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Photo Restoration Repairing damaged photos

Is it Art or just colouring in?

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  #1  
Old 08-16-2008, 05:17 AM
MadAsApples MadAsApples is offline
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Is it Art or just colouring in?

Hello all, excuse the thread title but I think it explains my predicament quite well. I'll explain but firstly, thank you to RetouchPro for the birthday wishes. If I'm honest I'd forgotten I'd subscribed but it has reminded me why I subscribed and that I had pushed it to the bottom of my To Do List because I'm stuck!

Over a year ago my Mother gave me a photograph and asked if I could "do anything with it". I'm a website designer so I use Photoshop every day but only a fraction of it's capabilities. The photograph is the only one of her that she likes. My sister had it and whilst it was stored in her garage along with a load of other photographs, it had got water damaged. I said I would have a go at restoring it but I think I've hit a bit of a crossroad.

A bit of history about the photograph:
My Mother was born in 1936 and raised in a small mill town in Yorkshire so not a lot going on there as you can imagine but the photographer who took the photograph was clearly ahead of his time as he hand painted this into colour. At my parents Golden Wedding Anniversary party recently they had some 'slides' that you looked at through 'binoculars' similar to the old Disney ones but the photographs were in 3D - it's very odd seeing your Grandparents stood in their parlour in 1955 in 3D. Taken by the same photographer, a Mr Steven Judge of Earby, Yorkshire (Earby is now in Lancashire - you can imagine that upset a few people!).

I took up the challenge of restoring it but after a few hours realised this wasn't just about a bit of cloning, despeckling or basic photoshop stuff. Mum mentioned that the dress she was wearing had a knitted neckline that you can still make out in the original but the water damage is prevalent. At this point, having searched numerous websites and threads about photo restoration techniques, I stumbled upon the RetouchPro website and saw the work of your members. I was blown away.

While I'm posting this thread I'm very mindful of Kraellin's post at http://www.retouchpro.com/forums/pho...ion-forum.html so please don't think I'm requesting free work. My dilema is this: -

At what point does the restoration process of photographs stop becoming the ability to use image manipulation tools and techniques and becomes artistic ability? I've seen countless restoration projects on this forum and of course the question for me is "how did they do that?". How much of the work is the knowledge of using Photoshop or Paintshop pro or whatever software tools and how much is pure artistic ability? I seem to find it impossible to see beyond what is in front of me and visualise what it would have looked like. Is this perhaps the key?

I have artistic ability but clearly focussed on my sphere of work. Ask me to draw a picture of anything without a PC and I'm screwed. A "New Age" artist perhaps.

I'd really like to know your thoughts on this. Is it Art or just colouring in? What do you see that I don't? Why can you do it and I can't?

Answers on a postcard please...

Iain

p.s. Apart from the fact it's my Mum, I love the porcelain quality and the wallpaper!

http://ukdevweb.co.uk/mum/mum-originalv2.jpg
http://ukdevweb.co.uk/mum/mum-working.jpg
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  #2  
Old 08-16-2008, 09:27 AM
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Swampy Swampy is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

Hi, Lain! Welcome to Retouch Pro!

First, please understand that I am not a "retoucher or restorer". I do not enjoy the tedious task of clone and heal etc. I often can understand _what_ needs to be corrected, but not always the _how_ to fix it.

I think this is where the fine line is between art and technical expertise. An artist would understand concepts like light and shadows, draping of fabric, muscular structure etc. The "technician" would know how to apply a shadow for example from the standpoint of dodge and burn, or painting with light or the application of a blend mode or how to mask the effect.

I think the best retouchers come from the artistic side and learn the technical skills to achieve the desired results.
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  #3  
Old 08-16-2008, 01:15 PM
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byRo byRo is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MadAsApples View Post
At what point does the restoration process of photographs stop becoming the ability to use image manipulation tools and techniques and becomes artistic ability?
(A long post and a deep question )

I came to this site some years ago not because I wanted to do Art but because I wanted to find out how PS "works". In fact, as I remember, my first posts were percentage and a formula!
Thanks to forum discussions and tutorial writing I now consider myself quite knowledgeable in all things PS.
However, if you take some time to read the threads you will discover some heated discussions provoked (yes, very provoked) coming from the folks known as "High-End". Although what is written there doesn't sound much like "advice" the underlying message I find very true.

It's not about tools and technique, it's about using your eyes and being your own worst critic. If you restore / retouch just by "blindly" applying some tools that you learned, the final product will reflect just that.

You need, of course, some basic knowledge of PS but more knowledge doesn't mean that you'll get better results.

Folks have done pretty amazing things with MS Paint! ...and what about the guy that uses just ball-point pens?

It's art, not tools.(sortta like Swampy said)

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  #4  
Old 08-22-2008, 05:35 AM
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Atom Kat Atom Kat is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

I have been a dirty lurker *wink* on Retouch Pro for a few years now. And although I don't post often, I have learnt a lot from the fantastic people here, that has helped me with my retouching and restoration work.

Programmes, tools and technique are wonderful things, but I have to agree that an artistic or perhaps simply an empathetic eye, is an important start to any photo-graphic work.

Often there is more then one way of achieving a desired result - and goodness knows that over the years I have learnt many lessons on how to do things quicker and more effectively then I had previously realised was possible, but without the right creative approach, the end result will always be lacking.

Restoration for example - this is where the empathy comes into play. I believe that a restorer needs to understand and feel for the image that they are working on. It helps to have a basic understanding of history and how the particular image should appear. And I personally prefer a gentle approach that leaves a picture looking as similar to how it was intended to look, without over doing colour or changing original details.

Retouching modern images can call for a more creative approach and here is where style and personal flair might come into play.

It all requires attention to detail and most of all a genuine care for the end result. Learning the tools comes second for me. But an important second all the same.

I guess it's like riding a bike. You can learn to ride a bike, but some people have better balance ... and others wear Lycra and have gears.
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  #5  
Old 08-24-2008, 03:27 PM
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Cupcake Cupcake is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

I think it is both.
I could not have done this without art.
http://img182.imageshack.us/img182/4854/mumtb6.jpg
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  #6  
Old 08-24-2008, 07:15 PM
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BagLady BagLady is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Swampy View Post
I think the best retouchers come from the artistic side and learn the technical skills to achieve the desired results.
Well said, Swampy!
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  #7  
Old 08-24-2008, 10:37 PM
zjbarber zjbarber is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

PhotoShop is a set of tools with masterery of the tool comes the tecnical side. Then the artist puts that life back in.
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  #8  
Old 08-28-2008, 06:46 AM
MadAsApples MadAsApples is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

Thank you to everyone who has replied so far. I guess I really knew the answer to my question but just needed to be sure. Like you say Swampy, I know what needs to be done, I just don't know how to but I realise from all your responses that even knowing the techniques won't enable me to achieve my desired result - I am not an artist. I don't understand concepts like light and shadows, draping of fabric, muscular structure etc. Looking at the work CupCake did I realise that I couldn't possibly achieve anything like this. As frustrating as it is to admit, I think it's fair to say that I could learn ever technique that PS or any other image manipulation package has to offer but only achieve (say) 90% of what could be achieved. It's the remaining 10% that's vital and I'm pretty sure I would be able to see this in my end result - I think zjbarber hit the nail on the head "putting the life back in". The most important part.

Thank you Swampy, byRo, Atom Kat, Cupcake (wow, I'm still speachless!), BagLady and zjbarber for your thought, time and input. It is very much appreciated.

Iain
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  #9  
Old 08-28-2008, 07:11 AM
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Verywierd Verywierd is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

I would not give up on yourself so easily. It is true that the true masters of any art or skill have that "something extra" that makes them special. On the other hand, how many true masters are there? (Not counting those who just call themselves masters, who are legion).

Much of what you mention as beyond you, are actually technical subjects which can be studied and learned. That's what art schools and art books are for. Start from the basics. Get a "Art for beginners" book. Get a sketch pad and a pencil. Any good book will teach the basic use of light and shadow. Similarly, get a beginner's book on drawing the nude human figure. Basic anatomy is always the first step they teach. Want to learn about skin tones, body shapes, fabric textures? Buy some women's magazines (or men's magazines if you prefer). Health and Fitness magazines are another good source. Body buildiers have hugely exaggerated musculatures and are easy to study. If you can find second hand mags, buy lots. Rip out all the fashion, make up and lingerie (or girlie/muscle man/woman) pages and stick them in a file.

The next time you try to retouch a photo, dig out all the above and compare. Where does the shadow fall under the chin? Where should that missing bit of collar go? Which way do eyelashes bend? You should be able to find answers to all these questions.

The real question is not how good an artist you are, but how much sweat you are willing to put into it. Kung Fu, literally translated, means "Hard Work".

I don't say that people will gasp in amazement at your work, but very often, in retouch and restoration, not having your work noticed at all is just as good.

Don't give up your day job, but don't give up either.
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  #10  
Old 08-29-2008, 04:05 AM
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Gary Richardson Gary Richardson is offline
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Re: Is it Art or just colouring in?

Well said Verywierd.

There's a deal of snobbery in the artistic world, and a belief which they like to propogate, that artistic ability is naturally acquired and cannot be learnt.

It's just not the case, and whilst not everyone who studies art will become an artist, there are a lot of people whose artistic ability has improved greatly from a little application and hard work.
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