Ed #7 Retouching

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All of that changed with the advent of electronic image editing. Scitex® and other early electronic prepress systems allowed printers to move beyond the basics of separating color to manipulating the image, but the technology was complex and expensive. Then Photoshop® brought electronic image editing to the desktop. While initial efforts often appeared crude, because the engineers who knew how to operate the technology frequently did not have training in the visual arts, results improved when trained retouchers began to go digital. What took hours or days with an airbrush could now be done in minutes, making retouching easier and cheaper than ever before. Digital retouching is more precise too—and virtually undetectable. And in the hands of a skilled operator, it’s possible to create startling and arresting images. The only real limits are time, budgets, technical skills, ethical considerations and your own imagination.

Today, the original image is increasingly considered as nothing more than the raw material for additional processing on the computer. Hundreds, if not thousands, of books, magazine articles and scores of Web sites have been devoted to explaining how to use the tools that Photoshop®,  and similar programs provide. Web sites like www.worth1000.com allow enthusiasts to show off their skills. 

The tools that are most commonly used include sharpening, which can make a blurry area clearer, and the healing brush, which allows you to remove skin blemishes, wrinkles, dust, scratches and other small defects from the image. The blur tool, which lowers the resolution of a specified portion of the photo, is often used to reduce the signs of editing. Burn and dodge tools allow you to darken and lighten areas of a picture just as was done in the darkroom. The lasso tool selects areas to be altered or moved. Sponges help to remove color, including red eye. Curves can be used to correct or adjust the tonal balance; channels enable you to filter out or increase a certain color. Other tools that can help control color include grayscale and posterize. Actions and droplets enable you to automatically apply adjustments made to one image to others.

Photoshop and similar products offer a number of other tools as well, but almost all of them share three basic purposes: restoration, enhancement and manipulation.Restoration corrects the condition of the original photograph by mending tears, removing water damage and fixing yellowing, cracking and other problems. Enhancement subtly alters an image to remove flaws such as dust, scratches and blemishes, to correct color or improve skin tones. Improvements might also include such things as slightly darkening the corners of an image, so the eye is drawn to the center. Manipulation changes the content of the image by removing or adding objects, combining a number of images, or altering the relationships shown in the original image. (Think of Elvis shaking hands with an alien, whose head has been placed on Ann-Margret’s body).

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