Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop

Photo Manipulation before Photoshop: How Did They Do It?

With fancy software like Adobe Photoshop and many others, today we take the art of photo manipulation and retouching almost for granted. Many people also have the mistaken belief that photo manipulation is new and is connected to the spread coming and spread of computer technology. Let us break that myth today. While photo manipulation has definitely spread with the advent of software like Adobe Photoshop, it is as old as photography itself. Of course, photo manipulation before Photoshop days was limited by technology and required various tools and an extremely steady hand instead of a few clicks of a mouse.

Gene Gable of CreativePro had stumbled across a book from 1946 called Shortcuts to Photo Retouching For Commercial Use which lays bare the techniques used in those days for manipulating photos. It shows that pretty basic tools like paint brush, glue, scales, rubber rollers, colors etc. were used to manipulate a photo.

Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Click on the Image to read more about old ways of photo manipulation

The book starts with the basics. Like how to crop a photo and what ‘Halftone’ is. Those days scaling a photo was a pure mathematical exercise and was not meant for everyone. The attention to detail that was given those days were just mind boggling. But how were the results? Here are some examples.

Photo manipulation before Photoshop: Some examples

Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Cloud Study, Light-Dark by Gustave Le Gray (1856-57): Photo created by joining two separate negatives at the horizon.
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Aberdeen Portraits No.1 by Geroge Washington Wilson (1857)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Double Exposure Portraits from 1800s. Artist: Unknown

 

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Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Series of five photos taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths between 1917 and 1920. Later used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his article about fairies. The fairies used in the photo were actually made of cardboard.

 

Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Headless figures most probably from the Victorian era.
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Lenin-Stalin in Gorki (1922): Stalin’s skin smoothened out and left arm length increased. Artist unknown.
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Man Juggling his own head: Unknown French artist 1880.
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Christmas Card by Angus McBean. (1950)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Man on Rooftop. Unknown American Artist (1930)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Powerful Collision by unknown German artist (1910s)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Room with an Eye (1930)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Two Headed Man by Unknown American Artist (1855)
Photo Manipulation Before Photoshop
Vanishing Commissar. Stalin era image manipulation to remove Nikolai Yezhov after he was arrested and executed in 1940

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