Making a photo less blurry
April 9, 2013 5:06 AM   Subscribe

I'm giving a photograph to my recently deceased friend's husband. It's a bit blurry, not terrible, but it really does show who she is. Is there a way to make it less blurry? Assume I have no expensive Photoshop or other program, just what comes in Microsoft package. And, feel free to give me simple instructions -- assume a limited computer knowledge. Many thanks.
posted by Prairie to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, please excuse that mangled syntax/whatever in the first sentence. We're all pretty exhausted.
posted by Prairie at 5:08 AM on April 9, 2013

Unfortunately this is a very complicated problem. There are many different kinds of blurs, some of which can be removed with current technology and some which can't. You need to try the various tools you can get hold of and if you're lucky you can find a combination of settings that work on your particular image.

First, try Focus Magic for removing the blur. They still appear to offer a trial so that it will work for free on the first ten images you edit.

Then Paint.NET is a good free general image editing tool for doing touch-ups of the picture on Windows, though I'm sure that others can offer suggestions as well.

I'm just a software engineer who has dabbled in this sort of thing on the side in the past couple of years so other people who do this sort of thing for a living may have better or more up-to-date information.

I'm sorry to hear that your friend passed away.
posted by XMLicious at 5:33 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you use one of the online photo editing tools? Something like Pixlr or, if you already have a Google account, Google+.

Most of them should have some sort of "sharpen" tool that you can play with, usually under the "filters" section. You may also try playing with the exposure, to lighten it or darken shadows, etc.

The problem is that the photo may be blurry because of an unsteady camera. In this case, it'll be difficult to fix, as the details have not been captured.
posted by chengjih at 5:34 AM on April 9, 2013

Keep the print size down. Does it need to be large? Also -- just a thought -- you may be able to alter the foreground's 'perceived sharpness' by softening the background.
posted by popcassady at 5:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've seen a number of these requests fulfilled over in the PicRequests subreddit. You may get some silly "help" versions as well (generally inoffensive like with Godzilla/memes shopped into the background), but there are a bunch of really dedicated photoshop wizards over there.
posted by bookdragoness at 5:44 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

If it's a digital photo, I'd suggest giving your friend both the original image (not edited at all, full resolution) and the edited, less-blurry image.

I have Adobe Lightroom, which has a sharpen tool that works well for very mild blur. I'd be happy to try to improve your photo, my email is in my profile. However, I am not very experienced with that type of photo-editing.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:53 AM on April 9, 2013

The Sharpen tool in Picasa (which is free) might also work.
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:20 AM on April 9, 2013

So, just about every image editor has the kind of "sharpen" filter that everyone is mentioning, which uses one particular technique and is definitely worth trying. But the Focus Magic tool I link to above and other forensics tools like it are much more sophisticated. It offers a variety of different image processing options; for example, if you think that the image has a motion blur due to the sort of unsteady camera problem that chengjih mentions, there's an option to try removing that sort of blur that lets you set the angle and length of the blur to repair.
posted by XMLicious at 6:37 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'd like to second bookdragoness' suggestion of PicRequests, if you're comfortable sharing the picture with the people of reddit. Most of them are extremely talented and very respectful (if you tell them that it's a beloved friend who passed away).

You can even add the "Serious" tag to the request. Generally, in situations like that, the really nasty folks get downvoted to the bottom and you don't have to look at them.
posted by AmandaA at 7:00 AM on April 9, 2013

Unfortunately this is a very complicated problem.

Yes. I'm pretty skilled with Lightroom, at least relative to most people, and I probably wouldn't try to fix something like this myself. I've never used Focus Magic so maybe it's worth a try, but if I were in your shoes, I would be inclined to find a good retoucher. People who are really, really skilled at Photoshop can do amazing things. (A photography professor once told me, "If you're willing to spend long enough on it, you can do literally anything in Photoshop.") If people on Reddit volunteer their skills free, that's awesome. Otherwise there are many retouchers out there who will work for between five and thirty dollars per photo. You can Google for them, or post an ad on Craigslist or MetaFilter Projects.
posted by cribcage at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

And just as an aside, I'm sure your friend would love the photo no matter what. We had clearer and more "official" photos of my Dad but for the obituary we used one that was a little fuzzy because it had the best smile and showed a side of my father that only his loved ones really got to see.
posted by amanda at 7:44 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could embrace the blurriness, simplify the background and crop it off to the side and end up with a lovely mood portrait, example here.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:08 AM on April 9, 2013

The first step is to go back to the original. Do you have the negative, or the original file that came out of the camera? Start there. You might consider getting the negative reprinted or maybe even digitally scanned so you have more resolution to work with.
posted by gjc at 8:38 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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