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image editing

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)

photo retouching services

For over 8 years we’ve successfully provided solutions for both business and personal clients looking to enhance the quality of their all-important images. Companies and individuals who have reached out to us seeking answers to their photo editing briefs.

Subsequently recognised as Trustpilot’s number 1 photo retouching experts, we have built a strong reputation by visually capturing what clients see in their mind’s eye when they approach us.

Not only that, but we also offer a fast turnaround of briefs, coupled with timely and friendly responses at every stage of the process.

Bringing together a wealth of photo editing experience, our passionate image manipulation team is led by Jilly Jackson; who habitually lends a female perspective to what often border on sensitive requirements.

Whatever your brief is, we guarantee that you’ll be impressed with the full photo retouching service we deliver. One which reflects and continues to underpin our enviable Trustpilot and Google rankings.

‘It’s not just Google Reviews acknowledging the myriad of satisfied customers singing our praises over the past 8 years. We have also generated a significant volume of positive feedback from clients registering their appreciation with Trustpilot, with regards to the photo editing briefs we’ve fulfilled for them.

And as anyone knows, a business’s reputation can hinge on the power wielded by the impartial people who leave make or break feedback on the ‘go to’ customer reviews website. Reviews which afford would-be customers priceless insights into both the quality of work delivered, together levels of customer service experienced.

Therefore our expansive selection of glowing customer reviews on Trustpilot go a considerable way to prove that we don’t just talk the talk. Digital or otherwise. And that essentially we’ve become a trusted source of satisfaction for everyone’s photo editing needs, be they business or personal.

But don’t just take our word for it. Take our clients and Trustpilot’s……’