Restoring faded color slides and transparencies.

Here  is a faded Kodak Ektachrome 4×5″ color transparency taken September 13, 1952. It shows Indians fishing at the long-gone Celilo Falls on the Columbia River sixty-five years ago. The colors have faded leaving a strong reddish-magenta cast. I made a drum scan of the original film and this is exactly what it looks like.

This is my basic color corrections made using Photoshop. I started in curves with a white balance eyedropper on a specular highlight.  Then I went to color balance and reduced the magenta out of the shadows, mid-points and highlights. That gave me fairly good tonality but it was too greenish. I used the hue control to get the sky looking right, then back to curves to fine-tune the color. The result shows good skin tones on the people, and the sky and water are logical & natural appearing. Most peoples clothes are believable. The only giveaway is the deepest shadows in the rocks which have a slight magenta cast. I could take care of that with a black eyedropper in curves, but the result is too drastic. Experience has taught me to quit while I’m ahead.

All of the work done on this picture was global; I didn’t do any local color control. This restoration was a sequence of about seven separate adjustments done in a particular order. It took a couple of tries to get the recipe right. I probably invested about fifteen minutes of time into this.

The photographer is Hugh Ackroyd (1913-2012) and this is a copyrighted photo.

-Thomas Robinson

510 thoughts on “Restoring faded color slides and transparencies.”

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