To be honest, my restoration procedures are more “evolutionary” than “strategic”. I usually just pick a place to begin, then roam around the photo wherever my mouse takes me. I massage parts of the photo until, eventually, the whole thing is satisfactory.
Therefore, it’s difficult to summarise my technique. However, as always, I start by correcting the whole photo, then large areas, before getting down to small details.
As if being faded and discolored wasn’t enough, this small photo has been left in a shirt pocket and put through the wash. I begin by scanning it in 16 bits-per-channel color.
First, I convert to monochrome. Photoshop offers various methods of black-and-white conversion, and I usually try them all to see which gives the best starting point for the restoration. In this case, I end up choosing humble desaturation.
I begin by making various contrast and lightness adjustments, first globally, then selectively. This gets the photo “in the ballpark”, ready for repair.
Using the Clone Stamp and Healing tools, I smooth out the texture on some of the panels of the car. This is important, because I’ll need to copy the texture in the next step.
Time to tackle the back window. I start by cloning some of the little cracks away from the top …
… then I grab a slab of texture and place it on a new layer over the damaged area …
… and using a combination of Layer masks, Quick masks, Curves and Hue/Saturation, I slowly meld it into the photo.
Gradually, I repeat the above steps until I’ve repaired the entire hole. I congratulate myself, knowing that the hard part is done. But there’s still a lot to do.
Little by little, I work my way around the photo, cleaning up all the spots and scratches. I use a textured gradient for the sky, and similar for some of the ground. Yes, it’s cheating, but the result is satisfactory.
Finally, a few last contrast adjustments, some subtle smoothing in the shadow areas where the texture is a little too strong, and a gentle high-pass sharpen.
Use the slider to compare original to final: