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Digital Scrapbooking Tutorial – How to Lighten a Dark Old Photo

May 14, 2010

In this digital scrapbooking tutorial you’ll learn how you can give those old black and white photos from your grandparents stash a new lease of life.

Frequently, as photos from the middle of the 20th century begin to age they grow darker. Until often you can’t make out what is in them at all. But you don’t need to write them off. By scanning them into your computer and applying a few tricks with a good photo editing software program such as Photoshop Elements, you can resurrect what might have looked like a photo destined for the trash and give it a new lease of life in a scrapbook layout.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Duplicate your photo layer and work on the duplicate (you can do this by dragging the layer on to the New Layer icon in the Layers Palette).
  • Now click on the Blending Menu in your Layers Pallet and select Linear Dodge for black and white photos or Color Dodge for colored photos.
  • Instantly your photo will look lightened and brightened and now you should be able to see all the extra detail that you didn’t even know was there.
  • You may decide that it’s too light for your taste. No Problem. Just reduce the opacity of the blended layer so that more of your original photo is in the mix.
  • When you’re happy with the result click Ctrl+G to group the two layers together. And then click Ctrl+E to merge them into a single layer.

dodge-example-1 dodge-example-2

Some of the areas of your photo may still be too dark. So you can spot fix these areas by selecting the Dodge Tool from Tool Bar and zooming in fro some detailed work.

  • Once again duplicate your photo layer and work on the duplicate.
  • Select the Dodge Tool from your Tool Bar ( in Photoshop Elements it is grouped with the Burn and Sponge Tools and looks like a black lollipop)
  • Choose a soft brush and set the Exposure to 15% and set the range to Midtones or Shadows (depending on how dark the area that you want to fix is).
  • Now just carefully ‘paint’ over the areas you want to lighten up with your mouse.

Remember if you find you’ve done something you don’t really like just click Ctrl+Z to reverse out of it. I reckon this is one of the best things about digital scrapbooking.

Although these instructions are written for Photoshop Elements, this digital scrapbooking tutorial can be applied to any photo editing software. The names of the tools and their location may vary but the principles remain the same.

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