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Retouching / Restoring vs. Recreating

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  • Retouching / Restoring vs. Recreating

    I have noticed a trend on this site where some retouchers/restorers like to recreate missing information in a damaged photo. I thought I would start a thread to hear the members' thoughts on this subject.

    Personally, beyond cloning a few objects, I like to leave the photograph as close to the original as possible, rather than including things that aren't there. If it were my photograph, I wouldn't want extra information included that wasn't there to start with (i.e. you add an extra object like an extra building or different building). If I were to recreate something, say like a medal on a uniform, I would extinsively research before doing it. That is just my style, everyone is different.

    I guess it is really up to the client, but without client input, how far do you go? What are your thoughts on the subject? Include examples if you wish.

  • #2
    This is strictly *my* opinion. Although I don't have a business, I think it would be wrong to do anything at all like that on your own. If something needs to be done to make the photo realistic, this should all be agreed on with the client before making any manipulations. An example might be an image of a person standing between two columns of some sort. One of the columns is partly missing, but it can be replaced by using the other column. This type of thing should be discussed before any work begins, and in all likelihood, it would be common practice to do so. Just my thoughts on this. Artistic license should not be used.



    • #3
      Interesting topic, thank you for starting it.

      My personal opinion is that an image should be made to as close to the original as possible for it to be considered a true restoration.

      But, although I'm a restorer, I actually do very few "true" restorations at all. My work includes things like enhancement, manipulation and retouching. Many times a client will come in asking to have a photo restored, when what they actually want is to have it manipulated and improved.

      I think it should always be up to the client as to what they want done. I've had people ask to have things/people removed, added, re-arranged, modified, etc. You name it, someone will want it done. I've even had people ask me to do a little plastic surgery on Aunt Jane's schnozzola while I'm at it... I wouldn't call that a restoration, though.

      As far as what's done here on RP, I think that most things are fair game. Doug often posts specifics on the challenges, but when he isn't looking for something in particular, I think people feel pretty free to do whatever they choose to do and practice whatever technique they feel they need to work on.

      One thing that's a kind of tough area for me is replacing damaged original elements with similar elements borrowed from other images. Although I personally think it is a corruption of the photograph, it's part of the service I offer. I do it with clients, because the ones I've done it for don't care what I do to fix it as long as it's fixed. They aren't interested in the historical accuracy. They want a nice picture that's not damaged. Some images are so damaged that rebuilding just isn't even an option. The only fix is to paste something over the damage. When faced with a choice between leaving part of the image damaged, or creating something to cover it up, again, a majority of clients just want it fixed.

      An example is replacing severely damaged clothing with similar garments borrowed from other photos. This is a less expensive option for clients than having me tediously rebuild from what little is left in their photo. When presented with a choice between $60-$75 with borrowed elements, or $150+ to try and rebuild, most of the clients I've dealt with have chosen the least expensive option.

      I basically go with whatever the client asks for, and offer options to try and keep the cost within their budget...


      • #4

        The above restoration challenge had this particular thing in it. Many people including myself went the route of cloning the other post to include detail that was lost at the bottom of the right post. I don't think this is unreasonable in an assignment. That is a good example of cloning I find acceptable in keeping the photo as true to the original as possible. Many people like to include additional things in the background, and I don't find anything wrong with that, it is always up to the client if you are in business, of course.

        Here is something to think about, though... I was watching a television show about Urban Legend and they were talking about how most Urban Legends start off very innocently, and they become modified through the years - In this day and age with digital technology accessible to everyone, there is a large potential for people to rewrite history. Imagine you place an object or a person in a photo that wasn't really there to begin with... and someone a hundred years from know has the photo without knowing it was modified. That could really mess up someone's genealogy project ! just food for thought.


        • #5
          Hey Jak, I guess we were busy typing at the same time so I didn't see your post.

          I wasn't necessarily refering to RP or saying that borrowing elements is wrong. Obviously, much of what we do here vs. what we do with clients is completely different. I am more or less interested in what people like to do in these situations - like your comments. I think it is interesting seeing how everyone has their own style which you see repeated throughout each of their submissions, be it gallery or challenge.

          Some people are very conservative with everything they do, others add and subtract things at will, having fun. I wonder what kind of atmosphere it would be if the challenges were done for a prize or there were actual winners. (It would probably be frightening, even as nice as everyone is here).


          • #6
            I personally like the older photos to keep that "old" look, and just fix the scratches etc., unless the client requests otherwise. I even like the lack of contrast.
            I would never take it upon myself to change anything without first consulting with the client. Even down to the smallest blemish, all aspects should be discussed. As an example, I once had a friend ask me to fix her photo that has some scratches and dirt. When she saw the final photo, she was surprised that I had removed a mole! As good of friends as we were, I had never noticed the mole, which was usually covered up by her glasses. Now, I think that is a rather extreme case, but it did happen, and I did learn a lesson, although I doubt if one could cover every mole. Instead I think it's wise to ask about areas that could be doubtful (such as a face).
            I've probably mentioned it a time or two in these threads, but I don't care to see "artistic" touches, mostly because I think that sometimes it is really just a lack of skill or inexperience (which we have all been through). I still wince at some of my earlier work, but I think one should always look back, if nothing more that to show yourself how far you've come, and to remind yourself that there is always room to grow.


            • #7
              When doing work for clients, I tend to be very careful about doing much more than a "clean up", tone and possibly color adjustment.( The challenges I view as fun and a chance to experiment). Taking the "Frankenpicture" approach and grafting parts from one photo into another while pasting in parts from a third one and so on, can leave you with not a restoration but an idealized personal representation of how you think something should look...rather than how it actually did, which can cause all kinds of problems. In another thread I mentioned an example of a client who came to me with an old photo of a of the first John Deere motorized ones in this had been restored by another person, who did a very good job...except for pasting the front end and lettering of a Ford tractor over the damaged area of the it wasnt done with malice, just a case of the person loosing sight of what restoration keep the original content and clean it up...not create a very nice looking, but horribly inaccurate manipulation. Tom


              • #8

                Interesting point about changing history and urban legends and such. I was actually thinking about that today and wondering what kind of implications it has for the future. I wish I'd seen that TV show, it sounds interesting.

                One thing I do is attach a sticker to the back of my prints indicating that the print was restored/manipulated and by whom. I'm not sure how much good this actually does though, since I also supply the manipulated image to the client on CD for future printing.


                • #9
                  Good story Tom.
                  It's something to remember, especially if we need to replace clothing, which is period specific.

                  Re: changing history (small scale). Well, I've already done that for a few people, and didn't have any second thoughts about doing it. Mostly, removing people from a scene. I don't really see the harm in that, as we're not talking about world history.


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