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Photo Retouching with Photoshop

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This entry in O’Reilly’s “A Designer’s Notebook” series explores how best to use Adobe Photoshop’s image manipulation powers to digitally restore or retouch images for a variety of purposes. As with the other books in the series, it is translated from French and features the work of a variety of freelance photographers and “photo retouching agents.” In workshop format, it tracks the step-by-step creation of photographic retouching, from review of the initial image, collaborating with an artistic director, choosing the format, selecting the type of impression the image should create, and more. Packed with wonderful artwork and generous illustrations, the slender volume offers a host of practical advice from experts even as it eschews the traditional format of the “Photoshop bibles” so often marketed.

This book isn’t Photoshop for Dummies; it’s an advanced book specifically designed for those who want to know more than how to use a few filters to “spice up” their pictures. For example, in one studio session Gerard Niemetzky outlines the process he undertook while restoring some hundred year old photographs for a historical family album. A number of the images required extensive restoration work before they could actually be used in the final work, a CD-ROM which was to be delivered to each member of the family. He scanned the images and used Photoshop to touch them up.

For one image, not only did he want to restore the image itself, but he wanted to save the original paperboard support as well. Scanning the image vertically failed to preserve the embossed image of the frame, so he scanned it horizontally. Even though the image was in black and white, he scanned it using RGB colors in order to “preserve the faded, sepia shade that is so typical of old prints.”

And the scanning is only the beginning; he then worked extensively with the image’s color. He then systematically touched up various parts of the image, then worked on the edges of the photograph and the frame, finally resampling it in order to record it on the CD-ROM. Generous, full-color illustrations accompany the step-by-step description of the process, just as they do each of the book’s samples. In another session, Domnique LeGrand and Antony LeGrand conducted “digital surgery” on the image of a model, demonstrating how to alter skin color, remove flaws, add a bit of hair, improve the detail of clothes, and that sort of thing.

Other entries in the book feature studies in how to work with luminosity, color, and other image aspects in order to improve or alter the look of the original. Personally, as something of a Photoshop dabbler who’s been skimming the surface of the program for years, I have to say that this book helped me far more than one of the huge Photoshop bibles simply because it demonstrates various functions in real-world terms. I can tell that it will be a resource I’ll return to for examples and inspiration.

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