In the age of Photoshop, it is not an uncommon thing to doubt any picture that presents itself. It seems to take so little to change something. But, while it might not be as instantaneous, just about anything one can do with a photo editor was once – and sometimes still is – used with film, too. Hardly a print comes from my darkroom that I do not retouch with my handy spot-toning inks to get rid of dust specks and distracting highlights. Likewise, I add highlights, remove phone wires and bits of dark distractions with a little bleach. Cropping is a must if I want to fit the image into a particular paper size. I make things darker here and lighter there, or make things disappear completely, all by manipulating how much light reaches the paper while I’m printing. With a little plastic wrap, I can make a sunny day into a foggy one. That’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to all the lovely ways pre-digital commercial photographers routinely “improved” upon the prints on their desks! Check out these tricks from a manual published in 1946.
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