Where has all the blue gone? (Restoring old photos)

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Linwood Ferguson

Linwood Ferguson
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Jan 18, 2009
Fort Myers, FL
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Photoshop 2020
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  1. Windows 10
So in what is now my perpetual digitization project, I am doing some old photos, and I keep stumbling across some with the following issue.

But as a preface: In most cases my process is to scan (Epson V600) at 16 bit TIFF, pull into photoshop and apply curves to get both the dynamic range right and mostly the colors, the adjust as needed. Even some really horribly faded shots restore nicely.

Except there are a few that I think are all from the same camera or person or film -- all the same size, and all have the same strange look -- not nearly as faded looking, but kind of reddish, and...

In comparison to other shots from the same scene, all the blue is gone. I mean all of it. Or maybe more precisely it all changed to green. I can't enhance it at all. Notice the lady cutting the cake. I have numerous shots of people wearing blue, and all now are wearing green.

Trying to enhance the blue saturation or adjust the curve, have the wrong effect -- there is blue in the shot now (in that the blue tone curve has data), but it's spread around as though manufactured evenly somehow, that lady's blue dress has about the same blue as the red brick behind her.

Are there techniques I could be using to do this better, short of trying to figure out where the blue is and adding it locally, manually?

It's more curiosity than need really -- most of these shots I have others from the same event, and they are not great pictures anyway in most cases (this is one of the better ones). But it's just bizzare how the color completely changed, rather than just faded. I have shots that were basically monotone by eye that colored nicely. Just not these.

You tried Photoshop's Replace Color command? You'd still need to select what you want to colourise, but you might make a rough select of the dress, the Image > Adjustment > Replace Color. You can then sample the greens - shift click to sample more than one tone - and then click the blue.

Maybe a blending mode approach would work best here. You'd select the green dress which would be pretty easy with the Quick Selection tool, or even Select > Color Range. Then add a Color adjustment layer, sample the blue, and switch the layer's blending mode to Color.


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Yeah, I can recolor things selectively, but of course there's a color cast to everything this has also caused; things like blue dresses are blatantly wrong, but I assume everything is somewhat wrong.

I was more wondering if I should be doing something either at the scan, or immediately afterwards before applying a neutral curve selection? Something to fix it in a global sense rather than manually coloring individual subjects?

If I hit some that are really valuable manually coloring is an option of course, and thank you.
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