Retouching Old Photos in Snapseed

Last year I scanned a bunch of old photos that spent the last thirty to forty years in photo albums and displayed in clear photo cubes on end tables. The photo albums had a tacky adhesive, which had dried up and made it difficult to remove them. This type of photo album was popular in the late ’70s and into the ’80s and were often kept hidden away in drawers or on shelves. Memories of thumbing through these oversize books with my siblings came back, which took away some of the reality of the work ahead of me.

However, this post is a tutorial for retouching photos and not about a fifty-something year old man reliving his past through photos. It’s also about using Snapseed to fix photos that have aged poorly and are far from perfect. Below is the photo I used for this tutorial.


I brought back some of the faded colors using the Curves tool, which you can find using the TOOLS button, then select the Curves tool. You can either use one of the preset buttons (to the right of the eye), or play with the curves by adjusting the diagonal line that displays over the photo, which is what I did with this image. I’ll explain how to do this next.


The curve tool opens with the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) option, but if you choose the button to the left of the eye, you can choose other options.

I usually stick with the RGB option and put a handle on the diagonal line by tapping on it, then dragging it around on the image (you’ll see the results as you drag the handle). You can make as many handles as you want, so feel free to get one effect, then alter it with a second handle (i.e. lighten the image with one handle, then sharpen it with another). I sometimes play with the Curves in an image to darken the night sky or sharpen the effect of a light, or both. The more you play with the Curves tool, the better you understand how it works.

Once you have the effect you want, you can remove any dust, dirt, scratches, etc. from the photo. The image I’m using looks like it has a few ink stains, so I used the Healing tool (it looks like two band-aids forming an X) to remove them. You might have to pinch out to zoom, then use the rectangle in the bottom left to move the image to the desired area. Once you have the portion of the image with the blemish, you swipe on it and it will be gone. I could have done the same with the bottom right corner of this image, but I only noticed it now. I’ll have to go back and fix it.

Here are the before and after images.


Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.

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