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Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

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Old 06-28-2003, 05:35 AM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

It might be interesting for those of us who do retouching professionally to trade interesting anecdotes. Not necessarily "my weirdest retouching assignment" or "my hardest retouching job", although those would be fine. I'm really looking for "my most interesting retouching assignment" or "my most rewarding retouching job". Or just any other retouching job related anecdotes.

This wasn't my hardest or even my weirdest, but it was surprising. I got a request to take a badly faded and color-shifted candid portrait of a mother and child against a wall, and move them to a nice park setting. And oh yeah, he wanted me to take an enormous pacifier out of the baby's mouth and replace it with...well, a mouth.

Fixing the fading and the color was pretty straightforward, as was moving them to a park setting, but I was having a devil of a time finding a good mouth for the baby. I tried finding baby shots in roughly the same pose, that at least vaguely resembled the baby in question, and then tried compositing just their smile onto my pacifierless baby (I decided she must be smiling).

After trying several different smiles I got desperate and threw out all preconceived notions about pose, lighting, exposure, style, even gender and race. I finally came up with an excellent smile that really looked nice, except it was from a baby of opposite gender and obviously different race. It took some massive correcting, but I finally got the skintones to match.

I didn't tell the client where I got the smile, but they were delighted with their new image.
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Old 06-28-2003, 06:40 PM
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Trimoon Trimoon is offline
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Okay, Doug, I've got an interesting story. The year before last, I got a customer who brought in an old photograph of two children playing in the sand, and that's about all you could see (and that was faded). I scanned it in (using a DuoScan T200XL by Agfa, which I have to say has the best optics of any scanner I've ever used). This is a good example of how the machine sees what we don't. Once I got the image into PhotoShop, I noticed some detail that was not in the original. I adjusted the curves and a few other tweaks and an image started to appear. Standing over watching the two children were an elderly man and woman. You could tell that it was taken on a farm. Later I found it was a farm just south of Macon, Georgia. Back when this photo was taken, the photographers would travel around the countryside and take family portraits, scenes of country life, usually coming into an area about once a year. It would be like the circus coming to town. Everyone would dress up and have their pictures taken. I have some of my own family that were taken each year by a photographer out of Macon. Anyway, back to the photo. When I showed it to the woman, she started to cry and shouted that, if this was what she thought it was, it was the only pictures of her great, great, great grandparents. She left and I pretty much forgot about it for a couple of weeks. Later, she came in to the store and told me the whole story. The two children in the picture were her grandparents who lived next door to each other on a sharecropper farm. The kids would play each day together while the grandparents would watch them because they were too old and frail to work in the fields. Well, the two kids grew up together, went to school together, fell in love and got married. The elderly couple were born in the 1700s and there had never been any drawings or photographs of these two before I found them in this old, faded photograph. Steve
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Old 06-28-2003, 07:02 PM
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Doug Nelson Doug Nelson is offline
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That is a great story, and an excellent illustration of why I got into photo restoration to begin with.

Thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 07-06-2003, 08:24 AM
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thomasgeorge thomasgeorge is offline
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My most memorable experience involved a cat, a huge freestanding home entertainment center and a photo reproduction which exibited some rather noticable generational loss...
The Home entertainment center was a huge free standing thing which stood about 8 feet tall and had an approx. 1 foot dead space behind it. My customers cat jumped on top of the unit where the photo was resting in a frame, knocked the photo into the dead space and followed it into the "Black hole"....about 9 hours later the customer came home and rescued the cat and the photo, however in the intervening time the cat had alternately used the photo as a scratching pad and looked as though it had come out on the loosing end of a knife fight.
Besides the gouges from the cat and the broken cover glass, the cat poop had contributed to some...interesting...damage, as had the attempts of the customers Wife to repair the damage with various felt pens. Added to this fun mix was the problem that the original photo had been destroyed and this photo/biohazard was the only representation of his parents in existance....
Half a can of air freshener , a few muttered curses and a day later the job was done and the customers reaction was one of sincere amazement and joy. He claimed it was better than the "original"....I sort of doubt it but at least this one didnt have a certain noticable odor...Tom
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Old 07-06-2003, 04:23 PM
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Eww! Another good argument for LI cotton gloves

Great story
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Old 02-03-2004, 11:10 PM
flyswatter flyswatter is offline
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I work in a photo lab and do a lot of retouching for professional portrait and wedding photographers. My weirdest retouching request, which has been repeated several times, was to remove the penis from a baby boy standing in profile, naked in a washtub.

Even weirder, I had to remove the erect penis from a poodle which the owner was holding up around the ribcage, showing its belly. Things like that make me shake my head.

Why didn't the photographer catch these before hitting that button? Do they not even look at the subject? Ah well, more money for my boss....
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Old 02-04-2004, 08:12 AM
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ajcutler ajcutler is offline
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I think the most interesting restoration I did was a 1934 Wedding Certificate. The Client really valued this certificate, and wanted to have it restored to give to her Grandmother for Christmas. The certificate was significantly damaged with holes, tears, cracks, and a lot of tape stains, and presented quite a challenge.

It was my first document restoration, and instead of restoring faces and backgrounds that I had become accustomed to, I was restoring cursive handwriting, printed text, and flower designs on a wedding certificate.

The wedding certificate was also larger than my scanner could accommodate at 11.5" * 13.6", so I had to find a service to get it scanned, and it was too large for my venerable printer, so I had to locate a quality photo lab that could print it.

It all worked out very well, and the Client was thrilled and excited with the restoration. To see someone so happy over the work I did was also quite rewarding.

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Old 02-05-2004, 11:38 AM
Mike Mike is offline
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Why do we do this? Let me give you my answer.

Several years ago in pre Photoshop days, an older lady brought me a photograph a little smaller than a wallet sized print, it was worn thin, creased, folded and faded. "Can you make it a little bigger, maybe a little darker, and I do not care about the cost, its important to me" she said.

I could see it being a challenge and that’s what got me going. Pressed it out under a thick plate of glass with extra weights on it to make it flat and lay down the edges of the creases. Much fiddling around with the double polarized light helped a lot, some retouching of the negative, even more retouching of the work print, then finally another copy neg and the finished product, I was quite happy with it.

She came in, slid the print out of the envelope, took one look and fell into a chair, stared at the print and wept and wept. Well I was beside myself, I have had customers smile and laugh, had a few that got mad, but never one who just sat there and wept.

She was finally able to talk, and started telling me the story behind the photo. A distant relative had died and when they were going through his desk they found this photo. It showed a quiet yard, a large tree on the left, with a swing hanging down from a branch. To the right was part of an older house, wood, unpainted but with curtains in the windows. Peaking out from behind the house was the end of a barn. Looking out past the barn the land was flat forever.

She told me that she had been born in that house, and her Daddy made the swing for her. Her little brother had also been born in the house, and he was buried under that same tree. When the dust storms came to that part of Nebraska, her family finally lost the farm and her last memory of it was when they left. She was riding on top of what they had piled on the truck, and she watched her swing which at that time was just 2 ropes going down from a limb into a sand dune. She said that everyone was hot, dry and dusty, except for the mud on their cheeks.

They ended up in Washington state, she finished growing up, married, had kids, and finally was able to go back and look for the old farm. But it was all gone, now its in the middle of somebodies corn field. And I had brought back her childhood. I was about ready to start weeping myself.

I live in a smaller community, so its easy to kind of keep track of some one. She sent me a large number of customers, but finally one day it was all over. One of her kids now has that photograph, along with a large number of stories of Moms early days on the farm in Nebraska. It’s a treasured piece of their family history, and I had a hand in it.

What could be better?

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Old 02-05-2004, 02:01 PM
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Hard to read that story without shedding a tear or two. You are a very fortunate person Mike to have brought that much happiness to someone.

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Old 02-05-2004, 02:23 PM
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CJ Swartz CJ Swartz is offline
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What could be better? -- Mike
Not anything, Mike.
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