Taken literally, the Greek words “photos” and “graphos” together mean “drawing with light”. There is no exact information on how and when photography began, but the first printed photographs were made between 1816 and 1840 continuing on the previous century”s discovery that certain chemicals turned black when exposed to light. Almost as soon as the first photographs came out of cameras, people were using them to manipulate images.
Take, for example, the very famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln, standing with one hand on his desk. Analysis in the 20th century showed that his mole was on the wrong side of his face, and further research turned up a picture of North Carolina Congressman John Calhoun in exactly the same pose. Someone in the 1860s had taken Lincoln’s face and pasted it onto Calhoun’s body, and the resulting fake photo was spread all across the Union.
Through the Civil War, photo staging was much more common than photo editing. It was very difficult to get an “action” shot because of the long exposure times, so war photographers would pose their shots. Later, through the early twentieth century, photo postcards showing monstrous fish, grasshoppers, and crops were very famous, and nearly all of them were made by merging two shots into the same frame. As the Dust Bowl ruined crops, the postcards of apples the size of watermelons and corn cobs as big as fireplace logs showed a very dark humor, almost a sick joke.
The Surrealist photo montage
Surrealism and Dadaism led to some pretty interesting results through the introduction of visual images that were closer to the workings of the unconscious (a theory based upon the psychoanalytical perspective of Sigmund Freud), and later through the experimental and conceptual work of many contemporary artists.
The predominant use of images in surrealism was mostly associated with the post-1925 period, when photography became sort of a complementary object for the surrealist literature. Although Andre Breton used photography purely as an illustrative art in order to eliminate most descriptions from the narratives, Man Ray took his work beyond the camera creating Rayography, his signature cameraless process. Instead of recognizing the camera as a simple instrument and the photograph as a mere reproduction of reality, the surrealists used it as a tool of the imagination and viewed the photograph as a point of departure. The surrealists tried to capture the unknown by exploring the limitless boundaries of the subconscious, a world of psychical reality that could not be separated from the social and political environment around them.
Josef Stalin made photo editing famous, as those who fell out of favor simply “ceased to exist.” There are numerous examples of pictures where people standing beside him have simply been painted out and forgotten.
Even the magazines and newspapers of today are not immune. One magazine over-darkened OJ Simpson’s mug shot for it’s cover, making him appear much darker and more menacing than he was in real life. And a number of photojournalists were caught using Photoshop tools on their photos to either merge two scenes into one or increase the smoke and battle damage far beyond what was really there. Photo faking goes beyond simply posing a scene, because it’s a blatant attempt to lie to the viewer.
At the other extreme, if you just want to let loose and get creative, there’s no limit to what you can achieve with a DSLR camera and some basic photo editing software. A quite popular and widely used technique nowadays is “painting with light” in a dark environment. The photographer uses a flash light, sometimes covered in colored gels to paint certain portions of the landscape or people.
Here’s a short video showing some amazing (but relatively simple) photography tricks and special effects…
If you’d like to learn the secret to these photos special effects, plus a whole lot more, be sure to check out the tutorial package below… Trick Photography & Special Effects.