How do you touch up skin blemishes on fiber paper portraits
Old 06-12-2019   #1
Steve M.
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How do you touch up skin blemishes on fiber paper portraits

I took a photo of my neighbor's grand daughter, which unfortunately shows her acne blemishes. These are dark spots (which thankfully are not real dark) and on her forehead mostly. The paper was Ilford MG FB Cool Tone. I'm so used to dealing w/ things later in Photoshop that I forgot to ask her to move where the light was better.

How do you wet printers deal w/ this? There's plenty of watercolours and inks here, and I'm used to spotting prints, but these are on a face so it needs to be done right.

The photo itself looks good w/ lots of grain, so don't go by this lousy cell phone shot except to note the spots.

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Old 06-12-2019   #2
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First, use a red filter to take the photo. Second try touching up the negative (difficult if 35mm). Freestyle used to see B&W water colors for retouching prints.
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Old 06-12-2019   #3
Steve M.
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The photo's been taken, but that's a good idea, as I like to use yellow and red filters. I ain't touching the negative because I like the way it came out. This is Rodinal w/ Tri-X at 1:20 so it's wonderfully grainy, and now that I think about it, maybe it's better to bleach the areas on the print w/ a q-tip. Anything I do to cover up a dark spot will cover over the grain to some extent too, and I might have two problems at that point instead of just this one. Now to figure out what will lightly bleach blackened silver.
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Old 06-13-2019   #4
David Hughes
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It might be a good idea to scan the print and then use an editor etc. That way it won't show that it's been retouched.

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Old 06-13-2019   #5
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Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
Now to figure out what will lightly bleach blackened silver.


Using it well takes practice. A lot of practice.

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Old 06-13-2019   #6
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In portraits where blemishes occur, many solutions..
Film of course! Digital has photoshop..
Use red filter, a diffusion filter or best the Zeiss Softar for Hasselblad original!
No other filter does smooth skins and texture in cloth.
I printed 1/2 with tracing paper over paper.
Diffusion in darkroom with vignettes different result than when exposing..
Film needs different exposures and development..
Make print again and work on that!
Re-copy but with digital, so no increase of contrast.

Last edited by leicapixie : 06-13-2019 at 04:40. Reason: spell.
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Old 06-13-2019   #7
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If you are skilled at retouching then the easiest thing to do is bleach back the spots lighter than they should be, then retouch them. There are a few ways you can do this.

Use farmer's reducer (ferricyanide and fixer). If you mix it weak and put the print somewhere with access to running water on a hose you can gradually bleach back the spots.

If you want to just bleach back the spots to paper white you can use iodine. It works fast straight out of the bottle. Best to use it on a dry print then wash it off. If you use it on a wet print, dilute it. I usually use alcohol to dilute it. Best thing about iodine is you can just pop over to the drug store and get it. Cheap too...

You'll need to refix if you use the iodine, and you should do it after the farmer's reducer too.

If you want more control over the farmer's reducer, you can split it. Use the ferricyanide by itself, and when the image is almost light enough, you can then fix it. It will lighten slightly in the fixer. Doing it this way means if you screw up, you can reverse it by putting it in developer before you fix it. Once you fix it, it is permanent.

Iodine is best used for spots. Ferricyanide is best used for areas. That is how I approach it.

The third way, which I wouldn't recommend, is knifing. You take a small Exakto knife and slowly scrape the emulsion away. It is the most direct route, but also the most difficult.

Forget about trying to retouch a 35mm neg. You aren't that talented because no one is! If you have a super steady hand, and a super fine pointed Sakura pen, you can put a dot over the blemish which will then print as a white dot in the print. It is very difficult to do accurately though.

One thing to note is that when you bleach silver it will change the color of it. Smaller silver grains have a warmer tone. That is why it is often best to just bleach it back to paper white.

Hope that helps you.
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Old 06-13-2019   #8
Steve M.
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Wow, good info here. Thanks! I'm going to order some of the Farmer's Reducer (great name!), make some small prints and practice on those. I have a good eye and light touch from years of watercolour work, just needed to figure out the process to make this happen. I never even thought of iodine PRJ, and much appreciate your knowledgeable help.

Some negs you can't fix of course and need to be scanned, but to me that's a very last resort because the difference in a good fiber print and anything scanned and printed is quite noticeable. Only my old BO prints using Eboni Black ink only come close, but wow, all that scanning and inkjet clogs and trial prints. Don't miss that experience. The curling has been a royal PITA, but I'm trying different things to address that. The paper is a new one to me, Ilford MG FB Cool Tone, and it's got a very white base and nearly neutral tones, at least in Dektol. This was supposed to be a cheap paper to use while I get my printing chops back, but it's a really good paper. Not as good as the Adox MCC 110 that I've used in the past, but pretty close, and a whole lot cheaper.

Maybe I should just display the prints under water, like when you wash them. No curling, no need to frame, and all those little nit picking problems disappear in the water. That's a good metaphor for how I feel when I get in the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic ocean. All my problems go away, and it's just me, the ocean, the fish and the sun. Time for me to leave the desert.

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Old 06-13-2019   #9
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This might be of interest:

My Flickr
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