Home > Articles > Graphics & Web Design > Photoshop & Adobe

Repairing Black-and-White Photos in Photoshop 7

Explore the uses of various tools for repairing black-and-white pictures and also learn how to spruce up the photos with tints and vignetting.
This chapter is from the book

Fixing damaged or "just plain lousy" pictures is the number one reason why most people buy Photoshop. It can really work miracles on old, torn, faded photographs, and it can also make up for most, if not all, of the flaws in your snapshots. Photoshop can be used to recompose a picture that's off-center, tilted, or has too much empty space. You can edit out the power lines and trash cans that spoil the landscape. You can even remove unwanted former spouses, or that awful boyfriend your daughter finally dumped, from family portraits. It's nowhere near as difficult to get rid of them on screen.

Easy Fixes

Let's start by looking at some of the things you can do to fix up an old picture that might have faded, yellowed, or been damaged. First, we'll consider a couple of old family photos that need a little bit of adjusting and touching up. We'll run (literally) through the steps involved in fixing them and the tools you'll need to know how to use. (Remember, you can always flip to the front of the book to refresh your memory about these tools, too.) Finally, we'll take an extremely damaged picture and work through it step by step, until it looks like new again.

Some pictures don't need very much work. The photo in Figure 21.1 has mainly composition problems. The elegant lady has had the top of her head and her hand cut off, whereas the barn behind her just looks silly. We'll re-crop to get rid of the barn, and rebuild the lady's missing pieces. This photo could also use a little more contrast.

Figure 21.1 This needs relatively minor repairs.

To fix this picture, we first crop the borders to remove the edges and the barn. Then, resize the canvas by enough to include the top of her head and her missing fingers. Set the mode to Grayscale, which removes any color information that the scan picked up. Doing this immediately eliminates the yellow and brown tones. Next, we use Curves (Image→Adjust→Curves) to tweak the contrast a little. By using Curves, we can lighten the light tones without affecting the darks. In Figure 21.2, the very slight curve in the window lets you see just how subtle this adjustment is.

Figure 21.2 The curve adjustment is very slight.

The next step is to rebuild the body parts. I can copy and paste randomly selected hunks of background because it's just foliage with little or no detail. First I'll fill in over her head (see Figure 21.3) and then I'll use a Brush tool to draw the missing part of the hat.

Figure 21.3 Ready to paint in the hat.

Then I'll select a strip at the left edge of the photo and paste it on another layer so that the car and her hand are extended by a couple of inches. Some quick use of the Smudge Tool to blend the edges, and we're almost done. The final step in this restoration is to apply the Dust & Scratches filter to remove any specks we missed. The result, seen in Figure 21.4, is much better.

Figure 21.4 Well-preserved photos, regardless of age, can be digitally improved.


Many Photoshop users make a habit of applying the Dust & Scratches filter (Filter→Noise→Dust & Scratches) to every scanned photo. This is often a mistake because, although it does make dust particles less obvious, it also softens the focus of the picture. If you decide to try it, evaluate the results carefully. Use the Preview check box to toggle back and forth, turning the filter preview on and off until you're certain that it's an improvement.

Here's another fairly old photo, shot in 1954. (I know. The kid in the raincoat is me.) This one is in much worse shape. It is both yellowed and faded, and cracked in several places. Because it was raining when the photo was shot, the contrast wasn't very good. The untouched photo is shown in Figure 21.5. Can we rescue it?

Figure 21.5 This one needs more serious work.

Again we'll start by cropping and then go to Grayscale mode to get rid of the yellow tones. There's a good deal that can be cropped out of the background of this photo, improving the composition (see Figure 21.6).

The contrast ratio in this picture isn't as good as in the previous one, so our next step will be to attempt to improve it. The Levels dialog box shows the histogram for this picture, which tells us that the whites are too white and the darks not dark enough. The best way to learn to make these adjustments is to work on a copy of a bad picture, and simply experiment with the settings until the picture looks the way you want. Notice what happens when you move the sliders to the right or left. Figure 21.7 shows the corrections so far.

Figure 21.6 Cropping can remove some of the problem areas.

Figure 21.7 Changing the Levels settings adjusts the contrast.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020