My Lifelong Quest for Image Clarity

The title sounds ominous enough.

My first attempts to produce “snappy” pictures in print started in my sophomore year in college. I was the production manager for our college magazine and was determined to make the images in publication pop off the page-

I had no earthly idea how that was supposed to happen. I understood absolutely nothing about either photography or the print reproduction game at the time. I remember accompanying the school photographer on assignments, asking him to shoot “high contrast pictures.” This was a little vague in direction, but it sounded like it ought to have an impact on the final print.

Eye-Pixel-HTI had seen way too many printed pictures that looked flat when printed, and lacking in detail. I figured that the photographer needed to pick up his game. I thought that if he just shot the picture with more contrast, the image would print with greater clarity. Made sense at the time. Like most non-printer people assume today, the photographer determines the visual appearance of printed pictures. I’ve since learned a quite different explanation.

At that time I was working my way through college in the Reproduction Department of Tropical Gas Company in Miami Florida, running forms and reports and an occasional newsletter from the company’s Multilith 1250W duplicator (a small beginner’s version of a printing press). 1250 MultiEvery time I wanted to print a black and white photo in the company newsletter, I had to have the local “repro shop” produce a printing plate containing a halftone (a simulation of the photograph broken into variable size dots). My halftone images usually printed flat, and I figured the fault had to belong to the photographer.

That was my early approach to QC in photographic images. I understood absolutely nothing about the photo/lithographic process but that was about to change big time.

What I came to realize was that there were several VERY significant steps between the camera shot and the images coming from the duplicator. Lighting on the scene was important, but it was only the first move in the reproduction ballet. In between were the critical steps of film development, photographic enlargement (the print) and the halftone conversion process. The learning lights began to turn on. Over the next few years I began my quest for printed image clarity.

35mm-dev-tankI determined to learn and take control of all the steps in the process, starting with the photography, developing my own films, enlarging my own prints, and shooting my own halftone images. The quest now had a plan. The kid was in control.

Funny how life unfolds. Here I am over fifty years later and I’m still on that quest. After investing decades in the lithography and photography industries, I’m still on track. Digital film instead of emulsion, digital image processing instead of rocking film canisters and print trays, editing on a digital display instead of dodging and burning on an enlarger easel, and printing on publication presses and publishing on the Internet instead of spitting paper out of a small quick-copy duplicator. But the challenge remains. An eternal quest for image clarity. Actually, it’s the same challenge, just a different landscape. No matter where you are in this visual journey, keep learning. It’s an honorable quest!

That’s the way I sees it.

The Way Eye Sees It Banner

Drop me a note. I’d like to hear your thots. Let’s learn together.

See you next time.


About Herb Paynter

I'm an author, photographer, and digital imaging consultant living in Ormond Beach, Fl. I've been in the color game for more years than I care to admit. In that time I have picked up some insights and experience that I like to share.
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5 Responses to My Lifelong Quest for Image Clarity

  1. Marty Knapp says:


    Just checked out your “Gotta Know…” video series promo. Looks like just the sort of information that would be helpful for me.

    I’d like to purchase this production from you but I’m stopped by a contradiction. Would you please reconcile your statement of “watch as many times as you like” with what appears to be a one-year subscription offering for my payment on the PayPal billing page?

    Please let me know, will I truly have the unlimited access you state in your promo video, or will I have to pony up again after one year to continue to access the information?


    ps. You must know by now that the link in the email announcement needs a dot replaced with a forward slash in order to link. So if you’re not getting the response you hoped for from this excellently-produced promotion video, then that’s certainly why.

    • Herb Paynter says:

      Thanks Marty for the heads up. I had considered doing a yearly membership but decided against it. The membership is an unlimited one. I’ve changed the confusing wording on the order form.

  2. Marty Knapp says:

    Thanks, Herb. I’ll head over and sign up. Your video series looks very useful and I’m sure will help me get my head wrapped around some of the mysteries of color digital that have hitherto baffled me.

  3. Cialis says:

    Thank you for sharing your info. I truly appreciate your efforts and I
    will be waiting for your further post thank you once again.

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