I have one more installment to finish the Dr Throg story, but the last photo is proving to be a pain. I might have to put it aside for a few days until I can scrape a few more brain cells together. Creative photo-editing is great when it works, but like any artwork of this kind it helps to have a fairly clear vision of what you want before you start, and a fairly clear idea of how to achieve it.
Ideally, the final image (for my purposes) should look as though it is genuine. Not too crude in effect, but not “hyper-realistic” either. Real photos are rarely perfect, and older photos are often victims of time, poor cameras and chemical inconsistencies. Even the difficulty of scanning the roughly circular grain of traditional photos into a computer in the form of square pixels can lead to problems. I find when scanning old photos into our museum computer, for instance, that 300dpi is usually adequate, 600dpi is better, but sometimes even 1200dpi doesn’t give a good enough result.
So when trying to simulate one of these old images, I have to try to scan my reference pictures as close to “digital” quality as possible. Then comes the editing with Paint Shop Pro 7 – using the Clone tool and Cut-and-Paste, inserting and editing parts from other images, then aiming for consistent colour, tone, contrast and “blur” to give a homogenous effect. After working on the image in Paint Shop Pro, I reopen it in Irfanview and check it at different sizes, then go back and play around with some other effects for a while. I usually work in bitmap (.bmp) format, which prevents losses while saving, and I save every major edit.
Sometimes I’ll have a whole desktop full of bitmaps in various “states”, and scroll through them to see which I like best; and occasionally I’ll try a couple of different .jpg resolutions, to see which will blog best. Once I’m satisfied, I’ll often chuck all but my favourite versions into My Documents, then sleep on it until the next day. If I can’t see any glaring flaws then, I’ll reduce the image to a reasonable size and save it as a .jpg for uploading to my blog.
For photo work I always try to work to the same standard – the image should be photographically plausible. It should look like a real photo – even if it’s a pretty crappy one – rather than a super CG image. The digital effects should also be as invisible as possible.
I also try to be as honest as possible. If you repair or restore an image back to the way it should actually look, there’s no need to trumpet it to the heavens. But if I’ve altered a photo for some reason (to remove clutter, for example) and it’s not an obviously “arty” or fantasy image, I always make a note to that effect.