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Photoshop Elements: Editing Tips for Old Scanned Photos

by Erin Peloquin on September 5, 2012 · 21 comments

I came home from a family reunion this summer with a suitcase full of old photos to be scanned.  So glad my aunt kept them all!  Not so glad about the amount of work involved in scanning and restoring them.  Here are a few tips I learned along the way.

This is one of those times when you need Photoshop Elements rather than Lightroom.

First off, you should know that while I did scan each and every photo for archival purposes, I am not going to edit each and every one.  The photos I’ve chosen for this example display a wide range a issues that need fixing, so that you can see what I’m doing to update my favorites.

  • Step 1:  Scan the photos and transfer them to your computer.  This is going to vary from computer to computer, so I can’t help much with this part.  On my Mac, I use Image Capture to scan.  Image Capture does allow for some editing to be applied to the scan (Add Contrast, Remove Dust, etc.), but I’m a control freak.  I’d rather do these things myself.
  • I scanned multiple photos at a timeand ended up with files that look like this.  Yes, those are old photos of me.  And no, I’m not really a duck hunter!
  • Step 3:  Use Photoshop Elements’ Divide Scanned Photos feature, which you access from the Image menu.  This will create a new file for each photo in the original scan file.  (See below for what to do if this feature doesn’t work well.)

  • Now for editing.  To crop and straighten the photo, I go to the Image Menu/Rotate/Straighten and Crop.  Elements does a good job here.

  • Next step – remove the wrinkle.  I used a combination of Spot Healing, Cloning and a Color Blend Mode Brush here.

  • Finally, I use Levels to brighten, add contrast, and remove the warm aged tone.  You can see my brightness and contrast adjustment in the Adjustment panel below.  To correct the white balance, I moved the middle red slider to .87, green to 1.18 and blue to 1.30.
  • Ok, so that’s the first image.  The 2nd image looks like this:
  • Rotate it by going to the Image menu/Rotate and selecting 90 Left. 
  • After rotating, all this image needs in the way of editing is a quick trip through Levels for Contrast and White Balance correction.
  • Next up, this photo needs to be rotated to the right.  I removed the orange date at the bottom with one quick stroke of the Spot Healing Brush with content aware.  And I finished by adding a Levels Layer for contrast.
  • Note:  Divide Scanned Photos doesn’t always work.  The images below were stuck to an album page.  It would have ruined them to try to tear them off.  Divide Scanned Photos doesn’t work here because some of the photos overlap each other, and because there is not enough contrast between the album page and the photos themselves.  This feature works best if you have a bright white background, like you’d have when you scan individual photos on a scanner.

  • To divide these photos, use your marquee tool to drag a square or rectangle around one photo.  Go to Edit/Copy to copy the photo inside the marquee, and then paste into a new file.  Repeat for each photo in the scan.

 The only thing this tutorial for dividing and editing scanned photos in Photoshop Elements doesn’t include is how to make time to do this.  If you can help me with that, I’d appreciate it!

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