It Can Always Be Better

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Photographer Retoucher

My grandparents at work in a self-portrait
My grandparents at work in a self-portrait
My maternal grandfather, Frank G. Anderson, was a talented amateur photographer. One should not take that word "amateur" lightly. He also strove to keep up with trends. In the 1940's that was no easy task. There was no computer or 1-hour photo lab. Everything was done by hand in his home. His wife, my grandmother Edna, retouched and colorized his prints.

Unchanged in over 60 years, are the principles of photography. These are based in the understanding of composition, lighting and luck (which comes from consistent practice).

As demonstrated in this photo, the photographer was focused on making the photo and the retoucher was focused on making the finished photo look its best. This is the core truth of good photography. There is the artist that makes the image and there is the artist that makes the image look it's best.

Either artist—the photographer or the retoucher—can be skilled at their trade (in fact, they should have more than a novice-level understanding of both trades). However, when it comes down to doing it properly, there needs to be a respectful appreciation for the differences between the two. These differences are more clearly defined as the two artists become more experienced. Eventually, you just don't have the time to do both jobs.

This dynamic does not apply to everyone. However, when you need a plumber—and you don't have full-time plumbing experience—you should hire one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Strong Tea, Coffee and Retouching

Make strong pictures, not bitter ones
Credit: Art Explosion
This morning I brewed a cup of de-caffinated green tea. As usual, pour boiling water into a mug with the bag. As usual, I wait about 15 minutes while it steeps, remove the bag and place it in a bowl allocated for our worm composting bin. No big deal.

However, today, after putting the bag in the bowl, I saw a tea bag floating in my mug. What? I surely removed the thing. I opened the refrigerator to check the compost bowl. Confirmed: The tea bag was there. I took other teabag out of my mug and put it next to the second teabag in the bowl. I laughed at myself, realizing I just brewed a very strong—and bitter—cup of tea. I'm glad it was was de-caffinated!

When we are working on our photos—repairing damage or making them look more beautiful—we must be careful not to make too strong a brew. It's got to be just right: Not too little and not too much. The photo must look clean—but not indistinguishable from the original. With the exception of photo illustrations, one should always be on guard to this reality.

Good photo retouching leads to strong photos. Strong photo retouching can be bitter on the eye.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

50 Photoshop Speed Techniques at the PGSA Feb. 9, 2014


PGSA meetings and conferences are always informative

Learn useful shortcuts techniques and quick fixes using Adobe Photoshop Elements 9.0 and newer at the Polish Genealogical Society of America's meeting Sunday February 9, 2014. I'll be going fast, showing all kinds of useful shortcuts for using Adobe Photoshop Elements to color correct and restore your family photographs.

The meeting starts at 2 p.m. on Sunday. It will be held at the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America and Polish National Museum building at 984 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, IL.

This will be one of many talks sponsored by the PGSA over the years. The last time I taught for them was for my "Photo Restoration Do's and Don'ts" workshop in 2009. As always, it's a place to meet new and old faces...and have a few good laughs. I hope to see you there, as well as your support for genealogical societies such as the PGSA.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Photo Retoucher's Predictions for 2014

Credit: Art Explosion
Truly, the test of any decent photo retoucher is their ability to predict color reproduction on screen and in print. Usually we get it at least partially correct. There are many things we are good at when it comes to photos. Yet one may wonder: Are we good at anything else?

Certainly in 2014—if we are not good at anything else—we had better start getting handy at things other than retouching. 2013 was certainly a controversial and dreadful year for me. I'm glad it's over. So I'm looking forward to 2014. In fact, I have ten predictions about what may happen. So here's my attempt at some soothsaying (I'm available for hire!):

  1. Adobe Incorporated will decide to sell Photoshop licenses again. If you didn't know by now, the latest version of Adobe Photoshop is only available through a slick rental scheme.
  2. I still won't buy an iPhone.
  3. More United States-based photo retouchers will continue to leave the industry through layoffs and retouchers in Asia—and possibly Africa—will become  more and more competitive.
  4. The so-called Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) and the inevitable changes it will make to health care in the United States will turn public discontentment away from President Obama and toward the health insurance agency. A single-payer or "Medicare for All" road will a finally get widespread attention.
  5. Syrian President Asaad will leave power the same way taken by Libya's President Ghadafi.
  6. Printing on-demand in the United States will continue to grow. Printing in Asia will trend downwards, never to be as popular as it was ten years ago. 
  7. Storms unlike 2013 will ravage coastlines worldwide. Records will be broken in unprecedented numbers. 
  8. The first United States brick and mortar chain store will only accept payment through credit/debit card or mobile telephone. No cash.
  9. The first United States university will offer an undergraduate degree in genealogical research.
  10. I will finally beat Dragon's Lair in one sitting, without saving the game. But my son will probably do it first.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Quick Course Advanced: Ashes and Smoke



If you find this FREE quick course helpful please give it a "Like" or Thumbs Up rating. Also share this video with your friends and co-workers. Thanks!

In episode 17 of the Photo Retouching Quick Course, learn how to add ashes and smoke to a photo about the dangers of cigarette smoking. In this particular photo, the model is using an unlit cigarette next to a pregnant woman. Using source images of a burning cigarette and smoke, you can light the cigarette.

Watch the video to see it in action and try it yourself!

Thanks to Creatista for permission to use the picture. Buy it, or other images online at Dreamstime.

These tips are for the non-professional and folks with no or very little experience. Save the hassle of figuring it all out on your own: Get a solid foundation in Photoshop and photo restoration with the Photo Retouching and Restoration Foundations video and workbook. Available at online.

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