Pictorial photography in America was quite popular during the beginning of the 20th century.
At that time, mass produced cameras were first manufactured and came with lenses such as the Anastigmat which when used at it’s largest aperture and combined with orthochromatic films of the day, would produce softly focused, ‘black and chalk’ tonalities resulting in soft, grainy prints.
Instead of looking like a mirror of reality as today’s digital cameras typically produce, the Pictorial styled images had a very romantic and mysterious quality and the best of them would convey ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’ and a unique ‘atmosphere’ in the final prints.
Project Gutenberg has a set of wonderful (free) books if you go to their web site and search for, ‘Pictorial Photography in America‘, 1920, 1921 and 1922 as well as other ebooks on this subject that are well worth the time to read and gaze upon these photos.
Download the PDF versions to see it on your computer OR download the ‘epub with pictures’ versions then drag and drop them into your iTunes application window and they will automatically load onto your iPad the next time you sync it.
A personal note about my new iPad … it is more than you can possibly know or you’d already own one! I’ll be doing a detailed blog posting about it, soon but if you are a photographer, don’t wait, just go and buy one now! You won’t regret it.
During some recent experiments, I’ve hit upon a modern digital method to reproduce the same kind of Pictorial style using of all things, my iPhone, iPad and Aperture 3 software. As it was, back in the day, a lot depends on luck to produce a good, pictorial styled image. I think that the iPhone was made for this!
I’ll attach some of my test shots so that you can compare them with the book’s shots.
The technique used a pair of apps … one for the iPhone and one for the iPad (for a total cost of 99 cents) … that link them together wirelessly via BlueTooth. Make sure both devices have bluetooth turned on in their Settings. Open both Camera apps and you will be able to ‘see’ the results from the iPhone’s camera on the iPad’s screen. Then use the camera icon at the bottom of the iPad’s Camera-A app to capture the image.
This combination of the large, gorgeous preview screen on the iPad showing the image transmitted from the iPhone will make the image slightly soft and grainy … just what you are looking for if you want to simulate what the pictorial photographers saw and photographed!
I get the best results, handheld in low levels of illumination such as the samples I shot, below.
Pictorial Styled Digital Photo
The processing is quite straight forward in Aperture 3 , especially when you have completed the setup the first time and made this into a preset, although I have no doubts that there must be other programs that can produce similar results?
After you’ve set the following up, and saved it as a ‘Preset’, it can be applied to any of your other iPhone photos with just a single click.
For these examples, I’ve used the Curves block along with the Command Key modifier to move the max black and max white points to the limits that the iPhone recorded. If the histogram shows that the data is off scale, I also use the Exposure block, again using the Command Key modifier to adjust either the black point or the recovery slider to adjust the white point or both.
Next, the Levels block lets you once again use the Command Key modifier (handy one, this!) to once again fine tune the extreme sliders meeting the maximum black and maximum white in the image. Then move the middle tonality slider (usually towards the right) to get the desired rich look in the middle tones.
Then, the Black & White block will be adjusted so that the red slider is 100 percent while the other two sliders are each set to zero percent. Now the image will begin to reveal itself!
To finish the look, add the Edge Sharpen block and set to Intensity: .81; Edges: .22; Falloff: .69 and then, add the Vignette block, set to: Type: Gamma; Intensity: .6; Radius: .5.
To save this as a one click Preset, just click on the Presets button in Aperture 3’s Adjustments and select, Save as Save As Preset and name it Pictorial from iPhone. After this when you want to see if your shot looks good in the Pictorial style, all you do is select this preset. This should at least be close enough for you to determine if it is worth the time to fine tune the results. As I said earlier, luck will have a lot to do with if this works well or not.
BTW If you don’t own Aperture but use a modern Mac, download a free 30-day trial version from Apple. But, be warned that everyone that I know has tried it has ended up buying it!
I’ve worked with most photo editing apps at one time or another since 1984 and I can tell you that this latest release of Aperture 3 is nothing short of stunning! Be sure you check out Apple’s online training videos to get up to speed with it. They’ve done and outstanding job on their ‘Learn More’ videos.
It’s been suggested that I include the following disclaimer … I have no affiliation and receive no benefits, financial or otherwise from Apple or the maker of the Camera-A, Camera-B software! I can’t help myself, I just love photography and want to share it with anyone that will listen to me! Enjoy!