Greetings volunteers! This page covers "please avoid" taboos + tech tips to ensure your restorations are approved. Yippee!


Please remember that our photo adoption guidelines specify to never crop or rotate (or shift) an image. Not even a little bit. Images that have been cropped or rotated cannot be accepted. If you'd like us to consider making an exception, drop us a line before getting started.


Please be sure to perform all basic healing/patching/ cloning improvements on pre-color treated layers (meaning underneath all color adjustment layers), never AFTER adjusting tone or color, so that tone and color treatments can be altered if necessary. The tutorial below covers basic color correction, as well as how to work with layers. (If unfamiliar with "selective color," you're going to love this video.)

LIVE YouTube-streamed CARE for Sandy Google+ Community tutorial led by forum moderator Boris Polonsky

TIP!!! When working on images with broad, dark areas (like tuxedos) place a temporary, brightly lit curves adjustment layer over all working layers. (Yes, this WILL make your image look overexposed.) Why? Doing so will help you spot grime you may have missed! Black is a "color" too! Perform the antithesis by placing a darkly lit curves adjustment layer over broad, pale areas like stretches of sky or wedding gowns. 


Beginners may not realize how much helpful detail exists in black and white images that have been scanned in RGB mode. Channels are our friends! For this reason we ask that you repair your image in RGB without converting to grayscale. (Cutting and pasting an RGB image into a grayscale doc, then repasting the former back into an RGB document is the same as converting to grayscale. Channel content becomes lost forever.) Use a black & white adjustment layer within your RGB file, instead. 

The animated gifs below show how different black & white adjustment layers can effect the same photo. If you are new to B&W adjustment layers, download this introductory layered psd, turning each B&W layer on and off, separately, to explore the differences. You can even drag the entire folder named "B&W - Adjustment Layer Types" in the above document into a new psd. Choosing the right channel for your photo can shave hours off of the restoration process by disguising stains (like colored pen ink!) or enhancing areas or tonal values that you'd like to highlight.

*Make sure to turn your B&W adjustment layer "off" before submitting your "no color/tonal changes) file variation


Please refrain from using "Dust & Scratches", "Reduce Noise", "Despeckle", "Gaussian Blur" and Frequency Separation to "disguise" surface debris unless you are a trained professional who knows how to use the former in carefully isolated, masked moderation. When noise reducing filters are applied over an entire image 'as is', they may facilitate repair of broad areas of color, but in areas containing fine detail are usually counterproductive. How so? All of the former — when not used appropriately— BLUR, and therefore strip &/or bleed colors in areas like lips, teeth, eyes, fingernails, clothing patterns and jewelry.

(Unfamiliar with masking? Check out CARE's video tutorial on Masking under point #13, below.)

Additionally, whenever possible, retain your photo's original crispness quotient and texture. More importantly, aim for textural consistency! For instance if sky, a wall or a vast expanse of fabric is textured in one area per its original, but has been smoothed out/blurred/cloned over so as to look painted within an alternate area of the photograph, we're going to notice and ask for amendments. Doing so will keep quality stellar, plus ensure that photos that belong to a series can be altered, if necessary, to match.

The gif below shows how noise reducing techniques used to combat speckled black areas have negatively impacted other areas: Note the pink teeth, blurry corsage, murky highlight-deficient eyes, decreased sharpness and blobby headpiece beads. 

Original. "Despeckle". "Dust & Scratches" radius 1. "Dust & Scratches radius" 2. "Reduce Noise" radius 1.

Close-ups of original, RIPv1 (DECLINED), RIPv1 (DECLINED),  RIPv1 (DECLINED),  RIPv4 (ACCEPTED)

Neither of these two RIPs were accepted, in part due to texture modification. Note the appearance of previously non-existent artefacting.

TIP!!! Many filters and effects become permanent when applied to regular layers, but if a layer is first converted to a Smart Object, filters and effects can be modified or turned OFF.

RIP DECLINED due to posterization caused by noise reduction and blurring.


Some of these photos were not high-quality to begin with, which means many are not as crisp as we'd like them to be, but please avoid sharpening filters. Very subtle sharpening can sometimes be effective — IF edges are masked, but most universally applied sharpening "tricks" permanently alter the texture of a photo and produce unattractive, unnatural grain and posterization. 

If you'd like to send us a sharpened variation, definitely feel free to do so. But please be sure to send a separate variation that does not contain any sharpening. Save potential sharpening tricks for the very end of the restoration process on separate layer(s) above your basic repairs, to be safe, so that they can be turned off if requested. (Harshly sharpened RIPs with significantly altered texture are almost always declined.)

Original. With "Sharpen". With "Smart Sharpen". With "Unsharp Mask".  


Have you adopted a Beginner photo? Few of our beginner photos are going to warrant added grain. Have you adopted an Intermediate or Advanced photo? SOME extemely damaged photos will definitely benefit from a little added grain, if used with subtlety and moderation. In particular if a given image has inconsistent surface texture (slick in some areas, stippled in others), or if intense cleaning has led to unavoidable smudginess. However please err on the side of caution and ask about adding grain to your particular photo before proceeding -OR- include a second RIP (v2) to which no grain has been added. Always place grain on a separate layer above all edits, that can be turned off.

*Grain should never be added to attempt to disguise grime you're hoping to avoid cleaning, that could otherwise be successfully removed via healing, cloning or patching.

A mammoth advertising agency's professional production studio returned the restoration excerpt seen above, months late and only upon prodding. Clearly its retoucher was looking for short cuts. Grain was applied for the wrong reasons. 


Many volunteers have attempted to speed up restorations by getting rid of damaged, monochromatic background areas care of cookie cutter-shaped silhouettes set upon solid, paintbucket color-filled backgrounds. This is cheating (!!!) and almost always looks collaged and unnatural. Especially when hair strands and ears get lopped. Consider repairing a portion of the original damaged background, then replicate this area to 'fill' remaining damaged areas. 

This woman's portrait was DECLINED in part due to figure silhouetting.


This close-up features taboo figure silhouetting from a DECLINED submission. Also note the completely different tower + tonal variances.


Unfortunately we cannot accept restorations that feel 'painted', as these begin to look more like illustrations. Harsh but true fact: RIPS that appear to be smudged, blurred or painted WILL be rejected. Cloning, stamping, spot healing and patching can be tendious but are necessary when photos display lots of surface grime. Please do not attempt to 'paint' or 'draw' in full or partial elements unless you possess photo-realism skills. 

Don't try this at home! We're looking for restored photos with accurate likenesses, not illustrations — no matter how skilled!

LIVE YouTube-streamed CARE for Sandy Google+ Community tutorial led by forum moderator Boris Polonsky

TIP!!! Mac & PC users alike. Press"F" on your keyboard two times to preview your image on full-screen black. Doing so will help you locate edges that need additional clean-up. Press "F" a third time to return to "normal" view.


Most of our images have been scanned at 600dpi, to give retouchers enough detail to work with and so families will be able to print out photos at 200% for enlarged framing. When repairing your photo ZOOM IN. To at least 200%. If you see lint/ specks/ dirt/ dust/ scratches/ etc, so will we. Please remove any visible lint/ dust/ dirt/ specks, so that we won't have to ask that you do so. Take time removing visible surface debris. 'Your' family is worth the effort!

And remember that while noise reduction —when used in careful, isolated masked moderation—can be a starting point, it ain't an end-all. Akin to a painting's underpainting. Manual refinements will probably be necessary, too.

Original, volunteer's return, with additional clean-up. 

Original, degrained (DECLINED), somewhat refined (DECLINED), further refined (ACCEPTED)

The various stages of cleaning...

Original covered in Belle Harbor fire ash. So-so clean. All the way clean.

Note the maze-like textural damage and wood stains that have not been touched, yet how 3D facial tone has been wiped away. This restoration excerpt was surprisingly submitted by an advertising agency's professional production shop. It was returned to our adoption pool.

TIP!!! To avoid cloning trails, be sure to alter your stamp tool selection point often. Say every ten clicks. Doing so will keep your cleaned up areas looking a lot more natural.


Watch the way you treat edges. Are the original edges soft? Use a soft stamp. Are they sharp? Mimic the original's sharp edges. Consistency is key. (Example: We're seeing lots of "drawn" architectural elements with ultra sharp edges which look odd when paired with the softness of a given image's originals lineations.) Please also avoid leaving "repetitive" cloning trails, with hodge-podge object edge treatments.

Note the artificially sharpened edges. They look illustrated, unnatural and inconsistent with the rest of this close-up.

Original, with tons of repetitive cloning trails (DECLINED), aptly repaired (ACCEPTED)

TIP!!! When using the stamp tool to repair areas with lots of fine detail, always use a soft brush, reduce its opacity to a low percentage (20% often works well), and build up gradually. Doing so will help you avoid introducing harsh, unnatural edges.


Please refrain from making arbitrary cosmetic changes. For all you know that foot you've been tempted to remove may be the last remaining 'image' of a loved one. That pot you're dying to clone away may have been where dad hid mom's wedding ring. That bag or beer can may have significance we're not aware of. It's our job to restore these photos, not play 'God'. Please also refrain from removing details you feel are too difficult to repair. If you feel VERY strongly about removing a detail, please ask for permissionWe're willing to make exceptions. 

Conversely, please do not embellish photos with items you think are 'cool' or 'better than the original'. No need to add or alter an original photo, unless using a creative commons image to repair an otherwise irreparable spot..

Examples? We've received restorations in which eyes have been enlarged or flipped. Volunteers also love to remove natural shadows and contours that help maintain an image's 3D quality, glorious freckles, signature moles, happy time-worn wrinkles and 'extra' weight. Hollywood teeth whitening and artifical eye enhancing are also de rigeur. We're not creating magazine covers with idealized interpretations of beauty. Aim for naturalness at all times.  

Most importantly, be very careful to ensure that your portrait looks like 'that' person, not just any person. Is the jawline the same? Has the nose changed its shape? Are the eyes accurate?

An example of taking a restoration too far. The volunteer slimmed the teen's face, removed every last blemish and enlarged the eyes and lips.

Never "draw" in eyes. Remain true to the original at all times.

DECLINED for a variety of reasons. Most notably the dramatic alterations to the woman's original facial features.

We don't think we even need to show this image's original to demonstrate why this RIP was DECLINED. Campbell's soup can and all.

Close-ups of original, SCRATCH REDO (APPROVED); TEST IMAGE (DECLINED); Light flares, phantom ship parts, silhouetting and other reasons prevented us from accepting this now shipshape restoration.

#12 RED EYE 

Yes! You may remove red eye from photos.


You know what we're talking about. Photoshop's Artistic, Brush Strokes, Sketch, Stylize and Texture filter gallery offerings. e.g. Stained Glass, Texturizer, Craquelure, Bas Relief, Reticulation and so on. They look clinical and computer generated!


Please be very careful not to over-saturate blacks, nor blow out light areas. When you do so we lose all of an image's magnificent mid-tone values that distinguish hair, folds in clothing and so on. Auto levels and auto curves will rarely aptly color correct a given image. Play with a combination of curves/ exposure/ selective color and so on, and mask individual areas if need be. This comment applies to black & white images in particular. (And hundreds of wedding tuxedos!)

DECLINED for a variety of reasons. Note the exaggerated darkening of the cabinet and far right.

Note how overdarkening the blacks has made the striped texture of the woman's dress disappear.

rerecorded CARE for Sandy Google+ Community tutorial led by forum moderator Boris Polonsky



No artificial color tinting please! Especially when sprucing modern photos. Exception being if you've received a studio-tinted vintage image, like this one, in need of a refresh. Hue saturating or transparently painting the entire surface of a faded portrait is not color correcting. It's Crayola crayoning! Aim for naturalness at all times.

This Curious George posse was DECLINED due to artificial tinting.


10-25% of images are routinely returned with the wrong naming convention. When you neglect to add personalized naming extensions, we run the risk of overriding our original file with yours. Review our naming/extension conventions here under STEP #6.


Advanced volunteers need to be high-end professional retouchers/restorers (e.g. with advertising, film, illustration, museum or beauty clients) -OR- have provided truly EXCEPTIONAL samples which demonstrate the ability to realistically reconstruct faces, hands, skin and missing areas in general without significant coaching from our staff. (Those who operate homespun restoration businesses will not likely qualify.) Therefore please refrain from requesting ADOPT ME! Advanced images unless you meet these requirements. Here are a few genuinely advanced before/afters to inspire:

Girl's portrait (moldy mess)
Honeymoon at waterfall (scratched mess)
Group portrait at printing plant (emulsion mess)
Flower girl (color bleeding mess)
First communion beauty (emulsion mess)
Toddler in highchair (emulsion mess)
Newborn baby (emulsion mess)
Outdoor wedding scene (emulsion mess)
Bride & bridesmaids (emulsion mess)

And here is a close-up from an Advanced image that was adopted by two volunteers who claimed to possess Advanced skills, who were not able to recognize their limitations. Please acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, so as to best use your time and ours!


Guess what. One of the baby restorations seen below was restored by a very dedicated, talented amateur with no formal training beyond self-devoured books paired with lots of practice. Whereas the other was restored by a long-time professional retoucher for one of the most famous sports apparel brands on the planet + a variety of additional knock-out clients. One restoration was rejected. One was approved. Guess which is which? Surprise! (Results matter more than résumés!)

XOX CARE for Sandy XOX