Two of the types of photo that are difficult to get balanced in terms of light and shade are ones printed on textured paper and ones in which very pale colours or white form the main part of the content. The latter is one of the reasons that photographs should not be scanned with any of the scanner’s automatic filters on (most scanners have a ‘professional’ or similar setting in which these auto-features can be turned off, but the default settings are usually with them on), as too much brightness can wash out most of the detail in light areas (such as lace, or slight shadows in a blouse that show its shape) and too much shadow can similarly knock out detail in darkened areas.
The photo above – which is on textured paper – was shot in a normal studio setting but the surround was then deliberately washed-out by the printer, and the child is wearing a pale dress with white socks. Added to that, while the quality of the print isn’t bad, it is a bit faded and needed more contrast between the shadows and mid-tones, without affecting the highlights too much. That posed a problem because using my usual techniques on this photo would have darkened the child’s face too much.
So I decided to remove the colour from the background, do a slight tint on the dress, socks and shoes, bracelet-chain and chair, and then colour the child’s skin, eyes, lips and hair. Then, apart from ensuring that there was enough balance between the tonalities, I left the rest of it alone. As usual, I’ve avoided adding extra colour to the cheeks. If you haven’t already, you can read my reasoning in my post Little Roselyne.
I picked out some of the detail in the dress by adding extra white. I had wondered about adding extra colour to the flowers – perhaps some pink or peach – but decided it might be overdoing it.
The dress is not a pure white – if you look at it (click on the images a couple of times to see it larger, it’ll open in a separate window or tab) you’ll see it’s actually two or more layers of fabric – embroidery on a translucent fabric with broad lace edgings plus one or two more fabrics beneath those. The petticoat looks to me like it might be crochet or broderie anglaise. Maybe someone more knowledgeable about fabrics could tell me?
I do note that the embroidery includes the traditional cabbage-roses that have been around as part of fabric designs for a very long time.
On the back of the card is the name of the photographer:
T. Taylor, 77 Standish Street, Burnley. I had a look online and this photographer is mentioned a few times. One person refers to his family having had photos taken there between the 1930s and 1950s, but most of the entries date him in the 1930s, so I’ll assume this child is from that sort of period, possibly a bit later.
77 Standish Street now seems to be the site of Mama Jo’s (look like a takeaway food place). Click, drag and zoom inside the Google Maps streetview image to navigate inside it:
Aside from all that – isn’t she a sweet little girl? I wish I knew who she was, or, if she’s still going strong, who she is.