Victorian Era: Photo Editing and Touch-Ups

Long before Photoshop, during the Victorian era, photographers had a technique they used to retouch photos that were not considered to be picture perfect. Although the negatives seemed to look cracked or even worse than the picture, it worked during that time period. This technique was used to hide imperfections and or to highlight areas like the hair and facial features in the photographs of males and females.

In an article “How photographers retouched photos in the Victorian Era” (2015) stated, the photographic print at that time “was called the albumen silver print, and was produced by coating paper with a mixture of egg whites and salt, and dipping it into silver nitrate. The paper was then placed in contact with the negative and exposed to light. Before printing their photographs, photographers would use pencils to manually scratch touch-ups onto the negatives themselves. Using “a fine-pointed pencil to add highlights, or a blunt pencil and “cross-hatching” technique to brighten up parts of the face.”

I chose this topic because it was interesting to read about how much work the photographers put into each photograph that required touch up. At first glance the photos appear to have a lot of cracks and imperfections. But reading further, what was being shown was the way the negatives looked prior to seeing the final retouched photograph. But all photos did not require touch ups. The pencil marks and what appeared to be scratches, were the marks used to correct the imperfections. Now today, using specific software, this task of touching-up photos is achieved digitally, with better effects. Amazing to see how far photography and its techniques have come.

By pstarkey 


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Untouched negatives below.




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