How to use MyHeritage to bring old photos to life

How to use MyHeritage to sharpen, colorize, and animate old photos
(Image credit: Getty Images)

MyHeritage is probably best known as a genealogy site, which allows you to dig deep into your family history and explore your ancestral lineage. However, its recent expansion into photo editing has made the platform more popular, as people turn to the website to fix old blurry images and bring their pics to life. 

You'll need to sign-up for a free account if you want to use the tools, but it's well worth doing this if you're interested in genealogy. We rate it as both one of the best genealogy sites out there, and one of the best family tree makers, too. 

Once you've signed up, you can access these tools by visiting the site, clicking over to the 'photos' tab and uploading your images. Here, we break down how it works. 

MyHeritage: Animate pics

Perhaps the best-known tool on the MyHeritage site is its 'Deep Nostalgia' AI feature. This allows you to upload an old image, then watch as it's brought to life, through a series of subtle movements (usually blinking, then turning slightly to one side and smiling.) 

It's not always perfect, as sometimes images become distorted and blur at the edges. However, it's a fun way to revisit past images and maybe get kids interested in looking at pics of their ancestors. You can upload photos of individuals, or upload group pictures and the AI will pick out individual faces for you to animate.

It works by identifying the facial features of an image, then animating it according to a set of 'drivers'. These drivers are actually pre-recorded videos that consist of a fixed sequence of movements and gestures, so the animation is mimicking these videos in effect. 

The photo tool will automatically assign a set of drivers to your image, but you can hand pick which ones you'd like to apply as well, to make your subject pull different faces. 

MyHeritage: Enhance your photos

This lesser known enhancer tool is probably much more useful if you have a stack of old photos that you're looking to edit. In a nutshell, this feature allows you to upload pics and sharpen them, which is handy for older, faded images. 

It works by upscaling images, increasing their resolution so they appear sharper. Like the Deep Nostalgia tool, you can upload group photos and flick through each face, sharpening them individually.

Two images of young man in black and white

Before and after using the MyHeritage enhancement technology. (Image credit: MyHeritage)

However, there aren't any options to tweak photos beyond the initial 'upscaling' that's done by the machine learning tool; you don't have the same level of control as you would with the best photo editing software.

This might cause occasional issues, where glitches could occur (or faces are inaccurately sharpened so that they're unrecognizable.) Overall, though, it's an impressive – and very fast – tool that you can use for free.

MyHeritage: Colorize images

This is another tool that MyHeritage has made incredibly simple to use. Members just need to navigate to the 'photos' tab, upload a black and white image, then watch as the AI magically turns it into a fully-colorized picture. This colorizer tool can also be used to restore colors on faded images, where they've not been properly preserved.

Like the other tools, this features deploys clever machine learning to alter the image. According to MyHeritage, the colorization model was trained by being exposed to millions of real photos, which led to it developing an 'understanding of our world and its colors'.

Before and after colorized image

(Image credit: MyHeritage)

Got a heap of old black and white photos you need to scan before you can use the software? We recommend using either one of the best slide to digital image converters for the job, or – if you'd rather leave it the professionals – use one of the best photo scanning services instead.

Ruth Gaukrodger

Ruth has worked across both print and online media for more than five years, contributing to national newspaper titles and popular tech sites. She has held a number of journalist roles alongside more senior editorial positions, and is now the Digital Learning and Hobbies editor for the Top Ten Reviews brand.