I have a lot of old photos in my family history file. The one I'm looking at has obviously suffered from some kind of degradation of the silver/silver chemicals:

enter image description here

It has a sort of haze over parts of the surface, which is a sort of cyan colour (as opposed to the sepia coloured genuine image). I have scanned it in colour, and I want to try to remove the cyan(ish) haze without damaging the underlying image. Since they are a different colour, this (it seems to me) ought to be possible. How would I do this in GIMP?

Thanks - Rowan

  • You might be able to reduce the cyan noise, but what lies behind it? Nothing I am afraid. Pixels cannot hide other pixels behind them. I see no trace of the original image through the haze. It seems to be opaque. If the contours of the image was visible but tinted by the haze there might be a chance.
    – Wolff
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 16:22
  • 2
    I think this photo is a loss. It's not correctable short of painting it entirely.
    – Scott
    Commented Sep 28, 2017 at 17:35
  • This actually looks like specular highlights introduced by scanning a matte (or "satin") textured photo print on a flatbed scanner. For posterity, better results may be gotten using a decent camera or DSLR on a tripod. This is a comment since it does not address the question as asked.
    – Yorik
    Commented Dec 27, 2017 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


There are several issues with the digitized source that I am going to tackle in the steps below using Gimp-

  1. Remove sepia and green stain by choosing Colors > Desaturate

    enter image description here

  2. Weaken the scratches

    • Choose a sensible Colors > Treshold value to obtain an inverted "scratch" template.

      enter image description here

    • Copy this template onto the desaturated original from 1. in "Overlay"-Mode

      enter image description here

  3. Adjust the Color Curve to control lights and shadows

    enter image description here

  4. Despeckle photo with the Filters > Enhance > Despeckle tool

    enter image description here

The huge black scratches can best be removed manually. Still, mostly because of the quite bad degradation the photo suffered the results are far from optimal.

enter image description here

We can also see quite strong JPG-artifacts in this enhanced version. THis may be much better when working on an uncompressed source scan.


Unfortunately the cyan haze is opaque. No software can see what's behind it.

Option 1:

  • turn the haze to less optrusive by turning it's brightness region more flat with the curves tool
  • Reduce flat haze by shifting the black level to higher with the curves tool
  • recolor the image to monochrome.

The result:

enter image description here

This makes hazed areas nearly black, which probably isn't wanted

Option 2:

Goto a specialist who check, if the error is not in the photo emulsion, but in the upper surface. Then he maybe can remove the haze mechanically or chemically. I can see, that someone has wipd part of the haze off.

Of course he can have wiped off some chemical that has spoiled the photo elsewhere. In that case yoy are out of luck.

Option 3:

Try to find another image which contains some vanished details. They probably can be moved from a photo to another.

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