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How to restore old photos in iPhoto for Mac

Retouch and improve old images using iPhoto’s editing tools


There’s something about old photos that makes them utterly charming. Whether it’s the fact that the person was limited with the number of shots they could take, that there was no ‘instant preview’ for the photographer or just the fact that they provide a fascinating window onto another time, old photos are great to look at.

However, if you want to preserve shots that probably only exist as a single hard copy, scanning them into your Mac is a must. They’ll be saved digitally so you’ll always have a backup, but the real advantage of scanning these shots is that you can also touch up any blemishes or stains on the shots, remove light leaks and other issues, and get rid of notes that may have been scribbled on the shot, all using iPhoto’s editing tools.


step 1

1 Colour improvements

Where photos have faded, been stained or simply lost their colour, you can use iPhoto’s controls to even everything out. Open your image file and click the Edit button to start.

Step 2

2 Black & White

In the Effects panel, use either the B & W, Sepia or Antique controls to adjust the colour of monotone shots. Here, we’ve turned a slightly yellowed photo black and white again.

Step 3

3 Retouching brush

Next, open the Quick Fixes tab and select the Retouch tool from the bottom of the list. You can adjust the size of the brush with the on-screen slider or the [ and ] keys.

Step 4

4 Zoom in

To get more accuracy in your retouch, use the slider at the bottom-left of the screen to zoom in on the shot, or tap the 1 or 2 keys to zoom in to 100 or 200 per cent accordingly.

Step 5

5 Click – don’t drag

You can drag over a portion of the image, but you’ll get better results if you adjust the size of the brush to cover the blemish you want to remove and then click over it instead.

Step 6

6 Clone tool

iPhoto has a basic Clone tool, too. Hold the Alt key and click while using the Retouch brush to sample an area of the photo that you can then use elsewhere on your shot.

Step 7

7 Paint it in

The tool simply copies the texture and pastes it wherever you click. This works quite well in black and white shots, so experiment with different textures for best results.

Step 8

8 Zoom out

When you make an edit, zoom out to make sure that what you’ve done still fits with the overall look of the photo. Some parts can look unnatural or blurry, so it’s worth checking.

Step 9

9 Cropping

Finally, crop your shot to remove any of the damaged edges or blurred portions that were caused over the years, and straighten it if your scan wasn’t completely in line.

Click Image to Enlarge:

More iPhoto Tutorials

How to use iPhoto’s best filters and effects

Master iPhoto’s histogram to get better photos

How to edit image name, description, date & time metadata in iPhoto