Photoshop has been pushed out of the limelight by text-to-image assistants like Dall-E in recent months. But it also has some clever AI tricks, including a new “photo restore” tool that can repair your old photos, and even colorize them, with just one click.
The so-called “neural filter” (Adobe’s name for its AI-powered tools) has been in Photoshop’s beta since June, but recently migrated to the full desktop version of the app.
‘Photo Restoration’ offers to restore aged, torn and faded photos back to their former glory. Of course, this was possible in the past, but involved either cheap and cheerful applications (which served equivalent results) or an intimate knowledge of the clone buffer and channel splitter in Photoshop.
The tool is still currently in beta and is an optional 800MB download – you can find it by opening an image, clicking “Filters” in the menu bar, then choosing Neural Filters. But should you let go of your old family photos? And can it really save you hours of painstaking work? I tried it on some scratched, stained and chipped shots from the TechRadar team to find out…
What does Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” tool do?
It’s fair to say that I came to Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” filter with a sense of cynicism all seen before. AI photo editing has been around for a while, and top quality results have long been rare.
Then I ran the “Photo Restoration” filter and it’s fair to say my jaw hasn’t left the ground since. Even left totally at its default settings, the photo restoration filter offered a clear and obvious improvement on every aged image I went through. And it can, in fact, offer a few tools that will improve even modern images.
At a minimum, the “Photo Restoration” filter aims to do a few things. Color shifts are neutralized, faces are detected and enhanced, and contrast is boosted to counter the fading effects of age on older images.
A little annoyingly – because negative reviews are more fun to write than positive ones – these results produced results that were only steps away from the miracle. Images that were soft at the start have sharpened considerably; faces became clear, and even images suffering from the pronounced grain that high-speed 35mm film can produce became clearer to a truly impressive extent.
If you have a stash of old images that you intend to revamp, perhaps as a Christmas present, now is the time to update Photoshop, dust off the scanner, and get to processing.
How does Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” tool work?
Can you use the “Photo Restoration” filter with just one click? You can definitely do it – even with just a few seconds of work, the tool will produce really nice results.
There is more, however. At the very top of the control panel are sliders for ‘photo enhancement’ and ‘face enhancement’, and it’s worth experimenting with these to see what level of editing works best for your image. . As always, the less you can get away with, the better.
But wait, there’s even more. For some reason, “scratch reduction” is set to zero by default, despite being one of the stars of the show. Pull this slider to the right and you’ll see a satisfying approach to scratch removal – perfect for prints that’ve had a hard life.
Interestingly, “reducing scratches” seems to have the biggest impact on my laptop in terms of performance. “Photo restore” was generally quite responsive, but changing the scratch reduction slider by one percent left Photoshop – on my MacBook Pro M1 – unresponsive for maybe 15-20 seconds at a time .
There’s even more if you unbox the “Adjustments” panel. Noise reduction is there – it’s helpful, although I felt the default “Photo Enhancement” slider took care of a lot of the grain in images.
There’s also a Halftone Artifact Reduction slider, useful for images printed on a halftone printer (think old magazine ads, for example), as well as a JPEG Artifact Reduction slider. Of these, the JPEG slider – at least in my test images – seemed to do the least, but could still be useful if you’re the owner of a folder full of orphaned and heavily compressed JPEGs. My advice for best results: start with the highest possible resolution.
I tested Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” filter on three old photos from the TechRadar team. Overall results? Very impressive. Did I already say that? Impressive enough that my built-in skepticism of AI photo editing tools may have waned.
This is probably my favorite image from the series I tested. Grainy, faded, covered in scratches and smudges and, apparently, at one point treated to a moderately severe scrape from an orbital sander, the “before” and “after” difference is significant.
I set the “Photo Enhance” and “Face Enhance” sliders to 50 and 60, respectively, and the scratch reduction to 14. Although setting the scratch reduction slider higher removed more of scratches on the image, it also struggled with vertical damage crossing the right side of the subject’s face.
But the results are excellent. The face is much clearer thanks to the removal of grain. And the skin detail, while perhaps slightly smoother than needed, is superb. There were even some compelling details added to the eyebrows that as far as I can tell weren’t in the original. Incredibly impressive for a few minutes of work.
This image is very representative of the type of image that many people will use with Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” filter. Washed out, grainy and the victim of a scanner error that left a pair of horizontal tram lines running across the top quarter of the frame – it’s the kind of image that could have taken hours to clean up.
I started a stopwatch and impressively the “after” image was generated almost exactly 60 seconds after I opened it in Photoshop. It’s sharper, clearer, the scanner tramlines are gone…it’s incredibly nice. It’s not quite finished, I’d say – the subject’s face has a slightly unsettling AI-style glow that isn’t hugely photographic.
The problem is that the face suffered quite a lot of digital interference, while the rest of the subject – the child’s coat and hands, for example – was left alone. While this means the face really pops, there’s still a bit of work to do to give the image a bit more subtlety. Lowering the “Enhance face” slider helps, but of course makes the effect a bit less impressive.
What’s impressive about this release of Photoshop’s “Photo Restoration” filter is that it has begun to fix issues that are present in the original image as it was dedicated to film, not to mention the issues that have arisen with printing over the years.
Slight motion blur captured by the camera has been corrected, and fading has also been captured with a healthy dose of contrast. Automatic Scratch Reduction (set here to 19) improved almost all the creases in the image – although some residue was missing on the drain grid towards the bottom of the image, as well as removing the crease from the subject’s clothing on the left where his arm meets his body.
For clarity and face-fixing prowess, though, it’s a surprisingly impressive result for the time taken.
There is good news and bad news here. The bad news is that if you’re the designated Photoshopper in the family, you’re about to get a lot more work done, because the results that the Photo Restoration filter is capable of are really, really impressive.
The good news is that you can achieve these results in a fraction of the time it would have taken you to laboriously clone all the creases, wrinkles, and remnants of “lens cap still on” stickers in the past.
For some, the results of the “Photo Restoration” tool will be perfect right out of the box, and I can imagine loading it into a Photoshop action and dropping it on a folder full of scans with excellent quality results.
In some cases it might be worth being more careful – on some of the test images I tried to hide only the parts of the image I wanted to edit, then manually edited the rest of the image. picture later. This obviously takes longer, but produces finer results.
Even so, the “Photo Restoration” filter provides a quick and high-quality starting point for image restoration. AI photo editing is finally good.
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