how the only picture of the late Mr Ravenscroft was made into a framed portrait
by John Henshall

Original amateur 'snap'.

Graham Ravenscroft died not long after his wife took this picture of him with his sister at her wedding. Lena Ravenscroft was one of the many viewers who contacted me after appearing on television programmes, demonstrating some of the facilities offered by digital imaging. Could I produce a portrait of her late husband from this picture?

Mrs Ravenscroft sent us the 35mm camera negative, which we scanned using a Kodak RFS2035 scanner. These cost about £6,000. Had the film been 6 x 6cm or larger, we would have used our £12,000 Leafscan45. Too much? The Microtek 45t accepts all film sizes from 35mm right up to 5 x 5 inches, costs under £6,000 and has had close to rave reviews. Had we received a print, we would have scanned it on a flatbed scanner. These definitely are cheap, and once again among the cheapest are the Microtek models. There is large and growing competition in this area and the scanners usually come with a 'free' copy of Adobe Photoshop. We use the Agfa and Nikon scanners. You can get a flatbed scanner and Photoshop for under £1,000 these days. Just one lens can cost more than this.

Once in digital form, we drew a 'path' around Mr Ravenscroft, using Photoshop's pen tool to select and lift him out of the original picture. Then we copied him onto a Lastolite painted background, shot using the Kodak DCS200 digital camera, cloning his right arm across to replace his left.

Because he had been cut out, there was no shadow on the floor where Mr Ravenscroft was positioned, making him look as though he was floating in the air - until the floor around his feet was burnt-in to look like shadow.

We printed the final image on a dye sublimation printer. Our trusty XLS8300 has already been replaced by the cheaper XLS8600 and inexpensive printers from companies such as Fargo look set to drive prices in this field down lower.

This is a service which all social photographers could offer, now, without enormous outlay. Imagine the joy which this picture will bring to Mrs Ravenscroft. And, best of all, it was she who took the picture of her late husband.

Suppose the image I manipulated was one of yours and you entered it for a competition. You took the picture - I was only the 'printer', manipulating the image to your instructions. Oh yeah? It's the great trade processing controversy all over again but more so.

If you haven't already, now is the time to dip your toe in the digital water. Imaginative ideas could repay your investment quickly. And so they should for, although we reach the millennium in just five years time, most of the products which will be on the market in the year 2000 do not yet exist.

This review first appeared as "John Henshall's Chip Shop" in "The Photographer" magazine, January 1995.
This document is Copyright © 1996 John Henshall. All rights reserved.
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