Salvaging Bad Photos

What do you do when you have a photo that is significant and you want to scrap it, but it’s not that great?  What if it’s just an all around bad photo?  There are a few things you can do to salvage photos and make an imperfect photo one that you will want to use on a layout.


The photo above was taken on my daughters birthday. My son had given her a gift he had made that was very thoughtful and an inside joke between the two of them. After she opened it and they had a good laugh, he jumped up and gave her an impromptu hug. This was unexpected and I wasn’t fast enough with my camera to get a good shot.  This is the photo that I have and I wanted to be able to use it.


By adding some filters and effects, the fact that my daughter is blurry is less obvious.  Here’s what I did to this photo:

Using my Rad Lab, I added the following filters:

Cool as a Cucumber 58%
Flare Up Faded 100%
Edge Blur 100%

I added a commercial use texture paper by Happy Scrap Girl Designs above my photo layer and set it to  the Multiply blending mode at 86%:


Last, I added the Brennan and Black Border – Feathered Instagram actions.


Wendyzine from our team had a lot of tips she has used for salvaging a photo in order to scrap it:

The only copies of these photos that we had were very small, very bad digital scans. But, I wanted to scrap them, so I put them in a film strip and made them small.


Zoom in and crop out the bad stuff. Maybe this means you only use the tiny foot, or a single toy instead of the entire messy pile.


Blend photos into other backgrounds. It gives the hint of the image and again, minimized the negative issues. I do this with lower resolution images because blending them in with a high res image can hide those jaggies and artifacts you get when you enlarge.


Other tips for bad photos…
Try adjusting the levels on images that have colored or faded over time. You can sometimes get some of that original color back. IMAGE>ADJUST>LEVELS. It’s best to adjust in RGB (not CMYK)) and to adjust each channel by itself. So, select the RED channel. Drag the left slider to the right until the point where the histogram starts showing data. Adjust the right slider to the left. Repeat for the Green and Blue channels. Then, return to the RGB channel and see what you have. You can tweak the middle slider here to make it lighter or darker.

Try making photos black and white. It can help minimized some distracting flaws. Or, use selective coloring to block out background noise, or other flaws. Leave the main focal point in color and desaturate the other items. Or, use lomo effect to minimize the background and draw focus to the subject. Masks work great for this too.

Run a filter on the photo. Try converting it to a sketch or a watercolor. This sometimes can make otherwise bad items look intentional.

Finally, sometimes you just have to go find another photo. Sometimes, if we go on vacation and my photo of a particular monument or building doesn’t come out very well, or I forget to take the picture entirely, I head over to a stock photo site and grab one that allows me to use it under a creative commons license (meaning I can use it for personal use and share it online). In the end, scrapping the memory is more important than me having taken the photo.



Do you have some techniques you’ve used of your own to salvage a photo? We would love to hear about them in the comments!