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Old School Photo-Editing | Darkroom Techniques That Gave Birth To Photoshop Tools

By Kishore Sawh on February 27th 2015

Photoshop is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a little fanfare, and that makes sense as there is a lot to celebrate. By any measure, Photoshop is certainly a success, given that it’s the last word in photo editing software, and has become a household name. We refer to images that have been altered as ‘Photoshopped’ even if a different program was used, the same way we say Kleenex for any form of facial tissue. That’s brand name marketing and cultural integration you can’t buy, and that only comes when you’re the quintessential of your kind.

Now, of course, that kind of cache comes with a notoriety that’s good and bad. The program is as synonymous with critique as it is with praise, and some of the areas it gets faulted for, it may not deserve – well not entirely.

There’s this idea held by many even within photography circles (more the younger ones), that prior to Photoshop, there was no image manipulation, that great images were made entirely in camera, printed, and that’s it. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Now this isn’t to say the pixel bending done in Photoshop was possible with film, but there were many ‘edits’ that could be applied during the developing process to make an image quite different from SOOC, and many of those processes inspired the tools and processes we have come to know and love in Photoshop. Applying a gradient filter? Sure. Sharpening? Yes. Dodging and burning? Of course.

[REWIND: ‘Affinity Photo’ Seems To Be The First Real Photoshop Alternative | Get The Beta Version Free]

In a digital age, there is a generation already who have never been in a darkroom and have little to no concept of the developing process. So, to mark the quarter century and remind us all about the real genesis of ‘Photoshop’, Lynda has put together a short video featuring photographer Konrad Eek as he goes through the process of developing a print using dodging and burning, masks, feathering, and adding gradients. It’s a nice blast from the past, and may instill a little more appreciation of both Photoshop and what inspired it.

Source: PetaPixel

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Alissa Tipton

    Very good drawing, I like your style! I recommend you which also makes professional digital drawing: sketches, comics, paintings, etc. Especially like them digital manipulations: the cat girl, Thor’s girlfriend and flying little girl. Look at them at site

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  2. Joseph Prusa

    Great video

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  3. Cristian Corvalán

    Awesome video!! Photographers are really great artists

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  4. John Carlson-Zizic

    Awesome! Great video.

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  5. Peter Nord

    Don’t miss the dark room and I’m a chemist. However I look at my old Speed Graphic sometimes thinking I’d like another box of film. Nice video. Be good to show my students.

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    • Graham Curran

      I used to dabble with my own b&W, colour print, and transparency dark room work. I don’t miss it one bit. There were just so many bits of equipment and you had to be careful with your media from every step from taking the film out of the camera to drying the print. Digital technology has allowed me to devote more resources to the picture-taking and I can delve into Photoshop from just a few minutes to many hours without worrying about heat-baths or chemicals going stale. I can also do my post-processing on a plane, train or wherever I have spare time.

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  6. Jesper Anhede

    Very very cool for someone like me who has never even been in a darkroom!

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  7. Jennifer Birdsell

    That was incredibly interesting. I did some darkroom work in high school buy I have never seen those techniques of dodging/burning, masking, and gradients. I love how hands-on that is.

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  8. Eric Sharpe

    I’ve never done any darkroom work, but I’ve always wanted to try it. It’s also good to know the origins of the photoshop tools. Great video.

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    • Graham Curran

      Knowing the history of any technology can help in giving great insights to the hows-and-whys of something.

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