Fun with Photoshop

This week’s web visit, “Photo Restoration with Photoshop,” showed the program’s seemingly limitless capabilities. If an old photo had a crease, Photoshop could smooth it out. If a photo had been ripped into numerous pieces, Photoshop could put the photo back together again, leaving Humpty Dumpty to wonder why Photoshop did not exist when he fell off the wall. Photoshop’s abilities are so expansive that each picture can be restored, no matter the damage done. In fact, photos that suffered extensive fading can be brought back to new vibrancy.

The web visit prompted me to toy with Photoshop, attempting to restore one of the photos I had on file. Looking through the pictures, I decided to work on the photo of C.O.R.E. members protesting on East Baltimore Street, also known as “The Block.”

Below, you will find the initial photo of the C.O.R.E. protest.

I assessed the photo to determine what needed work. First, after blowing up the photo to full size, I noticed that the picture contained fading in places. Even after solving the fading issues, the photo still had small spots that had to be removed. The biggest problem, however, stemmed from the considerable staining that rested in the upper right-hand corner.

To improve the fading, I established a “Curve” layer. I used the police officer’s pants as the darkest point in the picture, and used the white shirt as the picture’s lightest point. In doing so, I was able to bring more detail into to the picture, while also removing some of the stains. Fortunately, the stains occurred away from the action, so it is not obscuring importing details. This enabled me to create a “Black and White” layer so I could reverse out the background and foreground colors in an attempt to remove more of the stains. Still, several stains remained, but I took my paint brush and brushed over the stains. The roadway also had numerous spots. Because the spots were compressed over a smaller space, I decided to use the Clone Stamp tool, using sample areas on the photo to remove the spots.

In all, I am happy with the results, though I realize that more work remains. The restored photo gives viewers a better sense of what is happening in the picture. While a protest is going on, you can tell that it is a peaceful protest. The police officers and spectators are hanging out, not providing any evidence of agitation. Yet, I am still working on bringing out more detail of the protestors in the street. They are the focal point of the photo, but they seem so inconspicuous. In a way, that seems contradictory given the fact they helped close East Baltimore Street through their protests. I would like to bring out their faces more, to see if they are exhibiting any fear, apprehension, or calm.

Below, you can see the picture with current, but ongoing, restoration work.

I so far enjoying the tools that Photoshop has to offer, and can see all the benefits the program brings to people as they work to restore the pictures in their collection.

Addendum: I responded to David’s More Photoshop Play.

I also responded to John’s Authenticity.


Filed under C.O.R.E., Civil Rights, Digital History, Urban Unrest

9 responses to “Fun with Photoshop

  1. Richard–first of all, best line ever: “If a photo had been ripped into numerous pieces, Photoshop could put the photo back together again, leaving Humpty Dumpty to wonder why Photoshop did not exist when he fell off the wall.” That is just awesome.

    Secondly, I really like your discussion about how the photo restoration can make the image into a better primary source. The restored version, indeed, helps bring this event more to life, and you ask great questions about what you might be able to find. Indeed, as Dr. Petrik emphasized, Photoshop can see things in images better than we can. Good work using it to glean, and convey, more info from your primary source than you could before!

    • Richard,

      Great job with your restoration! And I have to agree with David, love the allusion to Humpty Dumpty. Also I think you hit the nail on the head, as it were, in regards to some of the problems with this image. While you’ve done an impressive restoration, the protestors get lost in the photograph and you can’t read their signs. The buildings and street just dominate everything. If someone were to only glance at the image they might mistake it for a photo of a parade. This would be a time when it would be wise to crop and zoom in on the portion you want. If left as it is while it does add something-a very little something-to your argument and research, it’s just not really that potent. If this were an article that you were getting published in a journal and you had only a limited number of images to use, then you’d want them to have some punch. Photoshop isn’t just a tool that allows us as historians to restore images to reveal more information within them, it also allows us to refine our images and provide more power to our arguments.

  2. Thanks David and Geoff for your comments!

    Geoff, I share your concerns surrounding the photo. There is a certain tension that existed in Baltimore prior to C.O.R.E. coming to town. Afterwards, the tension increased. That is not evident in the photo, as it appears like a peaceful protest. However, I could demonstrate the tension better with a photo from the Patterson Park rallies.

    Still, as you correctly point out, the protestors play such a secondary role in the photo, although they serve as the primary focus. My plan is to continue working on the photo, using the crop and zoom feature in order to make the protestors the focal point. Then, my goal is to bring out the signs so we can see what they say. The signs, I think, will help the photo stand on its own, to show people the grievances C.O.R.E. had of Baltimore establishments. As a result, viewers will understand the social environment African Americans endured in 1966 Baltimore. That will tie in nicely with the discussion on Frank Robinson, Theodore R. McKeldin, and the 1966 World Series, while also illuminating the points you and David made in your comments.


  3. Pingback: Truthiness, or There are Known Knowns and Unknown Knowns | History Wired

  4. Nice work on the photo. Much more effort put into it than I’ve managed on any of the photos I’ve played with (trying to work along with the lynda videos). One thing I see, but couldn’t tell you how to fix, is that when you lightened the image some of the text went away on the signs – particularly on the kneeling protestor who is farthest to the left.

  5. johngarnett100


    Photo looks great compared to the original! I think your approach of locating the darkest and lightest points on the photo to help guide you in your lightening and darkening was well done because you have really made the photo easier to view. One thing that you will hopefully be able to do is to bring out the lettering in the demonstrators posters. This is a great example of how one might alter a photo with photoshop in order to see something that normally is not attainable with the naked eye. As noted above, you can actually improve your source through digitally altering it, without losing any credibility.

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  7. Thanks Megan and John for your comments! I am going to do some more work on the photo during the week, and, if all goes well, I will put up a new picture that brings out the signs and the protestors a bit more.

  8. Pingback: » H697 Images and other non-textual sources Megan R. Brett

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