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updated : sun 05 may 2002 5:30pm bst
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Notes on Retouching

No image is perfect. This is especially true when it's a unique photograph of a one-off event -- it'll be wonky, blurred, incorrectly exposed, and include thumbs and/or unwanted interlopers.

But now we have digital manipulation.

An ethical note: I think it's important to make it clear when an image has been manipulated in any substantial way. Since using Photodesk I've been paying much closer attention to photographs in newspapers and magazines, and it's quite clear that many are "massaged", sometimes in important ways. But the word "substantial" is subjective: many would say that level and colour adjustments are not substantial changes (they just emphasise information that is already present), but removing 'unwanted' objects certainly is. Even careful use of the cropping tool can be misleading; any photographer knows how careful framing can change the meaning of an image. I remember a series of TV ads for a newspaper that made use of this: an event was carefully framed and edited to make it look as if a black guy was mugging a white pensioner. Then we saw the same event from another angle: this time we saw the load falling off a crane towards the pensioner, who was fortunately pushed aside by our brave hero.

So be alert for the signs of manipulation. Inconsistent shadows are a giveaway (as in the infamous World Trade Centre "tourist guy" image), and lighting is always hard to get right when combining images.

Listed below are some examples of (innocent) retouching with Photodesk. It can be more difficult than it appears; some patience and experimentation is needed! Beware of over-processing -- use the opacity settings to adjust the strength of an effect. And remember that you can't bring out information that isn't there in the first place, so don't expect wonders from a blurred image.

Some general hints on retouching. Useful tools are cloning, the various types of blur available, gentle sharpening, smudging and smearing, and the airbrush. Blurring is useful for removing dust and scratches (as is the median filter special effect), but the best ones -- gaussian blur in particular -- are global effects and can't be tooled. Use the 'paint-through' method here: copy the image to a new layer, apply the effect to the whole image on the lower layer, and paint with transparency on the top image so the lower one shows through. This is far superior to blurring an entire image just to get rid a few dust particles.

removing blemishes >>>
adjusting brightness and colour >>>

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