What Did We Do Before Photoshop?

Okay bear with me. This is kinda weird. First, on Thursday afternoon I get a Google Alert for an article called “What Did We Do Before Photoshop?” (I have the word “Photoshop” set up on Google Alerts). It’s an article dealing with, among other things, an exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum Of Art called “Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop”. I read the article and it had some really cool stories and facts in it about photography and it’s manipulation before Photoshop was ever even conceived or existed. More on that in a minute…

Now, in a totally and seemingly unrelated incident yesterday (the same day I saw the article), I get an email from Lightroom Product Manager, Tom Hogarty, with the following photo.

Tom went on to write that he’d seen my book featured at the Faking It exhibit back in October when he was in New York. Holy crap! I’m right next to Stieglitz and Uelsmann! How cool is that? It was just very weird timing. I’m not sure if Tom saw the same article yesterday, which made him think about seeing my book at the exhibit, but either way I was really excited to see my book at The Met.

Back To The Article On What We Did Before Photoshop
As I read through the article I became enthralled in reading about all of the different things photographers used to do to manipulate photos. One of them that really struck home with me, as a landscape photographer, was something that Mia Fineman, an assistant curator of photography at the Met, said:

[quote]In the 19th century, photographic emulsions were much more sensitive to blue and violet light than to other colors on the spectrum, which meant that blue skies almost always appeared blotchy and overexposed. To overcome the problem, many landscape photographers would make two separate negatives — one exposed for the land, the other for the sky — and print them together on a single sheet of paper. [/quote]

The article links to some photo examples that you should definitely go check out. Here’s an example though:

I found it amazing that, with all of the technology improvements that we’ve had since 1867 (when this photo was taken), nearly 150 years later we still use similar techniques. HDR… layers… bracketing… multiple exposures and merging in Photoshop. It’s all still here today. We still can’t reliably capture the foreground (land), and a bright sky in one photo. We do exactly the same thing with our outdoor photos, that was done back then. Amazing huh?

Here’s a link to the full article. It’s a great read and has links to many really interesting topics and photos. Definitely worth some time to check out this weekend. Have a good done!

  • http://www.ruilopes.ca Rui Lopes

    Hi Matt, about your book congratulations, it’s pretty cool. I actually bought it this past Monday during your seminar in Toronto (which by the way, rocked) and I could not put it down. It’s a GREAT read, very clear and very well put together with easy to follow examples. It will make you an expert in no time!
    Anyways, coming form a film based photography (I owned a commercial studio for 18 years) I processed my own B&W and the adjustments that we had to do were for the most part, pretty well the same I do now in Photoshop, hence the main reason why I joined NAPP about 5 years ago – to learn the digital way. Yes, strange enough things have not changed that much, “digital” just gives us way more control with outstanding results. It’s all good.
    Thanks for the link, very cool article.

  • Peter Nord

    Now you are learning about fame. Wait until one of your grandchildren comes around to say, “pops we learned in history of photography class today about old geezers who wrote the early books about Photoshop – one of them had the same name as you, cool!” Guess you just have to learn to live with it. :-)

  • http://gravatar.com/jzine Janine Smith

    I love you saying “as a landscape photographer….” Was it just last year that wasn’t true?

    Last I saw, your brother raised $7,300 for Sandy charities. Amazing!

    • http://gravatar.com/mattkloskowski mattkloskowski

      Hey Janine. I think I’ve always been classified as a landscape person. At least everyone I know has always said that about me. I shoot portraits, but my real passion is landscape and outdoors and if you look at my portfolio that’s where I tend to concentrate on.

      And yes, my brother raised quite a bit. I think it’s even higher than 7K. He blew away his goal which is great!

      Thanks :)

  • Dennis Zito

    Hey Matt,

    This was a very timely Post today for me. I have a daughter in law that thinks if you make any adjust to a photo you’re cheating or faking it. I keep telling her that the old masters did the same thing in the old dark rooms … doesn’t sink in to her. Gets me really angry some times. I think I might forward this post to her … :-) Congratulation by the way for having your Book on display at Met! That’s simply fantastic!

    Thanks again for the article and post … I think you always read my mind …. :-)


  • John Havord

    Thanks Matt for highlighting that article. Very interesting read. Must download the ipad app.

  • Mike Wilson

    Great points raised in the blog. I think that Masking in Ps is not any different than using Litho film developed in dextol to create film Masks to expand the dynamic range of one’s print. However, I still need to reread Kelby’s Ps book to remember how to blend the two layers into one improved image. (Mr. Zito, I’m with you on that topic. I’m always surprised by folks who think they know a lot about photography who must think that A. Adams had a magic camera that gave him those beautiful B&Ws.

  • http://gravatar.com/skarasev Sergey Karasev

    On a related note, there were color photos created in early 20th century (before World War I by a Russian man Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. See some of his work at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/

  • http://gravatar.com/mtgroseth Mike Groseth

    Hey Matt! I saw this article yesterday and the 1st thing I noticed was your book on there! Congrats and that’s some pretty serious company you hold on that shelf. You deserve it and thanks for your blogs/seminars. All a great help.

  • Tom Tracy

    Before Photoshop ?: Back in 1947-49 I was considered a pro; went to photo school to learn the darkroom magic to made that gallery quality print, and had prints in several galleries in Detroit. Did work for Ford Motor Co, Bendix Aviation, Garwood Industries and operated a portrait studio. Retouching was done with a sharp pencil and a razer blade. Too dark, scrape off the emulation to let more light pass. To light, fill it in or build up with a very sharp soft lead pencil. Dodge and burn, all done under the overhead projector. Mix your own chemicals, hold your breath while you swirl the print in the developer tray and judge the moment to pull and drop into the fix mix to stop the development. The delete key was the waste basket. Imposable to every duplicate the same result. That was our post processing. One had to have a special god given gift to produce fine art photos. I did, but left it all behind and never took another picture, didn’t even own a camera until two mths ago. Now i have to learn the new language of digital. Not sure that i will live long enough to master it however.

    I am extremely grateful to you.for sharing your extraordinary abilities so freely.
    Thanks again, Tom Tracy, twtracy@embarqmail.com.