St. Luke's Choir 1910 - clean version

APP2: Editing photos for use in St. Luke’s Church book

For this blog post I am going to cover the processes involved in editing the photos I am using throughout this project.

Why do these photos need editing?

There are many different reasons for this, and it all depends on the image I am working with. Some images need all the work listed below done, and some hardly need any work at all.

  • Quality needs to be increased to 300dpi, so that it prints correctly.
  • For old photography, removing scratches and deterioration.
  • Fixing the angle of the image to prevent warping.
  • Improving the photo to better match what the eye can see.
  • Define certain features so they are more visible to the audience.

Programs Used:

  • Adobe Photoshop CS5
  • Adobe Bridge (needed to access Adobe Camera RAW)

The first point to make is that all the images I worked with were JPEG’s, as my camera can’t take RAW photos (which have more options for editing) sadly, so I used the Camera RAW program in the same way a filter would be used in Photoshop, to edit JPEG images.

A note worth making is that with newer software, such as Photoshop CC, Adobe Camera RAW is now available as a filter, for all types of images, which negates the need to open Bridge to access it.

Examples of images I have worked on:

It would take far too long and be far too repetitive to explain the process involved in editing all the images for this project, so therefore I shall pick out certain images that are the best examples.

Miss Adelaide Anne Mitchell (benefactress of St. Luke’s Church):

I was shown an old portrait of Miss Mitchell that was hidden away in a store room when I recently visited St. Luke’s to take some photos and was amazed at how good it was and immediately saw some potential to use it in the project to replace a small grainy image I had.

Unfortunately though, I was not able to take a photograph I was happy with because of the reflections as it was behind glass. Therefore it needed some substantial editing to get a result I was pleased with.

Original Adelaide Anne Mitchell image

The first task was to change the resolution, a simple case of going to Image > Image Size and changing the value from 180dpi to 300dpi.

Resolution changing

I then double-clicked on the Background layer in the Layers Palette to make the layer editable.

Convert background to layer

The first major task was to fix the warp of the image. In preparation though, I used the Crop Tool to remove the extra parts of the image around Miss Mitchell that I do not need. From the Option Bar at the top of the screen I made sure ‘Hide’ was selected instead of ‘Delete’ to allow me to be able to edit the crop at a later stage. Non-destructive editing like this is great if you feel you may want to go back and make adjustments.

Crop Image

Then I fixed the warp of the image, by drawing some guides from the rulers at the edge of the document (Command + R to hide or reveal), pressed Command + T to enter the Free Transform Tool, and while holding down the Command key, moved the bounding box handles around to correct the angle.

Fixing the image

It was then time to remove the background. When I took the photograph, I knew reflections could not be avoided, so the one thing I made sure of was that there were no reflections over her, as I knew I could replace the background.

To create a new background, I had to do some preparation first.
I created a new layer and positioned it under ‘Layer 0’ – the image layer. I then turned off the visibility for ‘Layer 0’.

From there I could select the Gradient Tool, set the foreground and background colour to a medium and dark grey in order to match the tones of the original, choose the Gradient Tool with the Foreground to Background option selected in the Option Bar, and drew a line across the screen to create it.


With this in place, I then turned the visibility of Layer 0′ back on, and added a Layer Mask from the relevant button at the base of the Layers Palette. I have placed an image of the layer mask when finished to give an idea of the effect I am looking for.

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Selecting the Brush Tool, setting the brush to black (black removes, white puts back)and brushing over the background to remove it. Depending on whether I was working on finer details or not, I had the Hardness of the brush set accordingly (the softer the brush the more faded the edges of the mask will be.

Layer Mask brush tool

So for the soft fading at the base of the image I used a 1000px brush with a Hardness of 5%, but for smaller details I used a 100px brush with a Hardness of around 65%. Overall this gives a very pleasing result but I felt more could be done.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 08.50.36
Adelaide Anne Mitchell photoshop edit

Once the background was removed, and the new background I had made earlier was visible, it was time to save the image and also save it as a JPEG copy. This is possible by going to File > Save As, and choosing the JPEG option from the drop-down list.

Save box

I then opened Adobe Bridge, found the image, selected it, and pressed Command + R, the shortcut keys to open it in Camera RAW. Now I was able to alter the settings to improve the image. From the Basic menu, I increased the Blacks from 0 to 5 to make them a touch stronger, and the Clarity from 0 to +25 to sharpen the features of Miss Mitchell.

Camera RAW - basic settings

I then focused on the Detail panel as I had learnt from tutorials that the Luminance tool is a great way of reducing noise. Setting it too strongly can reduce the detail to an unacceptable level, but here I was surprised to be able to use the max value of 100 with no problems.

Camera RAW - detail settings

I was now very happy with the end result, so I saved the image.
The only frustrating feature I found was that saving an image, even at ‘maximum quality’, reverts the resolution to 240dpi, so I then needed to re-open it in Photoshop and adjust the resolution back to 300dpi.

Miss Adelaide Anne Mitchell

Stitching together photos:

One photo I had taken of the stained glass windows on the west wall of the church showed their location well, but only having a compact digital camera (and not a professional photographer), meant that the surroundings were properly exposed, but the windows were over-exposed, so the detail could not be made out.

St. Luke's Church west wall lower windows

Up-close images of the windows came out reasonably well, showing lots of the detail contained in them. An example is visible below.

St. Luke's Church - West wall lower left window

So, being inspired by an image a professional photographer (the identity of who is unknown) had created of the five apsidal windows above the altar in 2010, a few years ago, I decided to make my own version for these three windows.

St. Luke's Church stained glass windows - photographer unknown

I worked out the way the image had been created was to take a photo of each window, and then stitch the photos together. So with the three up-close images, the first task was to place them all together in one Photoshop file on different layers, crop them and warp them to the correct proportions, using the techniques I discussed previously.

I then added a Layer Mask to each layer, and removed the background around the windows as I have shown previously. I then added a new layer, at the bottom, and filled it with black (Edit > Fill, then select Black from the drop-down box.)

I was really delighted with the end result, especially as it was my first time attempting something like this.

St. Luke's Church lower west-wall windows stitched together

Converting an image to Black and White (grayscale):

Some of the archive images I am using for the book had a very obvious sepia tint to them, which was not the look I wanted for the book, and I did not think that it suited the imagery either.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.33.49

To change this is a relatively straightforward procedure, as it can be applied non-destructively using a Black & White adjustment layer, which allows for enhanced editing if needed.

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I then added a Curves adjustment layer to increase the contrast of the image, brightening the highlights and darkening the shadows. This brings a lot more life into the image, making it more realistic.

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Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.34.04

I then placed the image into Camera RAW, where I started by darkening the Blacks a touch more to add depth, increase the Clarity by +25 to make the detail stand out more, as well as slide the Recovery value from 0 to 10, which reins in some of the highlights that are a touch too bright.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.34.35

I then added Luminance to the image, with a value of 40, which removed the worst of the graininess, but did not remove much of the detail of the image, which result in it becoming blurred.

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Below is the final result of an image I converted to black and white.
I am pleased with the result and will use it on the Vicars page.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 11.34.12

Repairing a vintage image:

Several of the images that I had been given from the archives were of a surprisingly good quality, easily of a good enough resolution to be used in the book, with the images containing an excellent level of detail, but they all needed some adjustment to remove scratches and marks that had built up over time.

The example image below did not get put into the book, but is easily the most clearest example highlighting the changes I made. The image below is very scratched and deteriorated.

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The main tools I used here are the Spot Healing Brush, which replaces a spot with content from the surrounding area, and the Clone Stamp Tool, where you can define the content you want to replace larger areas with. Like the other tool, it is a brush format.

To enable a non-destructive edit, I added a new layer, upon which these tools will work. So that these tools can work in a new layer, I needed to change a setting in the Option Bar for each tool. For the Spot Healing Brush, I ticked the Sample All Layers box, whereas for the Clone Stamp Tool, I changed the setting from Current to Current & Below, which samples from the main layer which is below.

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Once the changes were made, I then applied a Curves adjustment layer to enable the contrast to be increased, making it more realistic.

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Using these photo editing techniques, I have enhanced my knowledge of throughout this project have really helped me to raise the level of the book that is being produced.

By having high quality images without scratch marks etc. people can spend more time looking at the content of the images rather than being distracted by the deterioration.