Monday, September 8, 2008

Training The Retoucher

The incompetence of a large proportion of retouches is a, fact which many photographers know too well. Thin deplorable state of things is chiefly doe, I consider, to the sloppy methods of instructing that are in vogue in the profession. Much valuable tins U waited in having to inspect the work of such assistants before it goes to the next department, whereas it ought to be expected of them to be competent enough to pass it along through all departments until final inspection. I advocate the giving of an abort allotted time and direct personal attention for a few days as a bogs tune-saver in the long run, and as an aid to high quality.
The majority of assistants do not know what retouching exactly should be. Generally speaking their knowledge does not go beyond the idea that they must aim at a decent stipple. What should be done, or -what to do for the greatest improved effect with the least possible amount of labour, and how it affects the next department ('i.e., the enlarging and "finishing" artist) they lack knowledge of. In some cases masters lack knowledge of art principles and their application. Retouching taught without these, in my opinion, is absolutely valueless. Supposing the method usually adopted in training pupil for retouching was applied in the darkroom or printing-room, disaster would sooner or later happen to a batch of work or soon tell its tale by the work not proving permanent. Naturally the first thing one does in these rooms is to explain the reasons for doing certain things.
Some sort of guidance in theory ought to be in vogue among all photographers who have the profession at heart beyond that of the mere making of money. The pupil wants a thorough knowledge of what is required in the branch he is being instructed in. One would not look at the end of a pencil to draw a straight line; otherwise there would be no means to the end in getting that line straight. The mind judges where that line should be to be straight and the brain directs the hand accordingly. It cannot be said that the hand directs the pencil to make the line straight; if the pencil is held correctly the mind draws the straight line. I take this principle as illustrative of my method of instruction for retouching. A negative cannot be retouched unless the whole affect required is in one's mind. How to hold the pencil is half the battle. I have noticed that retouches who hold their pencils at right angles to the negatives and the forefinger tightly in the shape of triangle are usually bad workers and their stipple is wormlike and has no symmetry. This is caused by their being unable in this manner to work the fingers freely, the guidance having to be done by the arm and wrist, making the arm an eccentric.
The correct style, and one which saves hours of labour for the finishing artist, is to hold the pencil very loosely between the thumb and first two fingers, and almost perpendicular, thug using; the side of the pencil point and obtaining any desired angle of movement above the wrist by the fingers (the little finger resting on the negative). Never mind how you get a stipple so long as you work to follow the lines of the muscles of face and texture of the skin of the sitter, not to smother the negative. Many so-called expert retouches (stipples) place a beautiful sheen of lead all over the face, whether it is old man, lady, or child; in reality, a lead wash, such as a painter employs as a ground-tint. It is an absolute waste of time, and the effect mechanical, causing many a master to employ two retouches where one would suffice, and giving an effect which is artistically and commercially valueless. Aim at altering defects only and improving the artistic value by the following course: Select your pupil and give half an hour's persona' instruction each day for a week, first getting the pupil to master the taking away of complexion blotches and spots. Aim at nothing else until the pupil can do these to match the surrounding ground without overlapping.
The next step is to instruct where the muscles are exaggerated by the necessary side-lighting of the studio. With a satisfactory stroke there should be no so-called stipple. Then get your pupil to look at the whole of the face and imagine the negative as a line drawing in the positive sense, considering exactly what lines would be drawn to represent the character of the person (dismiss the half-tones for the moment). Get the pupil into the habit of bearing in mind the curve of the main lines that represent the character, such as the shape of the nose, main lines of lips and eyes. Any small complementary shadows there are to these do not need retouching. The next to consider is the relation of the strong highlights to the imaginary line drawing, and in doing this treat all the half-tone lights as that of a thin wash of paint an artist would put over his drawing. They need no altering; only blending into the main lines (i.e., massed shadows). The direct alteration of any half-tone or massed shadow representing the line of the facial muscle is fatal in retouching. These are the chief points to consider for artistic retouching. Any other work such as squaring noses and altering nose shadows are not necessary, if the face is properly lighted. All that is needed is the minimum work and the maximum result, which is only obtained by keeping the whole face in mind all the time. Try this method on your next pupil as against the old style of practice-practice without aim and you will be surprised at the result and time saved.


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