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processing an old faded album

Joined
Apr 4, 2019
Messages
4
Lightroom Version
Lightroom Perpetual version 6.14
Operating System
Windows 10
I have a 40+ year old photo album, containing about 60 colour photos which have faded badly - they are gradually transforming themselves from vibrant colour images to low-contrast monochrome. It's not too late to scan them in and use Lightroom to try to repair (some of) the damage, but I can't allow many more years to elapse before I do it.

Unfortunately I don't have the negatives, but I do have a handful of duplicate prints which have been stored differently, or maybe were better prints in the first place. Whatever the reason, the duplicates have survived much better than the album versions, so I have a reasonable idea what the album should look like. I'm wondering whether there is any way to tell Lightroom to analyse a pair of scanned images - one faded one from the album, and a matching unfaded duplicate - and produce a set of transformations that would transform the faded image into something resembling the unfaded one? My thinking is that if I could get such a set of transformations, maybe I could apply the same set of transformations to every image scanned from the album. Even if I still had to do some fine-tuning, it would save a lot of effort compared to processing each image manually.

I hope the above makes some sort of sense, but I'll be happy to explain further if necessary. Does it sound feasible? I'm using Lightroom-6.14 (on Windows 10), and I also have a very old copy of Photoshop Elements (version 10 I think).
 
Joined
Nov 30, 2012
Messages
459
Lightroom Experience
Power User
Lightroom Version
Classic
The closest automatic way would be to try the Auto option. But it could be thrown off by images where colors have faded unevenly.

It will probably be more productive to:
  1. Open a representative scan of a faded image.
  2. Make the necessary corrections to restore it, using the Develop module. (If per-channel adjustments are needed to correct fading, that can be done in the Curves panel.)
  3. Use any of the options to transfer one image’s corrections to many more at once, such as Sync Settings, Copy/Paste Settings, AutoSync, a saved preset of the corrections…
  4. Adjust individual images to make up for minor remaining differences.
You’ll probably have to adjust the corrections for different batches. What would cause a different batch would be sets of album images affected by different aging factors. Such as being shot on different film, printed on different paper, printed at different labs (one lab’s chemicals might have been in better shape than another), or being stored in different albums (with different quality paper or plastic in contact with the photos).

When scanning old film, it’s possible that the same settings can be used per roll of film. But with prints of course, it’s hard to tell which frames were shot on which roll.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2019
Messages
4
Hi Conrad, thanks for that. It sounds like your approach will be quite efficient. I think the worst part is going to be the scanning - since the prints can't be extracted without damaging them, and the pages don't come out either. But I'll get there! Thanks.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
Messages
2,118
Location
Puget Sound
Lightroom Experience
Intermediate
Lightroom Version
Classic
Hi Conrad, thanks for that. It sounds like your approach will be quite efficient. I think the worst part is going to be the scanning - since the prints can't be extracted without damaging them, and the pages don't come out either. But I'll get there! Thanks.
Have you considered a copy stand and using a DSLR and a macro lens?

--Ken
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2019
Messages
4
That would probably be a good idea if I had a DSLR. However, I don't, nor am I planning to get one. The scanner is OK, so long as I can rig up a way to support the album.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
Messages
2,118
Location
Puget Sound
Lightroom Experience
Intermediate
Lightroom Version
Classic
That would probably be a good idea if I had a DSLR. However, I don't, nor am I planning to get one. The scanner is OK, so long as I can rig up a way to support the album.
My concern is that the depth of field on scanners is often quite shallow, and that you may have a number of OOF scans.

--Ken
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2019
Messages
4
Point taken - I'm sure I would get better results if I had better equipment. But I'm working with what I have, and as I said above, I don't have any plans to upgrade.
 
Joined
Dec 7, 2007
Messages
2,118
Location
Puget Sound
Lightroom Experience
Intermediate
Lightroom Version
Classic
Point taken - I'm sure I would get better results if I had better equipment. But I'm working with what I have, and as I said above, I don't have any plans to upgrade.
If you do not have success with the scanner, and do not wish to purchase any equipment, then might I suggest a cellphone camera as a fallback plan? With a decent phone and decent lighting, you may not have to fight the shallow DOF issue if it arises during scanning.

Good luck,

--Ken
 
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