This endearing image may just be a family snapshot, but it is the only photo they have of their daughter, this first-time mom, holding her newborn daughter. It doesn't matter that it wasn't shot by a professional. It does matter that it is retouched with respect and care, in the attempt to make it the best it can be.
The solution for correcting this image initially looks pretty straight forward - take the yellow out. But this is a deceptively complicated image to retouch. Yes, we need to take the yellow out, but beneath the yellow there are washed out shadows, blurring, and a lack of detail due to underexposure and an aging print.
Looking past the yellowing, I examine the photo and ask, "What are the most important elements in the image?" Obviously, it's mom with her newborn baby. Then, "Of the other elements in the photo, which are important and which are cluttering or distracting?" I feel the chair and the edge of the curtain behind the chair are important. They're sitting in the chair, which is a giveaway to its significance, but it also dates the scene, which is part of the story, and the white chair-covers frame mom and baby. The curtains are less obvious because they do add to the era but otherwise are only important for the atmospheric effect of light passing through them, setting the mood. The scene is lit by two side windows, the visible window being the prominent light source. None of the other objects in the scene are very important, except that they give a sense of space (or lack thereof) in the room, but if they are given too much attention, they will be distracting. The focus should be on mom and baby, so that is where I will work to put it.
Now, about that yellowing...it isn't as simple as color toning the image in this case. Due to the underexposure of the original photo and the low ambient light in the scene, deep shadows prevail in this photo. Deep shadows have no detail and are nearly black to black. But these shadows are more of a muddy yellow-brown due to the yellowing and degradation of the emulsion. The loss of emulsion also creates spotty dark areas intermixed with muddy yellow-brown areas. Even though there are no details in the deep shadows, there are enough that I don't want to lose everything that is there, like the rooster and stand to the lower left of the chair. Simply adjusting the contrast isn't sufficient, as it darkens the shadows but blows out the highlights. I don't want mom and baby to be in hard light that contrast correction alone creates because it is a soft scene naturally lit by soft light, so it needs to stay soft. Yet, it needs some definition. In the end, the best result comes from converting this photo to black and white and adding appropriate color back in.
To achieve lighting balance in this case, it amounts to mixing the scene to achieve the deep shadows and soft light. This is done using one copy of the image with softer contrast and one copy using higher contrast and combining them to get the desired effect. With the addition of softly saturated color (because color was removed when turning it to black and white) and soft light, the use of a high pass filter to define edges a bit better, and the usual adjustments of shadows and highlights, the photo is recreated without the yellowing and with more focus and detail.
There is one other thing that needs correction. Did you catch it? The perspective is distorted. The top is narrower than the bottom, giving the effect that the bottom is closer to the viewer than the top. I knew you would catch that! This is corrected with lens correction of the vertical perspective.
The fact that this photo had no major tears, wrinkles, or blemishes belies the complexity of the restoration and retouching, but with a little TLC, the image is recreated and the moment can continue to melt hearts for many more years.