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How did vintage photographers achieve such quality?

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#1 Leaviathan


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 02:21 PM

I've been looking through some vintage photography and I'm in awe at what these old cameras and photographers did with them. How do they do it?



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#2 james23p


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 02:23 PM

Skill and a lot of patients on both the photographer and the model. Plus the lab technicians where artist in their own right and in many cases the photographer was the processor.



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#3 Dennis


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 04:51 PM

And they used medium/large format film. Where they retouch the negative. The older version of Photoshop 😎

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#4 justshootit


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 09:35 PM

Even back then, an 8x10 negative could give astounding results in the hands of a photographer that knew what he was doing. Today, an 8x10 neg or chrome still blows away any digital camera for resolution.
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Film: N90s, F3, F100, F4s, C330s. A few lenses.

Why film photography? I like shooting with the equipment. 6x6 Velvia slides from a C330 have an appeal all their own.

Why automated 35mm/Digital cameras? Event photography is about capturing moments. It often requires quick response. Well done automaton can be your friend or your enemy. It all depends on knowing what it can and can't do. "A man's got to know his (camera's) limitations." paraphrasing Dirty Harry...

#5 480sparky


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 09:37 PM

Pure craftsmanship.  They knew how cameras worked, they knew how to control lighting, they knew how to process film, and they knew how to make prints.

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#6 Art


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Posted 30 April 2017 - 10:09 PM

I can't add anything to what has been said other than they were something to be admired!

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#7 pendennis


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Posted 01 May 2017 - 07:49 AM

They all had(have) the fundamental understanding of light, how it affects the subjects, and how to modify it to suit their purposes.


Before the advent of artificial lighting, the studio was one which had a northern exposure, and preferably a skylight.  Scrims were used to soften shadows, and enhance highlights where necessary.  The lenses were, for the most part, uncoated, and all had some degree of astigmatism.  The anastigmatic lens was a late-19th Century invention, and "fixed" a lot of photographic problems, but photographers could get very pleasing results with the astigmat's lens geometry.


Women, especially those approaching middle-age, especially appreciated the "natural" softening of facial lines, adding youth and mystery to their portraits.


Modern lenses can't duplicate the softness of the old astigmats, opting instead, for filterization to try and duplicate the effect.


The softening feature carried over into cinema well into the 1950's.  Female stars, in their solo shots, were all photographed using the soft focus.  Only in multiple person shots were sharper lenses used.  And this mostly because men were the stars, and they wanted their "rugged good looks" to dominate.


Even after anastigmats became dominant, photographers wielded "magic" in the darkroom; burning, dodging, masking, all worked to get the desired effect.  On larger portraits, which were often overpainted, an artist could soften lines with the stroke of a brush.  Colorizing was done primarily before the advent of color film, and still carried over into the late 20th Century.


It's still an art.



#8 Islander


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Posted 01 May 2017 - 10:43 AM

I agree with all the comments.  I'm not as old as all that but I did start out in the film age and spent a LOT of hours in the darkroom.

I've always said that a successful photographer must have a good fundamental knowledge of the aperture and shutter speed relationship.

In this age of automatic cameras this is often overlooked.

I don't miss the old days but I do appreciate what I am able to achieve because of them.





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