Low res pics

I’m just a beginner. I really would like to paint some old portraits of family members. But I’m afraid there’s just insufficient resolution. Any techniques to accomplish this? Or would it be really challenging for a novice?


  • The complexity of this photo might be a challenge but I think there's enough information in the faces to achieve a likeness. You would have to paint broadly and get accurate values and put them in exactly the right place. You can be much more loose with the rest of the picture, especially the background.  :)
  • dencaldencal -
    edited April 2021

    Success is about right value in the right place. This photo is deficient in edge definition only.
    Much of what we recognise as loved ones in photos depends on shadow shapes and values turning the form.

    With your brush and paint you have the opportunity to improve the edge definition, though it will be too easy to go too far.

    Richard _P may be able to sharpen this photo.


  • Thanks for the insights. Tassieguy, where are you seeing complexity? The skirt pattern obviously but anywhere else? I think the background building won’t be so hard - get the values and angles right, and some straight  lines on the fencing and I’m home free. Simplify the rest of the background. Right?
  • Yes, the skirt and the woodwork on the building. They're complicated but not overwhelmingly so and, as you say, the background can be simplified.  :)
  • Not sure if this will help, but I recently did a commission of a coloured painting from a 1960;s black and white photo taken in the sun.   It was blurry, over exposed in sections and had lots of shadow.
    I took a digital photo of the original.
    Then I found some photo filters on the computer made the photo much clearer and gave me a better idea of the values.  
    Have a play around with this pic and you may find something helps make parts clearer, perhaps.
    Good luck.
  • The best photo restoration I've seen is in MyHeritage family history site - not that I know everything that's out there. I tried to do it for you but I'm not a paid member and I've run out of free trial photo enhancements. But if you join they might send you the offer to try out their photo enhancement for free as they did for me.
    (It's an expensive site. I do NOT recommend them for family history because they wiki together people's inaccurate information and share it all over the internet with other people. No checks, no concern about accuracy. That's simply not how history works. Demonstrably false information about my ancestors now abounds all over the internet.)
    As a non-paying login they sent me a trial of their old photo restoration. It's incredible. Scratched, blurred photos restored, enhanced, colour restoration. It's so good it clearly takes liberties on things like eyes and facial features, it cannot possibly have all the information from the photo itself. So I would definitely use it for an old photo restoration where the exact likeness to the specific person wasn't important. For this image it is important so use other references of these family members to check against. I found with those I do know that most of the time it was still pretty accurate. Even my faded 18yo university student ID from the seventies - I thought, yep, that's precisely me. How did it guess my eyes were blue?
    Here's a 150yo damaged image from north Wales. You'll see it didn't fix every distortion, but...
    This is what it came up with for my great, great, great grandfather who died in 1864. There's clearly artistic licence, but the family resemblance is still there.

    For your image I would gather other reference photos to get a clearer picture of what you're seeing in terms of facial features. A likeness in portraits is about key things and they aren't all very fine details - so that in a partly finished portrait, you can often see the person already and the eyes are still only suggested. Measurement is important. You can just make out her cheekbone on one side which you can use to know where it should be on the other side. The very fine details in eyes are finishing. Try a sketch - pencil/ charcoal - don't worry about every detail, just get the tonal story and proportions and lines correct. It will probably teach you a lot about it.

  • edited August 2021
    I thought I'd have a go too. Here is part of the image with the tools I can use. Open in a new tab to see full size:

  • edited August 2021
    "Never pass up an opportunity to simplify."  This was the advice and lesson taught by Daniel Greene (RIP) with whom I studied twice over the years.  That's good advice.  Forget about the background.  Zoom in on the figures.  You're the artist . . . make it look the way you want.  Move the child sitting on the ground to stand stand slightly behind and at the side of the chair.  Put in enough info that people get the idea that there is a chair in the scene, abstract the background, and present a nice painting of a mother and her two children.
  • edited August 2021
    That's pretty amazing, @Richard_P

    Just out of interest, I'm wondering whether your enhancement technique would also work a on landscape images? I can't remember whether I've asked you this before. I think I might have but I can't remember when or the context but would it be possible to bring out more detail in an image like this. It's an old phone photo I took of the mountain from the farm. I did a bit in Affinity with it and did a small painting of it once but found the dearth of detail limiting. I don't expect you to enhance it for me. I just wondered if it would be possible.

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. 

  • edited August 2021
    That's awesome, @Richard_P. I can see more structure in the sunlit trees in the middle distance now. In fact, when I zoom in, everything looks sharper. 

    As you know, I'm doing a series on The Mountain for my next show but the material I have been able to get is all from up near the summit. Because it's been such a cloudy and rainy winter it's been mostly invisible  from afar.  Lost in the clouds. So, I was thinking of trying to use this image. With what you've done it just might work.

    Thanks heaps.  :)
  • No problem. Always happy to help :)
  • edited August 2021
    Ok Richard, amazing. What software are you using? How 'real' is what it creates?
    And can you enhance the pic from the original post?
  • I use several different pieces of software. But the best one for faces is actually an app called 'Remini' it's amazing how good the results can be, and how much the technology has improved.

    The original pic is too big to display on the forum. Here is a link to it:

  • Thank you so much. Deeply appreciated.
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