My blogging friend Susan Rushton, herself an excellent photographer, has suggested that I write a post explaining how I retouch old photographs.
This is the scan from the original 5 x 8 cm print from about 1927, featuring my maternal grandmother, my mother, and my Uncles Ben and Roy, on holiday at Conwy.
Let it be understood that I am far from an expert in the technical side of reproducing photographs digitally – rather a decided amateur who can just about get his head around what needs to be done. Imagine a flounder out of water.
Years ago, I battled with Photoshop gaining varying degrees of success. This has probably been vastly improved by now. I have also had a look at Lightroom which had me rapidly retreating into the dark ages when I was young enough to understand film photography and and you attached rangefinders and light meters to your non-automatic cameras. Our modern rapidly moving advertisements at the cinema or on TV contain more than enough stimuli to make me feel like Winnie the Pooh.
Fortunately the Photo section of my iMac has a built in editing facility, much of which I have never tried. I do occasionally lighten or darken my pictures, change the exposure, or crop the images, which is straightforward enough. You can do things like changing levels which I don’t understand. You can change colour cast, saturation, etc.; even change the colour altogether to black and white, or sepia; make it warm, cool, or dramatic. And so on.
When you bring up an image onto the screen, you will see a box marked Edit at top right.
Half way down you come to the Retouch option. Beneath that is a scale of size. Size? Size of what, I thought? Applying the little arrow directed by the mouse to points on the scale changes the arrow to a circle the size of which can be varied. It is that circle that needs, by sleight of mouse, to be applied to the affected area of the image.
In order further to explain the process, I have cropped Uncle Ben from the picture above. From this will be seen that the blemishes are somewhat enhanced. This makes them easier to work with but is rather more daunting. What we have here are almost imperceptible cracks in the glaze of the original print, hairs from goodness knows where, and little white spots. Carefully selecting the size of the circle for the area to be improved, we must place it over the blemishes. If they are small spots a click will suffice; if they are someone’s hair clippings or whiskers the circle must be delicately dragged along the wriggling course of the line being followed. It is important not to stray too far off line. This is because what we are doing is transferring pixels from the neighbouring area into the damaged section. If you look at Ben’s left knee there is one black spot to be removed. That would not be difficult. To the side of that is a white arc crossing a black area of shadow. When removing that I would be in trouble if I ran over the white of the knee, because that would bring a streak of knee pigment onto the shadow.
This is what I managed to do with my uncle. I took a break for a couple of hours before
returning to retouch the complete image with which I started.
Three days ago Jackie and Shelly spent the day helping Helen in her garden. My sister-in-law e-mailed me these images today. The ambulant bucket is pretending to be great nephew Max.
This wood pigeon, preening this evening before attempting a conquest, is never far away when we take drinks on the patio. Tonight he is tendered a touch of Compassion.
Nugget, of course, was in closer attendance.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s tasty beef, mushrooms, and peppers in red wine gravy; crisp roast potatoes, cauliflower and carrots; and tender runner beans with which I drank more of the Granacha Syrah. The Culinary Queen had drunk her Hoegaarden while seated in the patio.