Here’s a look at the early tools photo retouchers used before Photoshop
posted Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 12:41 PM EST
As long as people have been taking photos, they've been tweaking, editing, and fixing them up. Long before Photoshop came along, dedicated photo retouchers were manipulating images — be it to fix flaws, or create interesting montages. But if you've ever wondered what it took to retouch images in this way, here's a glance at the tools and techniques that powered photo retouching in days gone by.
Over at CreativePro, Gene Gable has scanned a book called Short Cuts to Photo Retouching for Commercial Use. Released in 1946, it's a guide to the actual work required to retouch photos, and an awful lot of it involves the judicious use of paint. Written by Raymond Wardell, the book covers everything from how to crop to how to smartly use highlighting and shadows to make images stand out.
Many of Wardell's examples would be considered having gone much too far in the editing process for modern audiences. For instance, he completely paints over some images to create massively increased contrast, removes huge parts of photographs, and in one case even repaints a daytime image to turn it into one that takes place at night.
While it's doubtful that the tools and techniques that Wardell espouses would be of much use to a modern photographer or editor, it's an intriguing look at the origins of what has become such a high-tech craft.
You can see many more of the images from the book over at the CreativePro link, including some advice that does stand the test of time — keeping an eye on how long each task takes you so know how to accurately estimate and invoice. Another evergreeen tip: knowing your limits for how much work to take on at a time. These are things that every freelance worker knows well these days.