Saturday, March 10th, 2012 • No Comments
This week’s theme at Oh Get a Grip! is favorite colors. My piece went in an entirely different direction than I intended:
I learned everything there is to know about color in photo finishing. How to take a negative and print a perfect replica of the original scene. How to add or subtract magenta, yellow and cyan to balance the tones of a photo. How to darken or lighten an image to take the edge off a bright flash or bring a face out of the shadows. I could hold a strip of negatives up to the fluorescent lights and tell you if it was going to be a bitch to print. Outdoor scenes—bright, sunny days with a clear blue sky—were the hardest to print. A cloudless blue sky rarely looks the same in a picture as it does in real life. And dust specks—tiny little things that you hardly notice when they’re on the tip of your fingers—look like giant snakes on a picture of sky.
I loathed summer because the beach parties and air shows would drive me around the bend, trying to get all the dust off every negative, trying to make the sky look the same as it did that sunny day. We always added cyan to sky pictures, making them bluer than they were in real life. People like their memories enhanced and no one never complained. If there were trees or sand (or people) in those pictures, they would sometimes take on a blue hue as well, and we’d have to go back and reprint the photo, subtracting some of the cyan. +3, -1, wasting time and paper on a picture someone was going to shove in a drawer and never look at again. You become a perfectionist in photo finishing—or you find a new job.
I worked at three labs in South Florida over the four or so years I worked in photo finishing and I saw a lot of pictures. A lot. Personal pictures, things I had never seen before then. Some things I haven’t seen since and would have to search for on the internet, if I were so inclined. The photo lab in the upper middle class neighborhood in South Florida was different than the photo lab near Fort Lauderdale beach. The neighborhood customers took pictures of birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, graduations and retirements. The beach customers were usually on vacation and their pictures reflected all of their vacation activities. And I do mean all. People on vacation get… wild. Luckily, I worked in the neighborhood lab before I worked at the beach location, so I had already had my eyes opened by people’s photographic proclivities.
You can read the rest here: The Color of Flesh