Restoring Damaged Photographs: A Different Kind Of Disaster Relief (Part 2)

Last week, we profiled professional photo retoucher Becci Manson, who was a part of an All Hands Volunteers team that restored photos for victims of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Yuko Okamura also joined the restoration effort with some Photoshop experience, and quickly developed a passion for photo restoration.

Yuko shared with us what she has learned as a volunteer. I hope her story can serve as an inspiration to anyone looking to get involved in a similar photo restoration project.

Tell me a little about your background and how you came to help out in Japan._ I am an architect by trade and through my education was familiar with Adobe_ Photoshop. I volunteered in Japan originally with Habitat for Humanity and through them got connected with All Hands where I met Becci. I didn’t have any experience restoring photos before volunteering in Japan, but wanted to see what I could do with the skills I had.

When you originally went to volunteer did you ever think your professional or educational background would blend with your volunteer work?
I was certainly prepared for manual labor, but was not expecting to be able to help using this set of skills I had. Restoring photos helped me not only to give back in another way, but also helped me become more familiar with Adobe Photoshop and the restoring/retouching process.

Photo: Catriona Statham

What are some of your go-to tricks for restoring photos?
Overall, I learned a lot about the potential within Adobe Photoshop and what was available. Becci taught me a lot. I used samplers and the clone tool, and the history tool in various ways.****

**What advice would you give to those interested in getting involved, and what are the first steps in becoming a photo restoration volunteer?
**And that’s my experience. I was familiar with Adobe Photoshop when I started helping out, but I learned so much more with each photo. Over time I became more confident in my skills and was able to help out with more difficult photos, but was always mindful of what I could and couldn’t do with my time and skills.

Yuko Okamura hopes to build her career using architecture as a means to improve communities. She currently works with Architecture for Humanity’s Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio:

All Hands Volunteers provides direct assistance to communities impacted by natural disasters by rapidly mobilizing flexible, volunteer workforces in the US and internationally. More information can be found at:

If you’re interested in improving your photo restoration skills in Photoshop, check out the tutorial series, “Photoshop Insider Training: Photo Restoration.”