A 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 very little 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 should have an impact on the final print.

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 the company newsletter on the company’s Multilith 1250W duplicator (a small beginner’s version of a printing press).

Every time I wanted to print a black and white photo, 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- see above). 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.


To see the magic illusion of printed halftones, back away from your monitor by at least 12 feet.

What I came to realize shortly thereafter was that there were several VERY significant steps between the camera shot and the images coming out of the duplicator. Lighting in the photo was important, but it was only the first move in the production ballet. Then the critical steps of film development and photographic enlargement (the print) took place before the totally magic halftone conversion process happened. I found out that shaping the image after the photo was taken was the real secret to printed picture success. My learning “lights” began to turn on. Over the next few years, my quest for printed image clarity grew.

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 was turning into a plan and was headed in the right direction. The kid was taking control.

My love for the process eventually drove me deep into the high-end lithographic trade, running publication presses and producing color separations.

Funny how life unfolds. Here I am over fifty years later and I’m still on that quest for image clarity. After decades in the litho and photography trades, I’m still on track and still learning stuff. Digital images have replaced film emulsions, computer processing succeeded the rocking of film canisters and print trays, I’m editing on a digital display instead of dodging and burning under an enlarger, and printing on large format inkjet printers instead of spitting paper out of a small quick-copy duplicator.


Never settle for the image that first comes out of the camera. There’s always more detail below the surface.

But the goal remains: the perpetual quest for image clarity. Actually, it’s the same goal I’ve had all along, the game is just played on a larger field. No matter where you are in this visual journey, never stop learning. It’s an honorable and rewarding quest!

That’s the way I sees it.

If you really want to understand what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to push light around to make your images look better, I can help. I’ve created a very entertaining and easy-to-understand video series that will teach you these fundamentals and help you to capture and produce amazing color. Go online and get this video series. Get Bright About Light!

About Herb Paynter

Herb is a published author, photographer, retoucher, color reproduction specialist and a regular writer for Digital Photography School. Download his iBook "Digital Color Photography: A Deeper Look" from the iTunes store and view his Light and Color Fundamentals video series at GottaKnowVideos.com.
This entry was posted in Analog and Digital Photography, Opinions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to A 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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s