple to a couple weeks of steady work for something more complex.
Hopefully that sheds a little light on the process. Be sure to check out the Restorations and Repairs link in the Gallery menu item for a few examples.