Ed #7 Retouching

Overview

Ed wants to show you things as they aren’t. Yet are.

Ever since Adobe® Photoshop® first appeared in 1990, photographs just haven’t been the same. Retouching or, more accurately, manipulating images moved from the camera, the darkroom and the retoucher’s studio into the computer. And the way that people worked with photographs changed. Techniques that were once time-consuming and expensive became commonplace, and the range of effects that could be easily achieved expanded dramatically.

Today, photo retouching is used more widely than ever before, for everything from repairing tears or water damage to old photos to creating images that are no more real, but far more lifelike, than the most vivid dream.

Ed looks at retouching. You’ll learn a little of the long history of manipulating photos, see some outstanding examples of the art, both old and new, and find some tips about how to make it work for you.

Why does Ed do it? Because Ed wants to help you do more. Because Ed wants to help spur your creativity. And because Ed wants to show you that NewPage should be your first choice in printing papers. We’re dedicated to helping you do your best work. So while you can’t always trust your eyes, you can always trust the help you get from Ed.

“In the very beginning, when the operator controls and regulates his time of exposure, when in the dark room the developer is mixed for detail, flatness or contrast, faking has been resorted to. In fact every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible.”
- Edward Steichen, 1903

As a promise, “the camera never lies” ranks right up there with “the check is in the mail.” While the camera may never lie, the hands that operate it can play all kinds of tricks—with the camera itself, in the darkroom, or on the print. And photographers have manipulated the images they have captured from the very beginning.

Think that retouching began with glamour shots of Hollywood stars? Think again. Even some of the earliest photographic portraits show signs of retouching to soften wrinkles or remove blemishes. The famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady is known to have staged battle scenes and to have an inserted an additional officer into a previously made portrait of General Sherman’s staff. Even the way an image is cropped, focused or exposed can shade the truth. When Franklin Roosevelt was president, for example, photographers cropped the wheelchair he relied on out of the frame to conceal the evidence of his paralysis.

Unless it’s taken purely by accident, there is no such thing as an objective photo. Every image that is taken on purpose is the result of a number of subjective choices, ranging from the type of film or camera that is used to the selection of the subject and its lighting, framing, focus and composition. We do not see reality—only what the photographer chooses to show us.

But of course, some photos are far less objective than others. The honor of producing the first truly faked photo is usually awarded to a Frenchman named Hippolyte Bayard, whose invention of photography preceded that of both Louis Daguerre in France and William Talbot in London. In 1840, piqued by the lack of attention his work had received, Bayard made a photograph of himself posed as a corpse and then wrote a note on the back blaming the government’s lack of support for his “suicide” by drowning. Fortunately, he did not really end his own life and continued to take photographs. In fact, two years after his premature demise, the French Society for the Encouragement of Industry awarded Bayard a prize of 3,000 francs.

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