From time to time i get some interesting photos to restore. Wednesday I took a delivery of some old photographic glass plates. They came in these lovely boxes. Two sizes of plates 5×4 inches and 7×5 inches. Both Kodak and Ilford plates, the Kodak selling point was “Anti-Halo” and the Ilford “Auto-Filter”. From research it seems they were circa 1923. The subject matter of the plates were hunting trophies. Leopard, Tigers, bears and Boar. (sorry permission not yet granted for display)
What was very interesting to me is that the larger box came with the instructions for development.
The recipes make interesting reading, I like the mention of the warning on the smaller box…
” Before returning unused film to this war-time package, care should be taken to ensure the film is wrapped in light proof paper. “
They were confident that unused film would be returned safely and unexposed even in war time!
Some old and varying sized negatives came along with the package for photo restoration in this envelope. The negatives, still hunting photos may have been intended for “The Explosives Department” at “Imperial Chemical Industries” in Calcutta as the envelope that came with it, was ready printed with the address. ICI eventually became defunct in 2008 after many years producing chemicals, explosives and paints before it was taken over by Akzo Nobel. Perhaps one of the employees was a hunter and simple kept his negatives safe in the envelope.
Certainly an intriguing story developing…
I just spotted a video on Lynda.com, a very reliable on line resource for learning. It describes using the “patch” tool as a useful tool for repairing scratches, tears and damage.
There is no doubt this tool is a great tool. In this case i feel that using something just because its there, is not always a good idea.
The video suggests you let the “content aware” algorithm do the work for you. Setting the parameters from “very loose” to “very strict.” I tried this with one of my images with damage and each and every parameter tested gave me a poor result, where the patched damage took a darker tone. See the first video below for how Bryan suggest it should work.
When i used the standard method of the patch it worked better in every case. Feel free to use the Lynda method but I would suggest using just the patch on its own. I am sure that Bryan O’Neil Hughes was just trying to show us that there are other methods to use but sometimes leaving it alone is just as good. Here is my quick test to explain why i have never use this option.
I am sure that content aware patch has its place but i could not get it to work on my image and never use it. Sure i use content aware occasionally but even then and more often than not i have to correct it.
This article is not about the actual technique used to replace the background but the complications that comes with the idea in the first place.
It always makes me chuckle a little inside when someone says “just replace the background”…
Replacing a background is simple enough providing several but rather critical and sometimes complicated criteria are met. Normally backgrounds are replaced with the scene already in the art directors mind. The models are shot and lit in such a way to match the background, or vice versa. The models will be shot on a neutral background making it easy to cut out and replace onto the new backdrop. All assets with be with the commercial photo retoucher.
In an everyday situation this is not the case. Often a client will ask for a “background replacement”. With what kind or background? where from? who is going to shoot it? find it and buy it?
Sourcing a background requires some criteria to be met.
1. The new image background must be in the same lighting as the original
It is of little use if the new background image has dull lighting with no strong shadows if the original was shot in bright sunshine. Likewise if the original was shot with a softbox or in dull lighting and the background was shot in the mid day sun. Care has be to taken to match them as if they were both taken on the same day or in the same conditions. Sun position in the sky must be noted if the shots are outside, long shadows mixed with over head sun light will be a retouching Fopa.
2. Height of camera
Camera height is also important especially for near objects or when shooting backgrounds. If the subject was shot at eye level but the background shot at waist level criteria 3 can easily look wrong. Angles start to look wonky or incorrect. Height of camera is most important when positioning a person into a line up. Waist level positions mixed with high or eye level positions can lead to looking up the nostrils of the person being dropped in, where the rest of line up have noses where you cannot see their nostrils at all.
Trying to insert a person or object into a scene where the scale or perspective does not match that of the original will have you messing with an image for hours only to give up, it will never look right.
4. Focal length of lens
The focal length of a lens can also have an effect on if two images will blend together. A person taken from an image shot with a long lens will look odd in an image shot on wide angle unless 1 2 and 3 can be met perfectly. Long lenses compress depth of field and facial features. A very flattering portrait can be made with a long lens. A wide angle lens produces very enhanced features and the two will not mix.
5. Licensing and cost.
Probably the most important when it comes to replacing a background is the licensing.
Each image has set licensing that the image can be used for. These terms must be met when the image is reproduced. It may be that the image can be used for website advertising but not be sold on for profit or gain. It’s important that you as the client, understand the implications should be handed over to your legal department to ensure no breaches will be made.
Ideal images are not free, they come from stock agencies. Not all stock agencies have the same images. We retouchers cannot have an account at every single stock agency so we will end up paying the same you do for the image. The only difference being is that we have to find the image in the first place. If it is to meet the above 5 criteria then it could take a while. There is this search time to pay for.
When it is asked “can you replace the background” these many factors have to be considered even before the retouching begins.