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Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

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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.
    Learn by teaching
    Take responsibility for learning

  • #2
    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


    • #3
      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.
      Learn by teaching
      Take responsibility for learning


      • #4
        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


        • #5
          Eww! Another good argument for LI cotton gloves

          Great story
          Learn by teaching
          Take responsibility for learning


          • #6
            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....


            • #7

              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.



              • #8
                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?



                • #9
                  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.



                  • #10
                    What could be better? -- Mike
                    Not anything, Mike.


                    • #11
                      Re: Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

                      ok 73 pics to retouch... the same theme: Take out the male figure in them.

                      An ex wife came to me with this request... Can it be done?

                      -Sure... but if you don't want pictures with your ex on them, why don't you get ride of them?

                      and she told me: This pictures are a part of my life. He is not part of my life any more. I just want to look at my pictures and not have to see his ugly face.

                      Work done... the client is always right. Right?


                      • #12
                        Re: Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

                        Great stories!
                        Earlier this year, a young woman emailed me to ask if I could combine a couple of pictures into one portrait which she then wanted a Giclee print on artpaper done in digital oil. Of course, we do this all the time.

                        I received three photos: one of the young woman in a dress in an airport setting with her hand placed lightly on the shoulder of a little girl. One of the same woman seated, which was much clearer shot of her face and one of a young man sitting on a couch leaning forward. The photo of the man was taken inside and was just a poor photo; bad lighting, out of focus, etc. I asked the client if she had a better photo of the man. No, that was the only one. I got to work and combined the two photos of the gal, removed some of the child, cut in the young man and positioned him correctly so it looked as he was sitting next to the gal with her hand on his shoulder. I corrected the lighting and matched the colors of the images, took them into Painter which really helped blend the photos, put in a new background and viola! I was very happy with the outcome of the portrait. I upload the proofs for the client's review. The next day I received another email from Shelly. She told me she had started crying when she saw the portrait. The man in the photo had been her fiance. They had planned to have an engagement photo taken, however, before that happened, the young man had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Anyway, she said some very nice things in her email and approved the proof.

                        At the time, I was outsourcing my printing and when I received the print, the tube it was in, was crushed and the artwork was ruined. I emailed Shelly telling her what had happened and explained it would be a couple of more days. She told me not to worry and good things come to those who wait. Wow, what a spirit! I received another email from her when she received the artwork. It was very emotional; she told me I was her angel and she had never dreamed she would have such a beautiful memory of the love she had lost. Wow! We exchanged a couple of emails and in one she told me her mother-in-law was floored when she saw the painting and would very much like to have one. We discussed a discounted price for the dup, but then she emailed me and said her mother-in-law just couldn't afford it. All of the work was done and it really didn't cost me that much to send her mom a duplicate.




                        • #13
                          Re: Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

                          I don't know if I could tell this story without using names, but I'll try. Hopefully it will still be interesting. About ten years ago when both I and Photoshop were still new, I had a client come in asking for what seemed like an impossible retouch job. It was a photograph of a quite famous old man who appeared in many commercials touting toilet bowl cleaners (maybe you can guess who it was?). Anyway, the photo was of him sitting behind a desk and in front of him on the desk were all his products -- probably around 12 or so packages.

                          I was asked to "just remove the products." It took a while for me to explain to them that removing the products meant having to rebuild the subject's arms, which were folded across his chest. Their response was always, "Can't you just erase those boxes?"

                          Anyway, after many hours rebuilding the photo to make an empty desk with this man seated behind it with his arms folded, I finally got a decent outcome. They were thrilled.

                          After it was all over, I asked them, "Why didn't you just reshoot without the products?" Their answer was, "Because that crazy old man is so difficult to work with!"


                          • #14
                            Re: Anecdotes from your retouching jobs

                            Hi! all. This story is pre Photoshop...So me and a colleague were working in a lab. One old farmer came and then showed us an image of him and his twin brother when they were young in a farm. Creased, pleated, about the size of the carte-de-visite (calling card) alongside with the negative in an enveloppe. The problem was that he was standing in front of the camera, and his brother was standing back to the camera. The old man wanted us "to turn his brother the other way round". We asked him if he had another picture of his brother, he said he hasn't. We said that it could be tricky. He was shocked and told us "you are not professionnals, take the negative and turn it upside down". It was hard not to laugh. We tried to explain that it didn't work like that but at a moment the guy was so stubborn that my mate had an idea. She said we can do that but it will cost you some money...The guy mumbled, haggled, and eventually was OK with the price. I was looking at my colleage strangely as I didn't have the slightest idea of was she was about to do. Back to the lab, she took the negative, turned it over, copied it, cut off the two back portraits, printed the two identical guys, painted some differences in eyes and mouth on it...and voila. The guy recognised his brother and was very happy! He was right at the end, we had to turn the negative :-) I'm still laughing about that "joke".
                            Last edited by 4personnen; 10-19-2010, 04:18 AM.


                            • #15
                              Re: Anecdotes from your retouching jobs


                              That kind of reminds me of this

                              Which happened much closer to you than me!


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