Digital or analog workflow for retouching?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Scott W, Sep 14, 2008.

  1. Scott W

    Scott W Guest

    In the “crop ideas” thread Ken made a comment that

    “And that "cloning" would be done with a '000' brush and Spotone.
    after all, cloning is something that you do when you don't have the
    skill to
    do retouching with a brush. “

    Rather then hijack that thread I though a new one was in order, note
    this is not a digital camera vs. film camera topic because film
    shooting has been open to a digital workflow for a very long time,
    predating modern digital cameras. Getting drum scans of MF negatives
    was pretty much the norm for doing ad work for quit some time.

    For myself retouching either a print or negative by brush seems like
    not only a waste of time but destined to give poor results then doing
    the same operation in PhotoShop, or other photo-editing program.

    I am curious as to how many people are still doing fairly major
    retouching with a brush on either a negative or a print, how many
    people do retouching in the digital domain and how many don’t do any
    re-touching at all?

    For myself I don’t retouch many photos, but I don’t overly worry about
    removing a distraction from the photo. For photos that are going to
    be published (I do very few of these) I don’t retouch at all.

    One nice thing about retouching using a digital workflow is that you
    have the original to go back to, so if your aesthetics change over
    time you can re-edit.

    I will give an example of a photo I did decide to do some work on,
    first the after photo.

    A forensics expert in photography would have no problem finding the
    areas that were edited, but you really need to look for them to find

    And here is what the photo looked like before removing a few elements,
    like a few people and power lines.

    I am sure there are people who could do a great job of doing the same
    thing, but working on the print, before digital this kind of thing was
    done all the time. The question is would it look any better at all
    using a brush and dye?

    Scott W, Sep 14, 2008
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  2. Scott W

    Noons Guest

    Scott W wrote,on my timestamp of 14/09/2008 3:30 PM:
    Doubt this type of extensive elimination of parts of a photo
    took place all the time back in the pre-digital days.

    Yes, power lines were regularly taken out. But people or groups
    of people as central elements were rarely taken out.

    The difficulty in all this, is to draw a line in the sand to
    claim somethings are "retouching", while others are "altering"
    or "tampering".

    In the old days I did see removing of parts of people, like
    half-bodies coming out of arch or doorways, or arms or legs
    dangling off the edge of a photo, mostly by cropping.
    But removal of central image components, that was rarely
    if ever done.

    Note: I am NOT criticizing the doing of such, just stating
    what I saw!

    Is it still done? I doubt a lot of folks still do a
    lot of "paint" editing. Digital editing? Almost every
    photo one sees nowadays has had some digital modification.

    Painting is hard to do on a negative, requires a special
    mind set to see things in reverse and if the processing is via
    scan/digital, it will be very visible and require further editing
    in digital anyway.

    Still: quite a few use enlargers and chemical printing. For those,
    yes this will be used, although I guess more to correct casts,
    power lines, flaws in the grain, bid ugly dust spots, scratches,
    that sort of thing.

    For those who, like me, use a mixed workflow where the
    film/developer takes the place of the sensor and initial raw
    and the rest of the workflow is scan/digital processing/digital
    printing, editing software like GIMP or PS Elements or CS2 and
    other such, are the primary tools for retouching.

    I do use GIMP to clone out imperfections of the negative after the
    first scan: dust spots, marks, scratches, that sort of thing. I do
    not like to clone out power lines, parts of bodies and other such.
    But if absolutely needed and there is no other way I can get
    that shot again - I can't exactly walk up to council and ask
    them to take down lines! - then I'll do it.

    Handful of those so far: like I said, don't like to do it.
    That, to me, is "altering". Not retouching.

    More traditional post-processing like cropping/enlarging/colour
    adjusting is all digital for me as well. Sometimes I do it during
    the scan, others after. Depends.

    I guess the best way I can describe where I "draw the line" is this:
    if I am removing something that was added by the film processing
    workflow such as scratches, kinks, imperfections of grain, grain
    itself, dust spots or marks, colour casts due to development
    imbalance or wrong WB, out of focus due to a-d aliasing and
    so on, then it's retouching.

    If on the other hand I am changing the actual contents of the photo
    itself, the original image as I saw it and as it was, by adding or
    removing elements, then I am "altering". I do it only as a last
    resort and even then only to remove elements that can't be
    corrected with a re-shoot, such as power lines, poles, etc.
    Body parts and such I prefer to take out with cropping rather
    than cloning. If it ain't working, then I re-shoot rather than
    do any more tampering: scratch it off as "learning experience".

    But yes: the retouching workflow is digital for me. And I do a lot
    of additional post-processing for other things like grain reduction
    and sharpening. Nothing wrong with that, imho: so do most dig
    cameras and their firmware.

    Having said that, I have nothing against folks who alter their
    photos. I do however strongly object to the result still being
    called a photo: to me it becomes an image. Nothing wrong with
    that either. But if the altering is not disclosed and the result
    is still called a photo, then I voice my disagreement.
    Noons, Sep 14, 2008
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  3. Scott W

    Scott W Guest

    The time I find I need to clone people out the most is when I am
    taking canoe club group photos, on a fairly crowed beach and there is
    no way to avoid a person to two getting into the image. Are these
    photos or are they images, I don’t care what they are called, photos
    or images, I let the people who get them decide what to call them.
    Thankfully I only have a few of these photos to do each year.

    I am beginning to work with taking the same shot a number of times and
    using the parts from each that don’t have the extra people in them.
    Doing this I don’t have to make up the background where a unwanted
    person is, this is not much different then what has been done for
    years, using a ND filter and doing a very long exposure, running
    several minutes.

    For my scanned images it is almost all about removing dust and
    scratches, if ever I get a new scanner it is going to have ICE.

    Scott W, Sep 14, 2008
  4. Scott W

    Noons Guest

    Scott W wrote,on my timestamp of 14/09/2008 11:20 PM:
    Exactly. Nothing wrong with images. If that's what
    folks want.

    But why always take out the people? Unless of course you're
    doing product ad shots.
    Noons, Sep 15, 2008
  5. Scott W

    Scott W Guest

    If the shot is just for me then a few people in the shot often adds to
    it and I am happy they are in the shot. But if the shot is for others
    then I feel I need to make the best shot I can. In the case of the
    group photos, these are awards out club gives out to the winning clubs
    in the regatta we put on each year. In these photos I want as little
    distracting from the group as possible. They are often in a hurry to
    get the photo taken, there are races all day so they have to get back
    to those. The result is that I am shooting a bunch of people with far
    less time then I would like to have and I can't wait for the perfect
    time to click the shutter.

    Taking 5 minutes to clone out a couple of people really helps the look
    of the final photo, which is put in a fancy frame and made to look
    very nice.

    I really don't like taking that kind of photo very much, but I get
    ropped into doing it once a year.

    Now when am sending photos to the local paper to be published I never
    would think to clone out anything, that is a very different thing
    indeed. For those photos I will crop, straighten and adjust levels
    and that is it. In a lot of ways these are a lot easier photos to
    deal with.

    Scott W, Sep 15, 2008
  6. Scott W

    Noons Guest

    Scott W wrote,on my timestamp of 15/09/2008 11:07 PM:
    Yup: that all seems fair use, to me!
    Noons, Sep 15, 2008
  7. Scott W

    Scott W Guest

    It is just that kind of careful photo analysis that found proof of
    WMDs in Iraq from the satellite photos.

    Scott W, Sep 15, 2008
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