Photo Retouching Services > Retouching Blog > Retouch Tips > The history of photo editing

Photo Editing Blog

The history of photo editing

A few years after creation the first photograph in 1814, pictures were already being changed. So, the developing of photo retouching has started with the beginning of photography sphere. Unlike modern world in which photo editing is just a common task applied to the most of images, earlier photo manipulation techniques were considered to be something unbelievable. Many years ago shot improvement was rather interesting, but too hard to make. That is why only few photographers, who were the most richest and luckiest, had a brilliant opportunity to use a least some changing options. So, one question arises, what was in usage of professional photo makers before the famous days of photo retouching programs such as LightRoom and Photoshop? How did they manage to create the first shot techniques that are still popular in photo industry?


Some of most widely-used shot editing options, which were implied to the photos before invention of Photoshop, were combing printing, various exposures, different variants of photomontage, shot improvement on negative, etc. It should be mentioned that all those options were implied with the same goal as modern image retouchers have now in post-production photography services. Starting from the late 1800s such photo manipulation as adding missing or even dead family members into portrait shots, making artistic viewpoint or showing political satire were in wide practice. 

The Most Popular Old Photo Manipulation Techniques

1) Ghost photos

These shots were the most popular in the history of shot editing, as they enabled people to become closer with their relatives, who were no longer alive. At least in photos people were eager to stand together with their beloved member of family, as in reality it was totally impossible. Nowadays we know for sure that it was not more than just a lie. No dead relatives were present in shot, which is obvious. The image manipulators just combine two snaps, one with a customer and one with a missing relative. It is obvious that the shot with a dead relative was taken when he/she was alive.

The most widely-known shot, which was made in this style, is a shot of Abraham Lincoln’s wife, made after his death. This picture was retouched nearly in 1870. Interesting that at first the photo makers totally convinced people that it was a  true ghost.


2) Vivid satire

Like the modern situation, many shot makers widely used image editing as a powerful mechanism to reveal some political issues. For instance, John Heartfield can be named as one of the most famous photographer, who used various prints in order to show his attitude to the World War II and its leader.

He lived in Germany, but did not expose Hitler`s regime. For this reason, from day to day he risked his life printing satire pictures about the Nazis and their laws. 


3) Humorous photos

Although nowadays these shots may be considered to be queer ad sometimes even crazy, earlier they were extremely popular.

But today everything has changed and developed that is why such images are no longer in usage.  Rather popular examples of such shots are pictures in which a giant fish eats men.

Moreover, photos in which people wear different costumes of super-heroes were rather common in this sphere. Such postcards were popular among tourists and just ordinary people, who were eager to laugh a bit. 

4) Photos of whole teams

This kind of photo occupies the essential part in photo editing history. The most widely used option applied in this sphere was deleting or adding needed people from images. Lately the possibilities of this technique became wider, and editors were able to remove various items from a given photo. This option enabled to remove a person, who was no longer a member of team from an already made photo. That was rather quick and comfortable for various teams. Something similar we may observe even nowadays in wedding post production or family photo editing online, for example. 

Photo of these kind were popular not only among various sport teams, such as football, hokey or volleyball commands. There are some examples of women`s team shots.


History of Photo Manipulation

As you have understood with the described photo retouching examples, in the past years, photo makers was forced to be totally patient in order to catch the right moment. If they were eager to photograph something really spectacular and worth everybody`s attention, they had to carry their cameras and other heavy equipment everywhere until they found something special. In order to capture a beautiful sunrise or sunset photographers had to get up at the crack of dawn or sit until the sun went down.

Sometimes it took numerous hours to take hundreds of shot and choose only one, which is able to satisfy the final photo wish. But not only photographers suffered from this situation, professional models, for example, had to spend tiring hours in the makeup room or beauty studios for the sake of being well lit. But still everything that we have just mentioned changed greatly with the appearance of image changing techniques, such as LightRoom or Photoshop. If you are interested in the ways how editing options have changed our modern world, a nice choice will be to read the article Photoshop & Reality – do we need photo retouching services?


Modern picture improvement options have made lives of people, who are connected with photo art, much easier. Today, every detail in shot is able to be change or removed. If we touch upon the problem of portrait retouch, here various appearance enhancement options such as, skin editing, red eyes removal, teeth whitening and other techniques are widely used. It is not a great problem for digital retouching portfolio to do online make-up or apply the background changing. Moreover, different photographers color services are also on the top of popularity. 

But still there is one more shot editing technique has only started to win the popularity among modern photographers or just ordinary people. That is shot restoration. Nowadays more and more retouching specialists began to restore old photos. This option is able to build a useful bridge between the past and present events. Somehow a lot of people are quite nostalgic about their history and have a wish to give their images a new life. They realize that they should not remain in far corner without any attention. Old photo are also worth being hung on walls near modern shots.


Beyond doubts, every country has a unique variety of photo editing tendencies and just image making styles. Every nation has different preferences in the photo industry. For this reason every country has its own famous photographers, who work in individuals styles. If you are interested in this question, you may read interesting and useful facts-containing articles about photo improvement services in different countries. For example, we may advise you to  read such pieces of information as Photography and retouching services in Australia about situation of photo industry in Australia, Canada photo industry at focus or Everything about UK photography. For sure, here you will be able to find everything you might know about these countries in the focus of image editing.

One more thing that should be mentioned about modern shot enhancement compared with previous century is that the photo retouching prices are quite low. Today every person is able to ask for a digital image changing as the sums of money needed to be paid for them are rather pocket-friendly. In the past only the richest had an opportunity to have picture editing. That was a rare and truly expensive technique. 

All in all, every day our life changes as well as shot improving industry. From week to week, new unbelievable image changing options appear in order to satisfy the growing demand for this sphere. That is why it is rather interesting to observe the changes of photo art. For example you may read the article Most controversial photos of all time in order to find out the most famous photos which have attracted peoples` attention. And in general on our site you will be able to get in touch with a great range of interesting articles as well as be provided with outstanding shot retouching techniques.

Do you like the article? Please feel free to share it via your social accounts.

Pay attention this photography blog which does not require credit for the pictures and photo post production examples listed here . All photographs used in the article are only copyright to their respectful creators . These shots posted as a big admiration of portfolio and photo retouching talent the experienced rt masters have . If you found the photo on this post that is yours and do not want to be promoted on our website , please do not hesitate to write us via online chat on your right and it will be quickly deleted .

Rate the article!

The article's rating: 4.08571 based on 14 votes.

You comments or questions are welcome; please share your opinion on the topic.

Use Facebook:
Use Disqus: