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Chris Barker

Family Photos Timeline

Victorian Family Group Photo

‘Family Photos Now and Then.’

Once upon a time, many years ago in a provincial bus station where people would wait for a National Express coach to Sunderland (other destinations were/are available), there inevitably existed a photobooth. Located somewhere in a draughty corner, close to the tobacconists booth. Booths were very big back then you see; despite being physically very small. Yet few things were more compact than your average photobooth. Even portaloos were more accomodating. But what you couldn’t get in a portaloo was a reel of 4 or 5 snapshots focusing explicitly on the top of your head, set against a non-descript red curtain. Or a blindingly light white backdrop, if you wished to look like someone who was having an ‘out of body’ experience at the time of photographic reckoning.

If you were one of the fortunate ones, the top of your head wouldn’t be blurry. Which meant that the adjustable stool you perched on in the photobooth (which supposedly could realign to take into account your individual height when seated; and which you lined up with eyes in the camera-secreting mirror) obviously hadn’t slipped at the crucial moment of the irreversible pre-photo countdown. Of course, none of the applied techniques or timing accuracy mattered a jot, as your new passport photo was pre-destined to make you look like one of those people you’d regularly see depicted on a photofit during the BBC’s Crimewatch programme at best. That was a given. Or worse still, a local drugs overlord, caught in the act.

Going Back to the Family Photos Future. Only Without a DeLorean. And a Rapidly Fading Pic

But we’re reminiscing even further back than that in this latest DT blog, as we pictorially recap how family photos as we know them today, actually came to be. Be invented, basically. Or as a more snappy title, ‘Family Photos Timeline’.

Our whistlestop visual tour of ‘what was, very much is and what could be in the future’ of family photos, takes in the original art portraits of the Victorian era, sepia-esque captures of very stern-expressioned folk standing awkwardly in front of their fireplaces, 80s Polaroids, the abovementioned photobooths, the advent of the digital camera and today’s state-of-the-art, pixel-laden smartphones. Thankfully you’ll be pleased to learn that we’ve swerved any memories of our dads’ overhead projector slideshows, which he traditionally ‘treated’ us to as a means of oversharing your summer holiday family photos each year if you were a child of the 70s.

Cue a collective sigh of relief all round.

1980's Polaroid Family Photograph

Tell Me; Where Did It All Begin?

So, right about now you’ll probably be asking where it all began? The ‘it’ being family photos. Or rather, what came to bear as the family photos we know and love today. Well let us put you in the picture. Portrait photography as such (that’s pretty much the genesis of family photos) has been around over 175 years now, during which passage of time constant evolution has ensured that what we see today is as realistic as the subject matter themselves. Yes, even the uncle nobody likes to talk about can appear as though they are in the flesh at Christmas. With visually-added creepiness, courtesy of the quality of HD and mega pixels available to us amateur lensmeisters.

But our even more distant relatives didn’t always have it that good. Far from it, in fact, as pre-the invention of photography as we recognise it, the only viable means to capturing the likeness of your nearest and dearest was to employ the services of Gainsborough and Holbein. The great portrait painters of their day. And not only did they cost a fortune to hire, if they accidently messed up their watercolour representation of your loved one, there was fat chance it could be retouched by an image editor. Because they hadn’t yet been invented neither.

Thankfully just in the nick of time along came HRH Queen Vicky, the 1850s and the photographic revolution. Which was similar to the more famous industrial one, only with less stove hats and canals. Legend has it that Victoria Monarchy and her consort embraced the new photographic tech with the sort of enthusiasm today’s youngsters have for Snapchat. Notably every regal coming and going was commited to photographic print.

Queen Victoria's Love of Early Photography

Essentially, Queen V was a geek.

Family Photos Were Invented by Greek Philosophers, Weren’t They? I knew it….

However actual photography was kinda invented (in a fashion. Or at least, in principle) a very long time before the Victorians got in on the act. As far back as the 5th Century, for all you budding historians out there (please see below). With both the Greeks and Chinese claiming bragging rights from the outset (origins of which have been subsequently substantiated).

Naturally the first time most of us would come across the existence of family photos began and ended with the systematic archiving process, by way of sticking individual examples in a leather-bound album under the watchful eye of a parental figure. And which at some later point in our formative years be ceremoniously dragged out whenever we introduced a new girl/boyfriend to our parents.

The Who, What, When, Where, Which and Why of Family Photos History

5th Century BC – Both Greek philosophers and Chinese explain the fundamentals of optics and the camera. Albeit in theory

4th Century BC – Greeks go one better, as Aristotle describes pinhole image formation in his work. Greece 1 – China 0

1021 AD – An Iraqi scientist called Alhazen invents the camera obscura, which he cites in his book of optics. Not sure if it made the Amazon bestseller book list or not

1664 – 1672 – Then there was a bit of a gap before Isaac Newton (yeah, apple, tree, etc) discovered that white light is composed from different colours. By refracting said light off a prism

1685 – Bloke going by the name of Johann Zahn invented the box form of a camera. Or rather, he had a vision of a compact, portable unit, which was then another 150 years in the making as he/the world waited for the appropriate technology to arrive

1837 – Another short break in photography invention, before Frenchman, Joseph Nicephore Niepce (who had previously invented a wood camera equipped with a microscopic lens, as well as a Heliograph), collaborated with Louis Daguerre. Who history recalls fondly as the man who invented the first practical photographic process. And which was widely used in portraiture until the mid 1850s

Retro Photobooth Passport Photos

1839 – Fox Talbot (chap, not animal) presented his ‘negative’ images (which had to be printed via a similar process to produce the final ‘positive’) to the Royal Institution and the Royal Society. Revolutionary as a number of positive prints can be crafted from a single negative, and hence the gasps drawn from the assembled throng

1841 – Daguerre is now getting up to speed with his one-off photographs, produced on a silvered copper plate and patented, ‘Daguerreotypes’. Costing 1 guinea a pop, put them beyond the financial clout of only the most elite families. From mid-1850s onwards, they were usurped by cheaper photographic formats. Naming no names, but we’re referring to the 1852-borne ambrotypes (collodion positives). Which proved very popular at 1 shilling a throw, and remained in circulation until around 1890

1860s onwards – Card-mounted prints emerged as the next big thing in family photos terms, and ushered in the dawn of the ‘cartomania’ phenomenon. On the back of these aesthetically-considered pieces, the very first purpose-designed photograph albums came into being in the early 1860s

1861 – Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell produced the first colour photograph

1870s – The invention of tintypes, or ferrotypes (a photographic image struck directly onto an iron plate), afforded many more ordinary people the opportunity to buy into the family photos boom. Costing the equivalent of just a few pence, this process favoured images which witnessed Victorians at play. Primarily outdoor scenes, including bathing and fairgrounds.

1884 – The Leitz Camera company of Germany, gave the world of family photos the Leica. A name which is still to this very day synonymous with visual quality

1888 – Kodak invented its first camera, and the rest is family photos history. Well, not quite. Dreamed up and marketed by former New york bank clerk, George Eastman, this simple box camera came pre-loaded with 100-exposure roll of celluloid-based film. Which was an absolute game-changer. Once the roll was finished, the camera in its entirity was sent back to the factory, reloaded and returned to the customer whilst the roll was being developed. And still days before Boots….

1923 – Photobooth invented by Anatol Josepho, with first curtain-installed version springing up on Broadway street two years later. 25 cents was exchanged for 8 printed photos, in the aftermath of a development process which lasted 10 minutes. Some 280,000 people gave it a whirl in the first 6 months, and were (inadvertently) responsible for the world’s first selfies. And as a tragic by-product, Kim Kardashian and co….

Isaac Newton's Principle of Photography Invention

1948 – The Polaroid Model 95 was launched. The world’s first viable instant-picture camera. The Model 95 used a patented chemical process to produce finished positive prints from the exposed negatives in sub-one minute times. If you shook it frantically, even quicker

1975 – Kodak continue to get its game face on, and courtesy of engineer, Steven Sasson, they invent the world’s first digital camera

1980s – Polaroid launched Polaroid 635 Supercolor instant camera. Characterised by rainbow stripe on front and massive flash box on top. And the fact that it allowed you to capture incriminating evidence of your fashion faux pas during your last summer holiday

1990 – Hello family photo retouching! Yup, Adobe create Photoshop 1.0. The image manipulator’s image manipulation programme bar none, and still as relevent today as it was back then

1992 – Tim Berners-Lee drops his WWW bombshell (after developing required software and protocol), which allows image retouchers to go into business

2007 – Apple employee, Steve Jobs invents the iPhone. Which included an in-built camera function. Complete with intuitive downloading and sharing tools. Portrayed a few years later by Ashton Kutcher (every silver lining, etc)….

2016 – iPhone 7 introduces latest smartphone camera technology. A camera which packs a 6 element lens and a 12-megapixel sensor, no less

Footnote: Retro photobooth-generated photos are seeing something of a rennaisance amongst the wedding photo fraternity in recent years, as a nostalgic tip to yesteryear.

A – Z of Photo Retouching Terms

Digital Artists

Some you may be familiar with, others you may not be.

If it’s the latter, then prepare your brain to embrace seeming gobbledygook and peculiar words which sound as purely fictitious as superkalafragalisticexpicalidocious. Bear with us on this though, as we’re duty-bound to make some semblence of meaning out for it for you. And explain in Layman’s Terms just what, for example, a ‘clone tool‘ is all about in the digital photo editing sphere. Which we can assure you has nothing to do with a sheep going by the name of ‘Dolly’.

While side-stepping the risk of appearing a bit too ‘early learning’, we nonetheless feel that it’s important to share with you the fundamental terminology spoken of in the image retouching industry. And much closer to home; DT Towers. And what better way of finding out ‘what’s what‘ and indeed, ‘which is which‘, than by familiarizing ourselves with a rudimentary A – Z.

Where we glossary over some of the most frequented terms, phrases, parlance and accepted vernacular that will crop up in many of our future blogs. If you’ll excuse the pun. The pun being the word ‘Crop‘ for those already in possession of a smattering of entry-level knowledge in the digital photo enhancement practices field.

Jargon-busting Words Commonly Used in Association with Image Manipulation

We believe our jargon-busting A – Z guide to digital photo retouching protocols and principles (many of which you know you know, but you don’t actually, you KNOW know) will prove indispensable. Hopefully. If not, it should qualify as a fortitous SEO exercise on our part.

So, short of letting trade secrets slip, what follows beneath is 26 key phrases and casual banter which – apart from ranking high up in search engine algorhythms – are frequently bandied about in our world. Yet to the casual observer might sound like unadulterated gibberish, balderdash, poppycock and/or piffle (delete as per your generation).

The All-important Letters

A is for ‘Aspect Ratio’. But it could just have easily been for ‘amendments‘ on a different day. Re: images, aspect ratio describes the proportional representation which captures its width versus its height. Or to put it another way. Should your photo be 600 x 400, then its aspect ratio would be 3:2. Based on the math which states that the long side is 1.5 times the shorter side. Yeah, you knew you should have paid closer attention in arithmetic class at school right about now.

B is for ‘Blending Tools’. Well, it was. Before we instead opted for the far more exotic word, ‘Bokeh’. Pronounced, ‘Bow-kay’, the word is derived from the Japanese word, ‘boke‘. Which translated means blur or haze. Used a lot in portrait photography to ensure that the main subject matter in the foreground remains resolutely in sharp focus (while the background is appropriately blurred), essentially it’s that beautiful, fairy-light effect you get when out-of-focus parts of an image create a pleasing blur.

C is for ‘Clone Tool’. We could have plumped for a cornucopia of alternative C words, ranging from clipped, contrast and clarity, to converting or cropped. But we settled on ‘clone tool’ because it sounds futuristic-ish. And is easier to explain. Basically it’s a tool found on a graphics program which allows photo retouching artists to replace one part of an image with another. Elsewhere it might be known as a rubber stamp or clone brush. Within image editing software, the clone tool works by using texture synthesis to fill in gaps in an image, and is primarily sanctioned to erase imperfections in photos. Think blemishes on skin. The clone tool initially identifies and subsequently crops a part of an image that is then be used to pictorially usurp the undesirable parts. For instance, the abovementioned skin blemish can be eliminated by the clone tool by way of being replaced by an unblemished part of the person’s skin.

D is for ‘Dodge and Burn’. Mercifully NOT a duo of happy hardcore DJs from the early 1990s, but more a photo editing technique which centres on the process of lightening and darkening small, specific portions of a particular image. Best illustrated by the way the intensity of human wrinkles can be manipulated, courtesy of lightening shadows found beneath the eyes. Dodging and burning can create dramatic ‘before and after’ results by adjusting light and dark areas which don’t compromise overall texture.

E is for ‘Exposure’. You know when a photo turns out too bright and you get in touch with a reputable image retouching company like ours to make everything look better again? Yeah, well that’s called overexposure. Conversely, if your pic is too dark (and again you ping over your image to us), it’s called underexposure. Ergo ‘exposure’ is how light or dark an image appears in the aftermath of capturing it with your camera.

F is for ‘Fill Light’. Who despite sounding like a character from Eastenders, is in fact a bona fide image editing software tool which is used to minimise the contrast of a scene, and therein provide some illumination for areas of a photo which could otherwise be in the shadow when originally captured at source. That said, it might have referred to family photo editing were we seeking out keyword density. Which is the retouching of family photos which have been sent to us. And typically where we’re briefed to correct a certain part(s) of the image, via colour ammending, object removal, etc.

G is for ‘Great Reviews/Recommendations’. Which is something we’ve grown accustomed to being on the receiving end of for a long time now. The ‘something’ being the quality of our craftsmanship (or more pertinantly, craftswomanship when we’re waxing lyrical about our Senior Retoucher and Founder, Jilly J).

H is for ‘Highlights’ or ‘Histogram’. Highlights are the lightest of colours and tones that we pick up from an image (please see below for ‘Image’ definition), and nothing to do with blonde colour strands interwoven into hairstyles. While in photo editing terms, ‘histograms’ are far more interesting and unusual, as they are normally graphs which display all the tones in an image (still refer to below). With tones tending to range from 0 – 255, with – viewing from left to right – starting with black (and shadows), mid-tones in the middle, and culminating in white (and highlights) on the right. Each distinct tone in roughly 1 pixel wide.

I is for ‘Image’. Which as you know can pretty much describe anything which you send us to be retouched. Be it originating on an old school photo (which you can touch and feel and we can scan) or a contemporary digital source emailed to us. Image refers to the visual representation/manifestation which we see before us. Only the ones we return to you have a recurrent habit of looking much better/clearer/shorn of unwanted objects than when you initially sent them to us. Because that’s our job.

J is for ‘JPEG’. Yeah, that old chestnut. In a nutshell it’s the desired format that you send your photos to us in, so that we can then weave our image enhancing magic on them, once you tell us what the underlying issue is. If you’re more interested in the scientific explanation, then here goes. JPEG stands for ‘Joint Photographic Experts Group’ and is technically-speaking a file compression method which reduces file size by eliminating redundant or uneccesary image data. Other than that, ‘J’ could have stood for Jilly Jackson. Our head honcho here at DT Towers. And therefore worth double points.

K is for ‘Photo Restoration’. Possibly. In some ancient texts inscribed on cave walls. I know, we’re ad-libbing here, but needs must, as there’s nothing beginning with the letter ‘K’ after several trawls of the internet. ‘Photo Restoration’ is the art of restoring images to their former glories. Something we’re rather good at, accoridng to past clients. And Trustpilot, which supports these claims.

L is for ‘Luminosity’. Surprisingly NOT the name of a 4-piece folk/fusion ensemble from Reading, but rather…..No, wait. Surely ‘layers’ is more apt. ‘Layers’ referring directly to images (or effects) created on our state-of-the-art photo editing software which are overlaid in top of one another. The objective being to make slight effect adjustments to a digital photo.

M is for ‘Masking’. Nothing to do with Halloween, EVERYTHING to do with protecting a specified aea of a submitted image by virtue/physical application of a masking tool. Traditionally divided into layer, clip and alpha channel masking, this image-enhancing software tool is the modern day equivalent of masking tape. Just like the sort you use to ‘mask off’ skirting boards when you’re painting walls in your home. To cut a long story short, masking a defined area safeguards it from being altered by changes being adopted elsewhere on the image/broader picture. For instance let’s say, if we were ammending contrast or tone mapping. That sort of thing.

N is for ‘Noise’. Neither white nor ‘The Art of’. And more or less can be described as the occurrence of colour dots (or specks) on a digital photograph; where there should be none. Which we’d then be contractually-obliged to remove. As per a client’s brief.

O is for ‘Orange Filters’. We’re quite partial to orange. Fruit, juice, former member of Take That or (and as is the case here), filters which ‘warm up’ a digital photo. And which ultimately add a more all-enveloping orange tone to proceedings.

P is for ‘Pixel’. Who are we kidding?! It’s for ‘Photoshop’, naturally. The unofficial book of digital photo retouching genesis we all swear by. And if its presence fascinates you as much as it does us. Them be sure to find out MUCH MORE about it here.

Q isn’t for anything remotely related to digital image manipulation, however tenuous the link. So we’ve made an executive decision and changed it to CBR. Which stands for ‘Corporate Beauty Retouching’. Or in other words, the retouching of photos for our business clients, as opposed to personal ones. And which can often refer to altering the colours on an item of clothing throughout a single range. Which obviously saves the time and money of asking a photographer to shoot however many examples of the same piece. But’s that just one example.

R is for ‘Retouching’. Er, what else? But then we had a change of heart, thinking that it was akin to stating the obvious. And therefore explains the quick switch to ‘Resolution’. Which relates to the amount of information in a digitally-captured image, quantified in terms of pixels. Translated meaning, the higher the number of pixels, the higher the resolution of the image under the spotlight. ‘Red-eye’ would have been a good one too. That being the description given to the effect which occurs when a flash causes a reflection from the back of the subject’s eye which makes their pupils appear bright red.

S is for ‘Shadows’. Although it could just as likely refer to ‘skin tones’ or ‘sharpen’. But we’ll stick with our first choice. We can plunder shadow (and contrast) to produce dramatic images. The key is not to get bogged down in shadow details. It’s not relevant. Shadows are meant to be dark and mysterious, and more often than not leaves something to the viewer’s imagination.

T is for ‘Toning’. A process used to increase the visible tone range in a monochrome photo, yet not at the expense of contrast reduction.

U is for ‘Undo Feature’. Very handy if we make a mistake (God forbid. And technically speaking, we NEVER do, naturally!), as this feature allows us to go back, click ‘edit’ and ‘undo crop’, and Bob’s your uncle. Even if he genealogy tells you otherwise. That said, you can only revisit and correct your last operation; no further back.

V is for ‘Vibrance’. This photo editing technique allows us to keep skintones from becoming over saturated during retouching. Essentially it’s a nifty little tool which adjusts the saturation so that clipping is minimized when colours approach full saturation zones.

W is for ‘Wedding Photo Editing’. Aha. One of the areas we practice most. And are, arguably, admired/respected for most. If there’s one thing we very much love about our job(s) here at DT, then it’s retouching wedding photos. And if there’s one individual who’s extremely well versed in it, then that person is our Senior Retoucher (and founder), Jilly J.

X is for…really? You think that there’s an X? Sorry to disappoint.

Y is for… (please see above)

Z is for… (ditto)

Property Photo Enhancing

For Sale Board

How Photo Enhancing Could Attract Potential Property Buyers like Never Before

Photo enhancing can impact positively on many areas of modern day life, and visual evidence to support this claim doesn’t take much seeking out. From the further beautification of already radiant brides post-wedding, to restoring an old family photo to recapture the exact likeness of someone dearly departed. But were you aware that photo enhancing is making impressive strides in the property market? To the point that the potential difference between a quick sale and a house which fails to generate much interest (and subsequent buyer footfall) can be down to the quality of the photographs.

Photo Enhancing Apps Afford Would-be Home Buyers Glimpse of Their Future Lifestyle

Nowadays there are specifically created apps (PropertyBox, for example) independent house sellers and estate agents can utilise which pay dividends in terms of Rightmove stats, according to those who are active in the sector. Often increasing said figures by up to 20%.

Not only is that an incentive for people looking to shift property to wise up to the pivotal role that photo enhancing can play, but also insurance firm, AXA released recent findings of its own research which makes for insightful reading. And which also emphasises the crucial contribution that digital image manipulation can make to the process.

As a point in question, the insurer revealed that guesstimates of the value of a one bed flat (which it had invited people visiting its website to participate in) were ramped up by some 21% once the imagery had benefitted from a photo makeover.

However despite these separate instances indicating that the UK property market is – if you’ll pardon the pun – moving towards embracing photo enhancing as a means of attracting a wider demographic of would-be buyers, there are still pockets of resistance to change out there. Seemingly untouched by this visual evolution which is afoot.

So, you might ask; how exactly might photo enhancing be responsible for changes of opinion in practice?

Those witnessing a revolution of sorts within the property sector tell of how success is being measured more by the blending of both the virtual and real world. And how, essentially, this has become a trend. Where once simply showcasing houses as they are was all it took (and individual buyers’ imaginations dictated as to how they would envisage themselves in a certain property which captured their interest), nowadays prospective buyers demand more expansive conceptualising.

And basically having the work done for them as such.

In real terms this translates as being confronted with how their future home will look on the inside; wit fully furnished interiors offering a more aspirational touchstone that doesn’t simply exist in the mind’s eye of those with suitable visionary powers which in turn naturally progress to mental persuasion. In many ways the art is in planting the seed, and courtesy of digitally enhanced photos, the fruits of the retouching labour are plain to see.

Edited Image of Country Cottage for Estate Agent's Visual Purposes

A myriad of graphic aspects which can instantaneously affect a house buyer’s judgement calls are now being plundered by estate agents, so as to position properties found in their portfolio in the best of lifestyle-savvy lights. You name it; a variety of digital image tricks are being applied.

Everything from editing out cars parked in front of a house and having wheelie bins discarded on the kerb and/or leaves removed from driveways (as decluttering principles) through to the application of virtual furnishing. Not to mention removal of reflections in mirrors and the introducing of leaves to trees and the adding of plants and/or carpets.

Sorry, virtual what?

Furnishing. Or to photographically imagine what certain elements of typical furniture resolutions would look like were they to be in-situ, in a person’s dream home environment. Once an estate agent has taken photos of a property, then these images are handed over to firms (or dedicated CGI-led apps are facilitated thereafter) to help construct the bigger picture. A bigger picture which sees virtually-rendered furniture lend a more ‘lived in’ aesthetic to a home in the eyes of a potential buyer.

Home Interior After Photo Retouched by Professional Image Editor

Particular styles can be determined from the outset, depending on what an estate agent will specify (and naturally inspired by the structural look and feel of the property itself), with a view to being property appropriate. It may even be that subtle revisions need to be made, including the tried and tested likes of colour contrasting, amending the white balance on an original agent’s photo to enhance the existing shot, correcting exposures and any distortion, sharpening images or fixing shadows.

When you think about it, personalising or tailoring interiors to better reflect those people who might choose to reside in desirable properties is no different than traditional architect’s impressions of exteriors. Once again, images (albeit technical drawings and illustrations in the latter case) which as much sell a lifestyle as much as bricks and mortar.

Virtual Staging Paves Way for Photo Enhancing to Make Inroads into Property Market

Colloquially referred to as ‘virtual staging’, the property sector still has some catching up to do with some of the trailblazers already making waves. Yet can take pointers from the likes of Swedish furniture icon, Ikea; whose interactive Ikea Place VR platform allows customers to drop selected furnishings into the parameters of their homes. Elsewhere – yet perpetuating this theme – paint giants, Dulux has enjoyed much success with its popular ‘Paint your Walls’ app.

There’s no doubt this self-styled ‘digital surgery’ being rolled out by app creators and specialist in-house photo enhancing companies is gaining a lot of traction of late, and can only burgeon still further. And when you bear in mind that a sizeable percentage of property searches begin online, visual appeal is priceless from the get-go. As one leading property expert suggests, virtual staging is significantly more cost-effective than actual staging. And does exactly the same job yet more besides, as photo enhancing can effectively place the interested party at home on the sofa; together with visually demonstrating what each and every living space does. Or moreover, could do for the individual.

Photoshop: A Potted History Of

The Evolution of Digitally Enhanced Photo Editing Functionality

Pretty much everyone knows the story of how Facebook came to be (clue, Mark Zuckerberg, 2 rowing-obsessed brothers, etc). Or for that matter, how Steve Jobs reversed Apple’s fortunes. And how Jeff Bezos became the richest man on the planet after taking Amazon into the stratosphere. Or how Stanford alumni, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google. But just how many of you are familiar with how another child of modern times came kicking and screaming into this (tech-embracing) world in which we all work, rest and play. Namely, that bastion of all things image retouching, Photoshop.

Well, cast your minds back to February the 19th, 1988. Can you remember what you were doing back then? Us, neither. But nevermind, as sibling developers, Thomas and John Knoll can very much recall that day in question, we’d have imagined. As that’s the precise day when the very first edition of Photoshop was fired up in anger by the aforementioned brothers, and which almost instantaneously created, monopolised and subsequently globalised a genre of computer-orientated graphic design which hitherto didn’t exist. Shortly after that initial fanfare, Adobe shipped version 1.0 of Photoshop and the rest is history.

So on that note; here’s the history bit.

Whilst today Photoshop represents many things to many people; in many fields, worldwide, back in the late 1980s reams of code devised by a team of enthusiastic developers didn’t mean that much to anyone outside of a close circle at that stage. And little did the brothers Knoll know that some three decades on that their pioneering software would have become a synonym for all photo retouching packages and almost exists in its own verb form and function.

But it did, and that’s why we’re celebrating it here (even more so in the case of us image manipulators, who have come to rely on it more ways than we can ever divulge fully).

Photoshop Inventors Come of Age

John and Thomas Knoll were as obsessed with technology as much as they were with art during their formative years, inspired by their photographer father’s love affair with both subject matters. Not only did the family home house a darkroom but it also accommodated various home computers; of which their dad was an early adopter. So perhaps it was inevitable that his sons would dabble in something along those twin lines during their adolescence.

As it panned out, Thomas threw himself into learning all about photography (applying himself to the areas of colour correction and contrast), while John took it upon himself to master the less dark(room) arts more commonly associated with fledgling home computers (their father had an Apple II around this time). Said game-changing computer fascinated the siblings, yet both quickly discovered flaws which inspired them to generate their own resolutions to the issues they foresaw. Like limitations on greyscale images on monochrome monitors, for example.

Below is the timeline which documents when and how the brothers set about this, and so began their odyssey which led to the creation of Photoshop; arguably the genesis of digital photo editing software which still serves as the ‘go-to’ piece of kit in 2019.

1987 – John works at Industrial Light and Magic; otherwise known as LucasFilm’s special effects department. Which to those not in the loop was created for production of the Star Wars movie franchise. Thomas on the other hand was studying for his Ph.D on image processing at the University of Michigan. Crucially he’d recently purchased an Apple Mac Plus specifically to help him with his thesis, yet was disheartened by its lack of true potential as he saw it. Cue him penning his own code in archetypal hacker style.

(Still during) 1987 – During a holiday visit, the two brothers got their heads together to determine if they could do anything about the existing software impasses both had experienced, in the direct aftermath of John being bowled over with Thomas’s progress. Collaboratively they constructed a more cohesive application, which they named ‘Display’.

(Sometime between 1987 and) 1988 – Thomas rewrote ‘Display’ after being persuaded by his brother, who’d acquired a new colour Macintosh II. John was so impressed with the rudimentary features Thomas was rolling out, he started making his own requests. Such as gamma correction modes and loading/saving of other file formats to name but two. Around this time, methods of selecting certain parts of images were dreamed up by Thomas, along with tone-adjusting features, controls for balance, hue and saturation and image processing routines which would subsequently morph into what we acknowledge today as plug-ins. And which, collectively, went on to become the defining aspects of Photoshop as we recognise it today.

1988 – ‘Display’ becomes ‘ImagePro’ and the brothers consider software as a commercially viable proposition to bring to market. Buoyed by a glaring absence of any credible competitors in the field – and the belief that ImagePro was at the vanguard of anything of this ilk – they sought out investors to further their ambition.

1988 – 1989 – Name evolved to become ‘Photoshop’, although actual inspiration never confirmed. Save to say rumour has it that it was how a potential publisher described what they saw when they witnessed a demo.

(Same time frame-ish) – Siblings hit a wall when hawking their invention around potential software companies, largely because many of these corporate tech institutions were engrossed in designing their own bespoke versions of photo editing software at this juncture.

1989 (mostly) – Adobe showed fleeting interest, but had concerns on initial approach. Scanner manufacturer, Barneyscan decided to take a punt on Photoshop, and offered it as part and parcel of its scanner package. Only it was branded as Barneyscan XP. Siblings weren’t happy with direction/arrangement, and re-pitched concept to Adobe; who this time were more welcoming of idea.

1989 (Cont’d)……. Knoll siblings knuckled down and worked around the clock to ensure that impending global launch of Photoshop 1.0 would be a success, both for them and Adobe who had shown faith in their vision.

Original Adobe Photoshop Licence Graphic While Loading Software

February 1990We have lift off!Adobe Photoshop 1.0 (Genesis as such) finally makes leap from brainchild of Knoll bros onto the shelves of retailers; and to unprecedented/critical acclaim (despite a number of teething problems/bugs). USP being along the lines of Apple’s more modern day ethos, in as much as presenting Photoshop as easy-to-use mass-market tool, as opposed to most graphics-led software at the time, which explicitly targeted specialists.

June 1991 – Version 2.0 engineered (codename – ‘Fast Eddy’), which now included Bézier paths, pen tool, Duotones, import and rasterization of Illustrator files and perhaps most ground-breaking of all; support for CMYK colour. Previously only compatible with Mac applications, an alternative version aimed at rapidly growing Windows graphics market entered the equation. Layers also quickly followed suite.

November 1992 – Version 2.5 released (codename – ‘Merlin Brimstone’), which saw introduction of a 16-bit channel support and palette feature.

September 1994 – Photoshop 3.0 unveiled (codename – ‘Tiger Mountain’), which gave photo retouchers first glimpse of layers and tabbed palettes. Game-changing features which promoted ease of use when it came to manipulation images.

November 1996 – Version 4.0 launched (codename – ‘Big electric Cat’), and which gave rise to adjustment layers and macros as the primary difference between new, revised product and what went before.

May 1998 – Photoshop 5.0 entered the market (codename – ‘Strange Cargo’),which brandished both managed colour and magnetic lasso functionality.

February 1999 – Version 5.5 had its covers whipped off (sharing previous codename, for all you codename fanboyz n gurls out there), which ushered in the debut of Macintosh and Windows support, image slicing and additional rollover effects.

September 2000 – Photoshop 6.0 observed the light of day (codename – ‘Venus in Furs’), which brandished a user interface update, dialog box, liquefy filter and vector shapes to name but four evolutionary bits and bobs.

March 2002 – Photoshop 7 came kicking and screaming into existence (codename – ‘Liquid Sky’), and which gave the world healing brush, designed text in vector and file browser accessibility.

Photoshop: The CS Years

October 2003 – Photoshop CS crops us (codename – ‘Dark Matter’). Parting ways with numbers and instead opting for letters hereonin, latest version bagged raft of image-editing treasures including camera RAW 2, highly modified slice tool, shadow/highlight command, match colour command, lens blur filter, real-time histogram and smart guides as part and parcel of timely revamp.

April 2005 – CS2 lands (codename – ‘Space Monkey’), and which gives debut to all-new features such as camera RAW 3, smart objects, image warp, spot healing brush, red-eye tool, lens correction filter, smart sharpen and vanishing point.

April 2007 – Photoshop CS3 revealed (codename – ‘Red Pill’), which paved way for black-and-white conversion adjustment, auto align and blend, revised user interface (including alterations to curves, channel mixer, brightness and contrast, cloning, healing and print dialogue).

April 2008 – Photoshop CS4 breaks the horizon (codenames were omitted for first time in history), which comprised of whole host of new image enhancing gizmos, including dodge/burn, content aware cropping, pixel grids for editing individual pixels, new masks panel, extended depth of field, fluid canvas rotation, smoother zooming and panning and 3D animation and painting functions.

April 2010 – CS5 makes its presence felt, and with it introduces us to the wonders of intelligent selection tech, improved raw and advanced HDR processing, localised warp tool, advanced 3D options, auto lens correction and extended painting effects.

And the rest as they say is what we all like to refer to as history.

Photoshop Licence Material Image

Footnote: John Knoll also went on to become Visual Effects Supervisor on the new Star Wars films.

Old School Retouching

Just How Did We Retouch Photos in a World BEFORE Photoshop Entered the Public Conscious?

If you thought the concise and learned art of digital image retouching might seem pretty laborious today, in terms of how long it perceivably takes to transform photographs (and yes, by many accounts; image manipulators do like to milk it on occasion), then just wait until you learn how time-consuming the process of enhancing visuals were some seventy years ago. Which was some 43 years before the advent of Adobe Photoshop, just to remind ourselves of the key timelines here.

Retro Photograph Retouching Poster

While the likes of Photoshop (a synonym for virtual photo editing tools in the same way as Hoover is for vacuum cleaners and Google has systematically entered the Oxford English as a bona fide verb) exists to provide the perfect foil to ensure that a professional retoucher can create the precise visual representation of what a client has briefed them on, back in the 1940s those who operated in this sector had to be a bit more, creative, let’s say in their approach to the job in hand. Thinking outside the box way before ‘the box’ (in the shape and form of an Apple Mac) had seen the light of day.

Old style retouching

Elaborate image-editing software had yet to be invented, chiefly because the hardware to accommodate their needs was still a long way off Charles Babbage’s drawing board. So hat’s off (stove and otherwise) to the unsung heroes/pioneers of their day who ploughed the photo retouching furrow, equipped with little more than a keen eye, an extremely steady hand and a bag of tools which would be more identifiable with a surgeon, rather than someone who made their living in the more artistic industries.

The World of Photo-editing was revolutionised by the Ushering in Photoshop

Old School Image Editing

Essentially, the post-production manipulation of photos amounted to considerably more than effort being applied than simply jumping on a laptop and getting to grips with software. Not that we’re downplaying what we do of course. Merely drawing fascinating comparisons.

To afford both professional image enhancers and enthusiastic amateurs a clearer understanding of the sheer scale of the undertaking back when we weren’t that far removed from a land of sepia (although MGM Studios had experimented with Technicolour in the seminal movie, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ a few years earlier), the existence of a particularly insightful book resurfaced recently which lifted the lid on photo retouching techniques and practices in 1946. And as we intonated earlier, a good four decades before Photoshop was born.

Discovery of Old Book Reminds Today’s Digital Image Manipulators How Simplistic (and Labour Intensive) Sector Used to Be

Traditional Materials Required for Photographic Retouching in 1940s

Jauntily entitled ‘Shortcuts to Photo Retouching for Commercial Use’, 1940s retouching expert and author, Raymond Wardell describes – his carefully chosen words partnered by appropriate tech drawings, monochrome photos and public information poster-esque graphics – how to frequent the rudimentary craftsmanship necessitated to enhance images over half a century ago. Plundering such basic implements as pastes, rulers, brushes, cotton, palettes and rubber rollers so as to deliver client briefs on time, budget and maintaining an absolute sense of illustrative professionalism. For the time, at least.

Eventually – and mercifully – the photo editing sector moved on, and technical advancements paved the way for Photoshop and its ilk to take centre stage. And no, we’re not talking about inferior ‘lick n stick’ image editing software such MS Paint, but conversely do respectfully acknowledge the likes of Corel Draw; the latter of which figured prominently in the metamorphosis witnessed by those of us who plied our trade in the professional field of image enhancing. All of which seems a lifetime removed from the way our forefathers went about their photo enhancing business.

Q&A with DT’s MD JJ

Jilly Jackson

Although we’re normally all about the visual, we thought the time was prudent to jump aboard a more word-y bandwagon as we launch our brand new Digital Talk blog. And that’s because acronyms are everywhere these days. Rather like txt spk, emojis, memes and snapchat filters; whether we love them or loathe them. Everything from LOL and BRB to FYI and TBH.

With this very much in mind we therefore give you this; our Q&A sesh with DT’S MD, JJ. Which, reverting to plain English, is a question and answer session with our Managing Director, Jilly Jackson.

Yes. To add even more of a personal touch to our digital presence, we have put the kettle on, located the posh biscuits (that’s right; the ones we keep hidden away for special occasions/client visits to the office while the rest of you duke it out over the Viscounts and Blue Ribands) and sat down to have a proper chinwag with our founder, photo-editing guru and the undisputed best maker of brews in the office (her claim, not ours); namely our talismatic leader, Jilly J.

And who’s primed to answer a few quick questions we’re firing in her general direction with regards to what she does, what generally makes her tick, why she does what she does (eg, edit photos with steely attention to detail), what things she engages in to unwind and that most important of interview standard questions; where she sees herself – and Digital Touch – 5 years from now (clue: scrambling up the Matterhorn, knowing our adventure-seeking Jilly).

Anyway, here’s the upshot of our natter with the MD….

Us: “Hi Jilly. Could you tell the readers how long you have been putting smiles on – amongst other people, bride’s – faces; courtesy of visually amending pics of their big day? Oh, and why you become a photo editor in the first place?”

Jilly: “I’ve been professionally working in the sector since 1998, started off as a Graphic Designer in the dog breeding world. My job was to perfect the visual presentation of pedigree dogs. But my passion for image editing was borne out of my personal fascination with the introduction of digital photography in the early 90’s. I knew that if I learnt to edit them I could perfect them from a presentation perspective.”

Us: “OK. So what inspired you to branch out on your own and set up your business some 8 years ago then?”

Jilly: “My belief that there was a market out there for this service. It’s as simple as that.”

Us: “In one sentence, what’s the secret to your success?”

Jilly: “Knowing the importance of building up trust from the outset via online reviews such as Trustpilot and Google.”

Us: “Speaking of secrets, Jilly. Tell us one of the industry ones you use on a regular basis? Go on! We won’t tell your competitors. Promise!

Jilly: “Haha. erm. Let me get back to you once I’ve got the legal docs drawn up that swears you to secrecy!”

Us: “Haha. Point taken. Though I’m pretty sure you could write a book based on some of the more ‘unusual’ client requests you’ve had over the years. Which of course, because you’re sworn to client confidentiality you’ll always stay tight-lipped about as a professional. That being said, could tell your readers any ‘stories’, hypothetically-speaking??”

Jilly: “It’s true; we do receive the most unusual client queries. One particular example I am at liberty to recall was a request for a car being edited into the home garage with a digital date adding. Which of course would not be a problem, in theory; but the job was swiftly declined on the grounds of legality!”

Us: “Wow. Yeah. All the hallmarks of a dodge. Haha. Moving on then, what crucial advice would you impart to your twentysomething self when starting out on this chosen career?”

Jilly: “It’s difficult to answer as I have no regrets in life. I am very happy with the organic direction and evolution that Digital Touch has progressed in. Besides, I doubt my 20 year old self would believed I would have arrived at this station in life today, if I’m being totally honest! She may not even have listened to me for that matter, either, she was rather stubborn I’ve been told, ha!!”

Us: “Haha. Probably not. But what if you weren’t professionally editing photos all day. What do you imagine you would you have done for an alternative career? I’m thinking adventurer…..”

Jilly: “Good question. I’d like to have been a motivational speaker for women in a movement to help them, and empower them to be who they are, and not what social conditioning dictates they should be. Alternatively, perhaps I’d have been a professional adventure blogger, in my fantasy world. Travelling the globe searching out – and documenting – the weird, wonderful and real. Capturing every experience via photography.”

Us: “We could definitely see you doing either. Next question though, and what motivates/inspires you to do what you do (professionally), and in life, broadly speaking?”

Jilly: “I’m motivated by the one word; and that word is ‘gratitude’. Which also flows into my work. I’m forever grateful to be in a position to impact people’s lives, be they clients or my own family and friends.”

Us; “OK. Here’s a curveball for you, Jilly. How/what would you change about a famous work of art, in terms of photo editing? For example, would you be wanting to give the Mona Lisa a scowl instead of a smile? Or unmelt Dali’s clocks?”

Jilly: “Well wouldn’t it be naughty to break into the Louvre and replace the Mona Lisa with a fake copy of her doing the dreadful pout, I’m an advocate of pure mischief.”

Us: “No, of course not, Jilly. Lol. Whilst on the subject of art though, do you have a favourite artist; either dead or alive? And what do you like most about their work?”

Jilly: “Yes I absolutely do, and his name is Freydoon Rassouli. I love his work because it depicts women in a very spiritually empowering way. Something that’s important to me and the way in which I live my life.” I have also been historically fascinated by the lives of artist such as Klimt, Dali and Schiele.

Us: “I’ll have to check out his work. Changing the subject a bit, what many readers might like to know is this. Just what your personal views on the social media obsession with photo-manipulation – spearheaded by the likes of the Kardashian clan – are? Do you think these often over-exaggerated images are harmless fun or setting a bad example to younger people when it comes to fake body imagery?”

Jilly: “It’s becoming monotonous I feel, and sense society is already starting to bore of it. I believe presentation and the subconscious influence of is key, but within the realms of reality. You always have to step out the front door as yourself and life is so much more freer that way.

Us: “Very true. Following on from this, what are you views on the explosion of photo editing apps and filters, which seem pretty much omnipresent on smartphones these days? And which essentially makes everyone believe they can do what you do in a sense? Do you see them as a positive development/sign of the times which actively encourages those who could go on to become the next generation of professional photo editors like yourself, or an invention which in some way dilutes or negates what you do for a living? I Know. You’re about to ask me what the question was again, aren’t you?”

Jilly: “I don’t consider them a relevant threat in the real world of photo editing as the detail capabilities in the professional world can’t be matched or threatened by an app. Besides which the apps are just offering a very fake representation of the person rather than perfecting the presentation of what already exists.”

Us: “What’s the quickest image you’ve ever edited (and how long did it take, roughly) and conversely what client job has taken the longest (and again, approximately over what period of time?)

Jilly: “The quickest jobs are the crops and adjusting shadows and highlights, which are essentially a 2 minute job. Longest are restoration requests as they’re not technical as such, but more time consuming. But a fantastically interesting job which took roughly 4 days was to edit an entire family into superheroes and subsequently put them on a red carpet.”

Us: “Wow. That sounds like a super cool gig. So, Jilly. Tell us all what a Senior Retoucher does to relax and unwind when they’re not sat behind the Digital Touch hot desk? What does escape look like to you?”

Jilly: “Escape always involves a packed lunch and flask, a map, all four limbs and a mountain. But I also enjoy club road cycling (of which I’m a member of 2 clubs) and I’m also passionate about tennis, which I play whenever time allows.”

Us: “As an aside, Jilly; what inspired the name, Digital Touch?”

Jilly: “The boring answer is that the domain was purchased in 2002 with another project in mind, but by 2011 it simply seemed perfectly apt to use for the retouching business.

Us: “What’s the best bit about your job/what do you most look forward to when you get into the office every morning?”

Jilly: “Apart from my first brew of the day, I love the fact that I share an office filled with freelancers and small businesses, as this allows me to brainstorm ideas and share banter with the other companies on our floor.”

Us: “What direction do you envisage the world of photo editing to go in next, and more crucially, where do you see Digital Touch in 5 years from now as a response to this potential sea-change? If indeed you foresee a change.”

Jilly: “Photo editing capabilities at a personal level have changed a lot during my 20 years in the profession and I feel excited when new updates to the software come in. As for Digital Touch, we’re all very happy with the organic progression it has already made during these past 8 years, and envisage its continued healthy growth over the coming years.

Us: “And finally, Jilly. Do you love your work or do you simply see it as a job? And if you do love it, and I’m guessing you do; what shapes this emotive response to your career?”

Jilly: “Apart from the delight of making brides cry (but in a good way obvs), I am also privileged to give joy to people in other areas such as those who sadly have lost babies and want to remove hospital tubing etc, so they can see their babies as they would naturally have been. We are also often asked to add lost loved ones into modern photos, and there’s limited words to describe the joy in playing a part in having that emotional effect on somebody.

Quoting Mark Twain; ‘If you do a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.’”

Us: “A very meaningful quote, Jilly, and a good place to end our Q&A session. Many thanks for answering my questions and as the self-proclaimed undisputed Queen of Brews at Digital Touch HQ; mine’s milk with 2 sugars please. Haha.”