I am involved in trying to save photos from 24 years ago that are unfortunately the victim of time and non-archival albums. I've posted an example of what I'm trying to do. These are small pics, shot with a Kodak Instamatic and they are both dark and heavily speckled with dots and dust. They are nowhere near the quality of a "recent" photo, but any salvage is sometimes better than what I am currently stuck with.
I post these as an example of somewhat "hurried" attempts to save the past. Hopefully they are helpful to some of you and what you might be able to do.
First pic is of the pic "as is". Blown up, this is plain awful.
The second is of the same picture with just levels adjusted to make it brighter.
The last one is some "de-speckling and dusting" of my wife and daughter. It is by no means a finished product, but it's getting there. It represents about 2 hours work and has about the same to go.
Maybe it worked out on this site in this size, and maybe it didn't. It's my first try.
Were those photos printed on textured paper??? If so those are the worse to try to clean up. I've found that if you lower the resolution of the scanner somewhat that you can reduce the amount of speckling that needs de-speckled. Usually the lower resolution scanning doesn't make a difference on the clarity of the older photos.
I took on the task of (an completed a couple of years ago) of scanning my parents slides, about 1,500 of them and their photos, about 2,200 of them. I tried as best I could to clean them up and that trick worked wonders and saved lots of manual adjustment. I loved the scans of the slides though because they were never as worn as the photos. Now all my siblings have CDs of all the old family pictures and I even made CDs for my cousins that included photos of folks that they would be interested in ...like their parents!!
PhotoShop CS3. I got a ways to go yet. And it was textured paper which makes it a bit of a bear. It is easier with slides. They don't deteriorate as fast as the One Hour Photo things that I did back then for economy reasons. You get what you pay for.
A few suggestions for those of you that might have a similar situation. If you used those old Photo albums that had the sticky pages and plastic cover pages, DON'T remove them when scanning. They'll scan better through the clear plastic without the speckles that will show up if you remove them and some of the print stayed behind on the plastic.
Also, rather than working with a "healing" tool which will "heal" or a tool that removes "dust", go in there and correct the pixels by blowing the pic up at least 300% and then working with brushes that are small enough to capture the more subtle blends without destroying the light and shadow demarcations that take place gradually. You can still use large brushes in areas that you don't mind the paint by number look or "blocks" of color, but for skin and faces, it's hard to not get that ANIME look or Playboy look if you don't air brush well.
This is where I'm at now. Not a finished product but better than No. 3 above.