Brighten An Old Photo 3/3

File0050Happy Days 1966This is the third and final part of the guide on editing an old photo for use in a blog, using Photoscape photo-editing software.  For part1 or part2 click those links.  This final part covers from the cropped and saved image of part 2 to the ready to upload image.

Before detailing the many changes and improvements that can be made I will first explain how to use the Save function.  You may wish to use that several times as you make changes to the image, or you can choose to edit until finished and make a single save.  If you want to try these save options, you will need to load an image as detailed in part 2, using the Editor part of Photoscape and browsing for the file you wish to work with.

Save options

The Save options screen appears when you click the Save button.  First I will explain the tick box options in the lower part of that Save menu screen.  They impact on the use of the three types of save that can be used.  If unaltered these options will remain as the default settings.  Once changed they will remain constant until you choose to change them again.  You only really need to consider them once, unless the way you use Photoscape changes.  There are four options the first two ticked by default, the second two unticked by default.  Personally I leave the default settings, but you may find it helpful to at least be aware of what they do.

The first option relates to creating an auto backup of an original file.  If this is ticked, it seems to function for the crop save too, meaning that whenever you save an amended version of a photo the original file is safely stored for recovery, which is helpful if you make an error or are unhappy with the newer saved image.  The original can be found in the folder you save to, in a sub-folder named originals.

The second option is Maintain the Exif Information.  For a scanned image this is not important, but for a digital image from a camera or other device, EXIF data lists all kinds of useful information to do with the camera settings at the time the  image was taken, plus time, date, etc.  If you plan to regularly work with digital camera images you may want to leave this ticked, as otherwise any digital image edited will be stripped of all EXIF data when the file is saved.  The original will be unaltered, but the newly saved image will have no EXIF data.  A scanned image has no EXIF data to begin with, so this setting has no effect on scanned images.

The third option is Preserve File Date.  Tick the box if you want to preserve the original file date. A save is then recorded as a modification of the file, with the creation date kept as the original date.  For most people that is not important so can be left unticked.

The fourth option – DPI  is not ticked by default and the quality of the saved image is defined by a choice that comes up later.  If ticked it allows the DPI (quality) to be set.  Generally not important for most users, but possibly helpful to some more advanced users.

Save – three choices.

The first choice will just Save the edited photo replacing the file you are currently editing, with the photo as it is now.  If this option is not available it means that you have not made a change yet.  When you click this or the other two Save choices another box appears to set the quality of the image being saved.  100% is the best choice as otherwise the photo will reduce in quality with each save and appear very poor.

The second choice is to Save in a designated folder.  That option allows you to choose a folder from the browse button next that function button and find a folder to send the file to.  It works a bit like the send to facility in Windows, allowing you to save the edited image to a specific folder, not the original folder you opened it from.  The default designated folder, is C:\output\  once changed the new folder chosen will be displayed so you can see where you are sending the saved file too.

The third option is Save As.  That allows a new file name and folder to be chosen.  If you choose to do that the file name below the photo in the main Photoscape editor window will change, as the current image file name is always shown there.  If you later make another Save, using the first Save option it will overwrite the current file name and folder, not the original image you started out with earlier in the process.

You can choose any of the Save types at any stage in the editing process.  It is probably best to keep the number of different files you create to a minimum, but sometimes it is helpful to have saved files of different stages in the editing process, so long as you can keep track of what stage they are and remember where each is saved and what file name you gave them.  Also bear in mind that once you save the Undo and Undo All buttons will still be available, but you will have to save again for the change to be saved to a file, rather than just on the screen.

Photo Editing

Sharpen  (1-2 mins)

This is a helpful effect to make an old scanned photo just a little sharper, just a little more like a modern digital image.  It is not a cure for an out of focus photo or a poor quality scan, but it will slightly crisp an image, which generally makes it look better.  The only way to judge if it works for the image you are working with is to try it.    Choose the down pointer on the right edge of the Sharpen button.  The Sharpen button itself brings up a more detailed settings option, best for when you are more experienced with the software.

From the list of numbers displayed, 1-13, just click on one, for the strength of sharpening you require.  10 is often a good option, but you may want to try just 4 or 5 and add a bit more once you see what the effect looks like.  It may seem quite subtle at first, but be cautious with over using sharpen as it can soon have unwanted effects, sometimes introducing or highlighting white flecks all over the photo.  There is a cure for that using a range of tools available in Photoscape, which I will cover soon in a separate article as it too much information for now.

Colour Adjustments (1 min – as much time as you have!!)

This is the part when you can easily get absorbed in experimenting with the many possible results that can be achieved using Photoscape.  You may be someone who just wants to quickly make a few changes and and upload your photo, or you may find that you enjoy experimenting with the range of changes that are possible, if you have the time.

There are Auto Level and Auto Contrast options, but I am never that pleased with the results from those, although you can experiment and see what you think.  I prefer to use the drop down menu from the side of the Bright, Color button.  From that menu the first four options will be the most useful for first experimentation.  Simply choose from Contrast Enhancement, Deepen, Brighten and Darken.  You only need to point at the choice to see a range of further choices, low, middle and high, for the range of the effect.

Also from that drop down menu there is a White Balance option, to set the white balance by pointing at the whitest area of the photo.  Sometime that will be helpful.  A similar function, Remove Color Cast, allows the removal of all or some of the influence of one colour.  That is helpful if a photo has turned out badly emphasising one colour above the others.  Lower on the list are Sepia and Grayscale options, to turn you photo sepia toned or black & white, which can be interesting sometimes, even making a relatively modern image appear Victorian.

The Bright, Color button can also be directly clicked to bring up a whole array of sliders for a range of colour, brightness and contrast adjustments.  With the preview option ticked in the bottom right of that pop-up box, you can see the effect before accepting and applying the adjustment.  There is no way to explain them, you can only really learn about them by trying them.  Bear in mind, that you have the undo and undo all buttons to call on and that any effect you apply is built upon by the next effect.

The Brighten option is helpful if the photo is a little dull and the Deepen option helpful if a little pale. Just experiment till you are satisfied with the results. This is the part where serious time loss may occur as you become absorbed in the experimentation, or if this is not really for you seriously bored with the whole idea.

The Backlight can also add a brightening tone to some photos, but I did not use it on the photo of the snowman.  Backlight can be chosen in various levels from the drop down side menu.

Bloom adds some brightness and colour enhancement, as well as a softening of focus.  Bloom can be added from the drop down menu, with three choices, but the Bloom button allows a whole range of adjustments of the effect, which you may want to set before you use the drop down menu choices.  Those settings are very extensive, allowing a whole range of adjustment and refinement to the Bloom effect, including the area covered and as well as the blur level, brightness, etc.  The Bloom menu box included a preview of the effect on the image to help you adjust it until just right.  If you tick the box – Set the area for bloom then you can adjust the size of the area covered from a very small area to the whole photo.  If you reduce the Feather setting to 0% it helps to highlight the edge for the area covered, just reset it to 50-100% to allow the bloom effect to softly blend in on the photo.

Conclusion

Well I hope this guide had been helpful to anyone not previously aware of how an old photo could be reused in the digital age.  If you knew most of this I hope that you found something new or helpful too and I hope you enjoy adjusting and enhancing many images in the future.  You may find, as I have, that they bring back many memories too, all the better when the photo looks more modern and fresh rather than like some old forgotten relic from the past.

There are many more features and functions in Photoscape, including filters, which can create many art effects and digital effects too.  Antique photo effects can also reverse the whole process I have described and take a modern photo and make it appear old, with just a few clicks.  There are repair tools, to remove red-eye and moles or other blemishes, as well as colour matching and repair tools.  The Object menu also allows the introduction of lines, drawings, colours and text, which can be used to edit an image by adding to it.  The more you explore Photoscape functions the more possibilities come to mind!

Brighten Up An Old Photo – Part 2/3

File0058Morcombe 1966This is the second part of my explanation on how to digitise, edit and use an old photo in a blog article.  This part assumes that you have read part one and now have Photoscape installed and ready to use (or similar photo-editing software). Click this link to read part1.
The following guide is a simple and basic look at cropping and brightening up a photo.  Despite that it is fairly long, as I have written it for the complete beginner.  The more knowledge and experience you have the more you may be able to skip over, although if you are new to photo editing I would suggest reading the part you want to try carefully as you go.

If after reading this you remain unsure about anything and need more help with how to use a particular function of Photoscape then please go to the official website Photoscape.org and click on the Help tab. There you will find an extensive list of all the functions, with many YouTube videos for each, explaning in detail how to use the software.  Approximate times for each step are included as a rough guide.  It may take longer the first few times, much less once you are familiar with the software.

Load a photo to edit (1 min)

To begin, open Photoscape and from the main menu screen, with the functions in a circle, choose the editor, at the top and middle of the circle.  The screen that opens is the editor screen, and it will be blank, apart from the folders display on the left and the tools and functions in the lower half of the screen.  There are also tabs along the top edge, to the left, for the other main menu options.  Most functions and tools are greyed out until you load a photo to edit.

From the folders displayed on the left, navigate to the folder where you stored your scanned or saved photo.  The lower half of that box will then fill with the photos in that folder.  Find and click once on the photo you want to edit.  That photo should then appear in the main display area and you are ready to begin.  The tools and functions should now all be ready to use.  Before you do anything to the picture, notice the Save button in the lower right of the screen.  That is where you click to save the photo, which I will return to a little later.  Above Save are three greyed out buttons, Undo, Redo and Undo All.  Once you begin to change the photo those will become active and will be a helpful way to step forwards and backwards through any changes you make.  To discover what any other button does or its name, just point at it and the name of the function will display next to the button.

Align the photo (Rotate Arbitrary) (1-5 mins)

This is only necessary if you are unhappy with the alignment of your photo and can be skipped if it appears to be correct.  If your photo is displayed sideways and needs to be rotated clockwise or counterclockwise a 90 degree step, then use the Rotate Left (CCW) or Right (CW) buttons, the light blue looped arrows, above the Resize button.  This can be repeated if the photo begins upside down.  The effect is immediate on the photo in the main part of the editor screen.  If your photo is just very slightly turned to the left or right from a correct alignment, and especially if you want to crop it, it is helpful to line it up properly first.  The Rotate Arbitrary function is the furtherest left of the three light blue looped arrows, above the Resize button.

When you click on it, a pop-up box appears with your photo overlayed with a grid of lines.  The lines help you to check that the alignment is correct.  If there is a border on the photo that helps too.  In the small box where 00.00 is displayed, simply enter a number for the degree that you want to rotate.  It can be any number between 15 degrees to the left or the right.  For a left rotate you enter – (minus) before the number and for a right rotate just enter the number.  This is a very sensitive tool and can be fine tuned down to two decimal places.  Often only a small number is required to improve the alignment significantly.  Most times I am happy with changes of 0.5 or 1 degree, but you can be more precise.

After you enter a number in the box there is a momentary pause, depending on the speed and power of your computer, and the photo is displayed in the pop-up box, now realigned according to the number you entered.  If you need to correct that number, then simply enter the new number for the new result to appear.  It is only best to click the OK button when you are sure  about the appearance of the adjustment.  When the OK button is clicked the change is transferred to the edited image, meaning that you can then only readjust by using the Undo button and starting the Rotate Arbitrary function box again.  Once you have clicked the OK and assuming the Undo button has not been used, then any number you enter will be in addition to the one already confirmed by the OK click.  Fine tune till you are happy.  If you think you messed it up, just Undo All and start again, nothing is saved until you choose to save.

Crop a photo  (1-5 mins)

If you need to cut away a border, or damged edges from a photo, or you want to use only part of a photo, then you need to crop it.  Click on the small Crop tab in the lower left of the screen area. There are four tabs: Home – for the main functions; Object – for adding things to a photo; Crop, which I am about to explain; and Tools for many corrective and clever effects.  When you click the Crop tab, you get a changed menu below the photo.  There is very little information displayed below the photo, as the choices and options are hidden behind buttons not yet usable.  The only button displayed as ready to use in the lower left of the screen, is one marked Crop Freely.  That means that you can simply place the cursor anywhere on the photo and draw a box to cover the area of the photo to keep.

Try it by pointing to a starting position on the photo for drawing a box.  Click and hold the mouse button and now draw the mouse away from the start position and a rectangle or square appears.  It will keep adjusting until you release the mouse button.  If you need to fine tune the box just put the cursor over the boxed area and a cross will appear.  If you click and hold the mouse the box you drew becomes mobile, so that you can move it anywhere within the edges of the photo.  If you want to adjust one or two edges of the box you drew, just place the cursor over one of the little square bumps on the box edges.  The small square bumps on the edge lines are in the corners or mid-point of the sides.  The cursor pointed are them become a two-way arrow and clicking and holding the mouse allows adjustment of that edge or corner.

When you are done with the box positioning, then you just click the Save Cropped Area box in the functions area. (The Crop button will remove the area inside your box.)   A pop-up box to save the new image appears.  The folder where it will save is the same as the folder you opened the image from. The file name suggested will be the original image name with -crop added to the end.  It is best to go with that suggestion as it keeps the file close to the original  name, so easier to find.  The original image is automatically saved too, into a new sub-folder within the folder you save to.  Next click Save and a quality box appears.  The default setting in that pop-up is 100% and it is best left there, as the lower the number the lower the quality of the  final cropped image. Click the OK to save the image. The crop is done and saved!

Part 3 will follow very soon.

Brighten Up An Old Photo – Part 1/3

60-Paul_Snow01Haysleigh Gardens Jan. 1968 These two photos are before and after editing with free software Photoscape.  A 45 year old Kodak print was brought into the digital age.  That photo inspired my first memoir on this blog – First Snowman.  This article, in two parts, will demonstrate how that editing was achieved.

It is fairly easy to do, and if you have not tried this before I hope you find this guide helpful.  With the careful application of a little knowledge and a few basic items almost anyone could achieve similar results, possibly better.  The only advantage I have now is that I have been scanning and editing photographs for about 10 years.

What you will need:

  1. A scanner or printer/scanner (you could also scan photo at a print shop)
  2. One old photo or more
  3. Free photo editing software (Photoscape 3.6 – a guide to download included)
  4. A computer that can run the software (Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7/8)(version 3.4 – Windows 98 or Me)
  5. An hour or two of free time (much less once you are more familiar with it all)

Step 1 – Scan the photo (5-15 mins)

If you don’t own a scanner this step can be carried out at a shop where photo printing is available, as they often have scanners too.  The scanned image or images can be carried home on any data storage device, like a memory stick, data CD, etc.

Once scanner and computer are ready, just place the photo face down on the glass, close to and aligned with the edge of the glass area. If the photo has a white border (as the one I used did) it is preferable to use the scanner options to zoom in on the photo.  If possible scan just the photo area, without the borders, with the photo as near to straight as possible. (Each scanner is different so see the user manual for details on your scanner.)

If the white border is included in the scan (like the first image above) it tends to cause the white balance to be incorrect, altering the colours of the photo.  That photo was scanned some years ago, before I learned that.  If you want to show a photo with its original borders, it can be done, with a little experimentation, it will need more fine tuning of the colour balance at the editing stage.

Once you have the photo scanned, make sure you have saved the scanned image and know where it is stored on the computer.  That might sound obvious, but it is surprisingly common to misplace photos on a computer, forget to save scanned images or accidentally delete them!

Step 2 – Install Photoscape (5-15 mins)

Photoscape is a free to use graphics editor for both individuals and companies.  Since its launch in 2008 it has become increasing popular as it is a small, very versatile and easy to use piece of software, that can do many things normally associated with larger, complex and expensive software packages.  It will NOT do everything Photoshop or Paintshop Pro can do, but it does imitate many of their functions.  Not everyone can afford to buy or has the time to learn how to use those programs.  For a simple improvement of an old photo and many other fun things Photoscape is ideal.  Perhaps I will cover some of the other things you can do with Photoscape in the future.

If you already have photo editing software and are familiar with it, you could probably follow part 2 of this guide and carry out similar tasks, but I will only detail how to use Photoscape.  To download the officially free software just visit Photoscape.org (Click the name to go to the official home page.) Choose the download tab near the top left of the home page, then choose from one of the download sources.  Multi-language support is available.  The file is only just over 20MB in size so should be a very quick download for most people.

Once you have the downloaded EXE file install it, pausing to read the options on the installation screens.  Click the options button on the first screen to choose if a Start Menu group is created, or a quick launch and desktop link.  Creating a Start Menu group is a good idea, so it easy to find and start the program, the other two options are more personal preferences.  See terms & conditions and agree to see the next screen.  You may be offered Google Drive, with a tick box checked.  As it I did not need that I unchecked that option and then clicked install.

Installation is quick and automatic, and soon the installation confirmation screen will come up with the run Photoscape option button.  Click that to open the program for the first time.  If you need more help to familiarise yourself with the basics then return to the Photoscape.org website and click the Help tab for free video guides on how it all works.

See Part 2 and 3 for how to use Photoscape to crop and edit the photo.

First Snowman – January 1968

Haysleigh Gardens Jan. 1968This is one of my most vivid early memories, even though it is from 45 years ago.  With most of the UK currently blanketed in snow, it seems a good time to recall my first snowman!

Our family, Mum, Dad and I, lived in a three-room flat, that took up the first floor of a converted Victorian house, in the South East London suburb of Annerley.  We had lived there for just over 4 years, after leaving a cramped bed-sit in Paddington, in 1963.

The front window, in the bedroom, overlooked the small garden and the road.   There was only light traffic on Haysleigh Gardens, as it is a side road off the larger Annerley to South Norwood road, and there were few parked cars as hardly anyone in the road owned a car.  With the house split into three flats, including one in the basement, I rarely played in the small garden, as it didn’t really feel like our garden.  It was also fairly unkempt, as can be seen in the background of the photo.

Having started school the previous September, I was 5 years old.  I can only presume that there had not been any significant snowfall in the previous year or two, as I have no memory of snow before January 1968, and was too young to remember the severe weather of 1963!  It is difficult to recall what time of day it started to snow, but I  believe that I came home early from school and my Dad come home from work early too.  With the daylight fading by 3pm, due to cloud cover and with the snow falling heavily Dad suggested we build a snowman.  Not really knowing what he meant, I immediately agreed anyway, as I was always ready for any kind of game he wanted to play.  Looking back I realise that when it came to snow my Dad was just a big kid at heart, and this was to be the first of many memorable snowmen that we built together.

Mum, was much too sensible to go out into the freezing cold and falling snow, I think partly because she always felt the cold much more.  Dad, a carpenter, was used to working outdoors in all weathers and seemed impervious to the cold.    I can remember Mum making sure we were both kitted out with winter woollens.   For me that included woollen gloves and a fashionable green woollen balaclava, similar to the modern snood, hand knitted by Mum of course!  With that done she was quite content to watch us from the window, smiling and waving occasionally, whilst preparing the warm clothes for us to change into when we came back indoors.  She would have socks, jumpers and trousers laying on the fire-guard, in front of the coal fire, to warm them through, drying out any dampness.  “Airing them” as my granny used to say.

Once we were downstairs and out in the garden Dad worked quickly, making a large snowball on the ground, which he began rolling around on the path and the small patch of grass.  Quickly it grew into a substantial ball of snow, that he declared was just right, and positioned it on the snow covered grass by the fence.  He repeated the same actions three more times, with me helping to roll the heavy balls of snow. They were each placed on top of the previous ones, until they formed a small column, almost up to my shoulders.  Next, he formed a more round, slightly smaller lump of snow, and planted it firmly on top.  After that he tried his best to smooth the column down, adding handfulls of snow, so that it looked more like a single body of snow.  Finally he added a couple of rolled tubes of snow to the sides to form two arms.

Immediately he had completed that work he nipped back indoors, leaving me briefly to admire this strange white statue, reappearing a few minutes later with several small lumps of coal and the knitted wool tea cosy from the kitchen!  Mum would have words to say to him about that later, but at that point she didn’t know it was missing!  The tea cosy was placed on the head of the snowman and quickly the eyes, nose and mouth were created using the lumps of coal.  Then Dad produced one of his old pipes from his jacket pocket and stuck it into the face of the snowman.  So just like Dad the snowman was a pipe smoker!  By the time we had finished it was too dark to take a photograph.  Flash was a costly and unreliable thing to use with the basic Ilford camera we had.  So, the next morning, I posed proudly with the snowman for four photos, although by then one of the arms had fallen away.  The photos all survive intact, apart from one, which was savagely cut with scissors to feature in a school story project a few years later, loosing the white borders common on any photo from that era.  The photo above is the best of those, which I scanned a few years ago and have cropped and slightly enhanced the colour using the free software Photoscape.

In the background of the photo is the row of houses, in which we and many other families lived.  We moved before the end of 1968 and the whole row was demolished by 1969, to make way for a group of bungalows for the elderly.  Below is a screen capture from Google Street View of Haysleigh Gardens in 2012.  The bungalows on the right are where our home once stood, and the road in 2012 now seems to be filled with cars!  Much has changed in the forty-five years since that snowfall of January 1968, but I still recall, with great affection, my first snowman!Haysleigh Gardens - Google Street view Aug 2012

Just Beginning

This new blog is still under construction.  It is only just beginning to take shape, but I hope it will grow to be a personal recollection of the 1960s and 1970s, in London and later rural Hertfordshire.  Along the way I plan to feature stories of everyday and unusual things that happened and share pictures and memories the toys, games and everyday items that are rarely seen now.

Please bookmark and return later.

Also see photos, art and videos discovered online at GT’s Webfinds:  http://gtspicsandstuff.wordpress.com/