Happy Birthday, Photoshop! (part 1)


Photoshop – the image editing program used by professional photographers, retouchers, and graphic artists – turned 20 last month. And what an impact it’s made not only to the photo and grapic arts, but to our culture in general. So popular that its very name has been co-opted into a verb meaning to retouch or alter (”Yes, I’m pretty sure that photo of Elvis and the alien was Photoshopped.”). Beyond the use of Photoshop to create images that bear faint resemblence to the original, what uses DOES Photoshop have for today’s photographic industry, and how has it changed the business?

1. Removing unwanted dust and other particles. Even in the days of straightforward film capture, ‘dirty’ photos were an issue. Dust lodges on (and sometimes, in) the camera lens and become part of the photograph. Dust might stick to the processed film and become part of the print or scan. Traditional retouches could remove most of these spots, and it’s still one of the first things a digital retoucher does to the capture in Photoshop.

2. Correcting product color. The physics behind color alteration during image capture is a topic for its own post (or three). Again, traditional retouchers corrected color on film; Photoshop does the same job in the computer and often better. (see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs to see just how much color can alter in a product).

3. Enhancing or diminishing attributes. Both the photographer and retoucher create a good photographic compositions using a variety of techniques. The photography may use a number of lighting techniques, selective focus, or various camera lenses.The retoucher may enhance an object’s color, lighten or darken areas to attract or lessen attention to an object. Photoshop now allows the digital retoucher to emmulate some of the same techniques the photographer uses on the studio floor, plus use enhancements only available via the computer.

4. Repairing accidents. Every photography studio has had its share of photographs with mistakes in them. Lightstands left in the image area, drawer handles flipped up, unwanted objects reflected in a mirror. The mistakes usually weren’t noticed until the film came back – and hopefully the set had not been ripped because instances like these could not traditionally be retouched out. Photoshop gave digital retouchers the ability to repair these mistakes in the computer.

5. Repairing Really BIG Accidents. The sort of accidents that happen en route to the studio such as scratches and chips in the item’s finish. Or productions mishaps like seams not being sewn straight or evenly.

But now we’re beginning to venture into the “Real, But Not-Real” side of Photoshop…..and that’s a blog topic on its own!

Before Color Correction

Before Color Correction

After Color Correction

After Color Correction

The spread in the original image had an incorrect pink tone. Digitally adjusting the color brought it back to its correct more neutral brown undertone.

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