Photoshop is expensive! Photoshop Elements not as much but still can be a bit pricey. And for many people, the vast majority of Photoshop features will never be used. The new direction Adobe has taken with renting rather than owning the software has inspired many discussions. Mostly unfavorable from the non-professional users. However for the professional people using Photoshop in their daily workflows, the advantages of constant updates and releases far out way the disadvantages. So what can the people do who never use the advanced batch naming features? Or proof colors? Work with scripts? Use the liquify command or be concerned about gamut warnings or use animation? Kind of like buying a Porsche just to go to the store.

For people whose main interest is just to save their treasured old photos, especially photos that don’t need major restoration, consider buying an old version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. I have seen full versions of Photoshop CS2 on eBay for under $50 and Photoshop Elements for as low as $12. Even new versions of Elements can be found on sale for $49. Just make sure when shopping on Ebay that Photoshop is a full version and NOT an update unless you have already had a full version. Otherwise, it will not work. And I would not go back before version CS2.

Any version of Photoshop or Elements that support layers can be a major benefit to saving your old photos. In this case just using a curves adjustment layer, a levels adjustment layer and a unsharp mask filter can drastically improve your photos. Save the photos as a tiff file original and a jpeg when you are done with these steps and as you become more experienced with Photoshop or Elements there are lots of other tools available in both software packages that can improve the photos even more! Don’t forget to add names, locations, years or other important info into the metadata of the file so years from
now that information will be with your photos!

Open New Adjustment Layer, then Curves. Scroll to Red and bring the black triangle to the edge of the first group of pixels. Do the same for the white triangle. Open the Red dialog and scroll down to the Green graph and do the same thing with the black and white triangles, bringing the triangles to the first group of pixels. Then do the same thing with the Blue graph. You can just click on Auto in the righthand corner but I don’t recommend it. Most of the time the results are not nearly as good.

Select the Levels Adjustment Layer only this time leave the RGB Chanel as it is. Move the black and gray triangles independently to achieve your desired darkness. Also, slide the white triangle to the beginning of the pixels. I usually start with the black and gray triangles because after applying the Curves Adjustment Layer more often than not the images tend to be lighter rather than darker.

Total time with just a little practice about 15 minutes. No time limit on the wonderful memories! There are thousands of videos on YouTube for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Every possible technique and topic. Just a little practice and you are on your way to saving photos and history for the next generation!
Don’t forget to add your metadata. (See one of my previous articles).

-Bob Walden