Photoshop Techniques - Breathing New Life into Old Images

What I will not be doing in this blog is describing my step-by-step workflow; instead I give an overview while comparing old edits to new edits in the same image. Dramatic or subtle, the newly edited changes to an image reflect Photoshop’s improved editing tools and my acquired Photoshop skills. All the newly edited images you see here had Super Resolution applied.

For my edits, the most powerful Photoshop tool is ‘masking’ which can be applied in so many ways. Above is an old image that was cropped severely to isolate the sandhill crane and her nest. Below is a Photoshop mask that was created using the ‘Select Subject’ tool.

With this mask, I isolated the bird from its surroundings. With that, I could apply edits to the bird without altering the surroundings. Next, by inverting the mask, I could select the surroundings and apply my edits to them without affecting the bird. Below is the final edited version.

Below is another image where I darkened the water surrounding the bird. Originally, darkening the water selectively without affecting the other areas was a tedious process and required some destructive edits.

Now, I can use luminosity masks which allows very specific selections of tones, as you see below.

Rather than ‘hand picking’ the areas I want to edit, I can direct the masking to select the tones and then refine the selection so that edited portions appear natural. I can do this with one or two clicks of a button rather than spending time finely adjusting the edges of the selection. Here is the new version of the image which includes some additional enhancements.

Below is an example of an image where I used multiple luminosity masks. The first image is the original, the next two are luminosity masks followed by the revived version.

The image below is an original from an old camera. After applying ‘Super Resolution’ I cropped out most of the flying bird. The overlapping wing feathers were removed using Photoshop’s cloning and content aware tools. Next I added a vignette to slightly darken the edges of the frame. Vignetting can be added in Camera Raw or you can use the gradient tool to add a mask that allows selective darkening of the edges. Here is the final cropped and vignetted image.

These are only a few examples of old images brought back to life with new edits, but I hope they have inspired you to go back to those old images and breathe new life into them. Because much of the editing performed requires finely tuned selections, knowledge of Photoshop layers and masks is essential. To help you out, I have previous blogs on using layers and masks:


Non destructive dodge and burn

Luminosity Masks using ‘Apply Image’

Adjustment layer masks

Gradient Masks

Thanks for looking on and consider taking a workshop with me here in south Florida. And while visiting, you may sign up for a Photoshop tutorial as well. Please check out my website and feel free to contact me at