Damaged photo - how to fix

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by norakharma, Jan 25, 2020.

  1. Hello,

    I have recently got my images developed ( using disposable cameras) and they outcome wasn't as good as i wanted them to be. They were all very dark, some of them were even black, and they almost all had these white lines going through them. I'm new to film but i think it is a mix of grain, noise and lines which is making it super hard for me to even edit the brightness on Photoshop.

    Do you know why the pictures are coming out like that? Could that be a problem with the camera itself? or what is developed badly? If so could i get it re-developed? And how can i edit it on photoshop to make it look "normal"

    Thank you!

  2. In short, because you're using film when digital is a much better option.

    The negatives are very underexposed and badly handled. There's clearly a visible fingerprint, either yours or from the processors. There's also a lot of dust on the negative.

    1. Film is delicate and easily scratched or damaged - you can't handle it as freely as an SD card.
    2. Film is much less sensitive to light than a digital sensor - at least 4 times less sensitive to light and totally unsuitable for handheld snapshots in dim light.
    3. Commercial film processing is unreliable unless you pay a premium price.
    4. Even at its best, using a good camera and not a disposable one, the image quality obtainable from 35mm film is generally noticeably worse than what you get from even a half-decent phone camera these days.
    5. Using film in no way makes you a better photographer.
    norakharma likes this.
  3. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Look at the film with a magnifying glass. Do you see those lines on the film? If not it was badly scanned. You can not redevelop the film, but you could get it rescanned if you don't see the lines on the flim. That will help somewhat.
    norakharma likes this.
  4. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    Even if you decide you do want to use film (and many of us do), a disposable camera is not really the best introduction. Fixed shutter speed, fixed aperture, and trust to luck - this is why they are often given away at weddings, as the lighting will be better, and the subject matter should be lighter in colour as well.
  5. That's not the only problem, but yes...

    If this were a murder, the finger print could be matched to someone.

    This is so extreme an example, that the question arises if this is a real post, or did you just join today to pull our chains?
  6. I have no idea why your photos turned out this way. I've never used a disposable camera and than 30 years since I had a film developed.. I 've done some 'photo restores' though most of these were due to physical damaging or aging. So i took a look at the photo to see whether it could be digitally restored.

    I tried out different things (different image modes/channels, applying an FFT filter and Topaz and Nik Noise filters but nothing really improved the quality of the photo. Yes, some marginal improvements are possible:
    - washing over over the striped background in a neutral color
    - selecting and ''averaging' the color of clothes
    - painstakingly cloning and patching out the effect of fingerprints
    - sharpening the couple using a (masked) HPF

    Because the quality of the image is low and the improvements are marginal, I question whether the effort would be worthwhile. I freely admit that I'm no restoration/PS expert. You might want to post your photos at Photograph Restoration. Restorations are free and the members often have much more knowledge and experience than I have.

    norakharma likes this.
  7. I'm guessing you took the picture in a fairly dark area and did not use the flash that some disposables have. The frame is very underexposed and I doubt that it is salvageable. On top of that, there is obvious ridge detail over most of the right side (the dotted lines) - it doesn't quite look like a fingerprint, but could be the palm of someone's hand. Whichever it is, someone handled the film very poorly. The blue stripe near the middle looks like chemicals that weren't handled correctly as well.
    If you want to shoot film and don't have experience with it, a point and shoot camera that can adjust to the light conditions would be a better start than a disposable. If you use this kind of camera again, you will get better results using it in daylight.
    norakharma likes this.
  8. Do you have the negative? That would be a big step. If you do, go to the film & processing forum and people there will be happy to help you out, at least as far as scanning goes. They can tell you how to clean the negative, too.

    If the photos are important, let me know. I can ask on another forum where people have access to more sophisticated tools. Perhaps nobody can help you directly, but you might get really good advice.
    norakharma likes this.
  9. Horribly underexposed, with the scanner trying to pull up detail. Fingerprint probably by a lab "technician". These are beyond salvaging. It is true that a phone would get better results; however, so would a point-and-shoot film camera with the right film. The decision to use film or digital or both is yours to make. Don't let anyone tell you what to do.
    norakharma likes this.
  10. My suspicion also.
    Assuming this is a genuine enquiry, I'm not telling anyone what to do. Just telling a few home truths about film.

    There comes a point, after seeing dozens of such posts from wannabe film users, that you think - "Why are they bothering to use film after getting such crappy results?" - and if they want to challenge themselves as photographers; why not concentrate on the stuff that's important? Such as composition, lighting, interaction with the subject, etc.

    Film use just gets in the way of what's important in making pictures. Ain't that what it's all about?
    I very much doubt that. Show me a colour film with a true ISO of 1600 or above that could make a decent job of the subject shown in the OP's example, and in a point'n'shoot camera with an f/3.5 or slower lens. If such a film existed, you'd get what? About 4 'grains' per 35mm frame?
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
    mikemorrell and norakharma like this.
  11. Presumable the fingerprint is on the negative, and should be removed with a good film cleaner.
    It might be sticky or some other material that gets on hands.

    I don't know what kind of FFT filter you have, but the horizontal lines should have a very specific
    signal in a 2D FFT of the whole image.

    I do remember the fun things we did with spatial filters and optical FFT in optics lab many years ago.
    Removing the lines will also remove similar frequency components in the rest of the image, but that
    might not change it much.

    At which point you end up with a very underexposed negative, but still better than nothing.
    mikemorrell and norakharma like this.
  12. Thank you all for your feedback and advice.
    I've actually used around 10 disposable cameras last year and all the images came out good.
    I use disposables because i love the old effect it has which i can't get on a digital camera unless i do some editing. I've used the same center that developed all my picture but this time they came out really bad. I've called them and told them that all my pictures came out super dark with all these lines going through etc and they said it's not their fault because they usually develop multiple cameras at a time and said that they're other clients didn't complain and that it's most probably my camera that was bad. I actually had light & flash most of the time it was never pitch dark and tried to take a picture because it's obvious that the picture won't be clear etc. I am now thinking maybe it's better if i try to develop them myself and get the developing kit.

    Regarding the negatives, i still have them. I'm not sure exactly how it works, but if the negatives are dirty, would i be able to clean them and then print them again? Would that help in getting a clearer image?

    Thank you all again for your time & advice!
  13. It is more difficult to judge color negatives by look, but if they look mostly like a
    clear orange, with little darkness, they are likely way underexposed.

    The flash range on these cameras is about 6 feet (or 2m in metric countries).
    If you are a lot more than that, they will be very underexposed.

    Also, you could accidentally block the flash with your hand.

    A good lab should not put fingerprints on the negatives. If this was scanned or printed by
    the lab, and not touched by you, that is a bad sign for the lab.

    Many labs put negatives in plastic sleeves. Scanning a negative still in the sleeve
    might look bad, possibly with lines. A few scratches along a negative are not unusual,
    from dust in the camera for example. But not like this one shows.

    Is this a scan of the negative, or from a print? Scanned by the lab or you?
    Good scanner or cheap scanner?
    norakharma likes this.
  14. @glen_h : I don't have a clue what a FFT a filter actually does or what kind I have. I've never bothered to look it up. I once downloaded some free FFT/IFFT plugins for Photoshop and I just 'follow the recipe'. I've tried them out - with mixed success - in reducing 'paper texture' or newspaper grain in scanned photos. You're right that the FFT/IFFT only really work on well-defined patterns (specific signal). Not with the variable 'noise' patterns like in this photo.


  15. So basically i just give the disposable camera to the photography center and they do the full job. From developing the images to printing them.

    If they're underexposed, they're nothing we can do at this point right? It would be too late?
  16. Yep. That's the nature of film. It's a one-shot deal with no second chances.
    Why not just stick the crappy lens from a disposable onto a digital camera?
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  17. FFT stands for Fast Fourier Transform - a mathematical way of analysing a complex waveform into its component frequencies.

    In the case of an image, we're dealing with spatial frequencies (coarse or fine detail), which might be quite different in the 3 RGB channels. The Fourier transform itself doesn't do anything, but enables discrete frequencies or bands of frequencies to be selected and amplified or attenuated to improve or otherwise alter the re-assembled image. In a nutshell.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  18. That is what it looks like in 1D, but it is more interesting in 2D.

    The result in 2D is that thin horizontal lines are a fairly small part of the 2D
    frequency spectrum from an image.

    If you FFT the whole image, you get a frequency spectrum in 2D with the same number of
    frequency components as pixels in the image. Lines like those are mostly low frequencies in X,
    and mostly higher frequencies in Y, so could be snipped out fairly easily. (The transform
    is actually complex, but you can view its absolute value.)

    But some programs might only have coarse frequency filters, so might not do that.
  19. If that is a scan of a print that they made, there might be more in the negative that you could get out.
    (Including removing fingerprints on the negative.)

    But very underexposed leaves little in the negative. I suspect that if you look at the negative,
    you won't even see how it could get that much out of it. Color negatives have a gamma of
    about 0.5, so that density changes, on the usual log scale, are about half the density
    change you might expect.

    If you look at the negatives, you will find if it is just this one frame that is bad, or all of
    the frames on the roll.
  20. Huh?
    Of course the image is sampled in at least the X and Y orthogonal axes. Diagonal sampling is also possible, but I'm not sure what it might add.

    Nobody suggested only a raster-wise horizontal sampling. I was just trying to give Mike an outline of what an FFT was, and how it could be applied. The principle is the same, no matter how many directions you sample the image.
    Not necessarily. If the pixels are uniformly the same tone and colour, you'll get a zero frequency output. Only if there's repetitive detail in the subject at the pixel frequency will you get a strong pixel spaced frequency. And the pixel frequency should be discarded as unusable data anyway.

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