Commons talk:Deletion requests/National Portrait Gallery images (first set)

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Does reproducing quality images of 2D art still require skill?[edit]

I wrote this after reading When_to_use_the_PD-Art_tag#Reply to call for revision. User:MichaelMaggs interesting note addresses the support UK law makes for the the "skill and experience of photographers

I'd like to make some general comments on "skill and experience", and some specific comments on the contribution of the "skill and experience" component in taking photos of 2D art.

Specific comments first.

I've had a few relatively inexpensive cameras, but I don't consider myself even an amateur photography.

When I was a kid my brother took the time to become an experienced enough amateur that he could speak knowledgeably about the manual settings on his camera. Back in those days photographers had to manually set the focus length, iris aperture and exposure time for each photo, even the simplest ones. These settings required skill, and knowledge of the characteristics of the film stock one was using.

It seems to me that today's amateurs require a couple of orders less skill, and less experience, to get high quality images.

What skill, tools and experience does the gifted photographer need to reproduce a high quality image of 2D art that a casual amateur won't bring to the table? I don't pretend to know. So, let me lay out what I think. If there are other aspects to reproducing the high quality images that qualify for a separate copyright under UK law I am sure other people would appreciate the participants who know about such things laying them out for the rest of us.

casual amateur experienced professional or reasonable equivalent
  • uses any old lighting, or their cameras built-in flash, resulting in portions of the image being drowned out by reflected highlight(s).
  • uses indirect lighting, so there are no highlights.
  • use of ambient light, or improper choice of film results in images with colours that appear off.
  • uses special color balanced lights, or special film, or special filters, or technical post-processing to reproduce images that appear right.

So, am I missing something?

I suggest all of this is highly mutable. Maybe, as new technology allows even casual amateurs to produce what would be considered spectacular pictures in the past those with a commitment to pushing the envelope will always be able to tune and play with the cutting edge of the current technology, so we will always have "experts". Even the cheapest digital cameras have automatic red-eye reduction. I suggest it won't be very long before we can buy cheap cameras that have an automatic settings that allows even casual amateurs to produce high quality reproductions of 2D art with practically zero effort.

Near Toronto, where I live, there is the w:Sharon Temple. I had a tour of the temple a couple of decades ago. Although the temple's interior is beautiful the most memorable thing about the temple was this music box. The temple didn't have an organ, or an organist. It had this music box, which must have been cutting edge technology 175 years ago. It required a team to run, one to pump the bellows, and one to turn the clockwork. The temple had (still has) a small library of tunes the music box could play -- not unlike a player piano. The most memorable thing about this music box, the reason I brought this up, is that the tour guide told us that the parishioners had favorite teams they preferred to run the music box. The tour guide told us that the parishioners regarded teams' "skill and experience" as essential for superior reproductions of the music in their library. This is an example of what was, at the time, considered a notable skill that could only be acquired through experience, and that was regarded as having more than a tint of artistic interpretation, that could seem absurb today.

In the days of analog telegraphy, telegraphists could recognize the "fist" of their regular correspendents. They could recognize the cadence of the dots and dashes through which their friends transmitted morse code. This is another example of skill and experience that has been lost, and could be regarded as absurd today.

In my own life, I had a technical job, in a relatively obscure field that I found both interesting and challenging, which I really enjoyed. I thought I got pretty good at it. "Skill and experience" again. But a team of talented people developed an automated tool that could allow the kind of people who were my end-users to develop programs like those I individually crafted, in short order. It was an interesting tool, and made the skills of guys like me largely redundant.

Technology passed me by -- just like the skills of buggy-whip manufacturers. It is pointless to cry over the lost jobs of the buggy whip manufacturers, and it would be pointless to regret the sidelining of the skill I acquired through much effort. That is the nature of technology.

I strongly suspect that the skills of the photographers who can acquire high-quality images of 2D art will be rendered as practically pointless as that of the buggy whip manufacturers.

I am not arguing that we shouldn't continue to respect UK law. But I would encourage us all to anticipate that the UK interpretation will come to seem increasingly bizarre as the level of skill reguired to reproduce 2D images drops to essentially zero. I would encourage all of us who understand how truly absurd the UK interpretation was to use every opportunity to point out that absurdity.

How could the reproduction of quality images of 2D art be automated? I suggest it would be relatively simple to print out a standard frame, with a chart of standard colors. Lay the frame around the 2D art. Make sure it is lit with indirect light to avoid highlights. Take the photo. Then process it. Have a program that looks for the colors in the color chart. Figure out what post-processing is required to get the colors in the color chart to look "right", apply the same correction to the reproduction of the 2D image.

What about highlights? Maybe it would be possible for the post-processing program to look for tell-tale signs of reflection in the captured image, and refuse to process those images.

Of course the application would automatically crop out the reference frame.

Result? High quality reproductions of a 2D images requiring essentially zero skill.

Has anyone else suggested an application like that I described above? I have no idea.

Anyone who thinks fame or fortune can be found through developing this kind of application has my full encouragement.

Cheers! Geo Swan (talk) 22:55, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

I recommend this paper (in German) to get an impression of how high quality images of old manuscripts were taken within the CEEC project. In this case, the work was essentially done by up to four student assistants who got some initial training to operate a ProgRes 3012 digital camera and some associated equipment (see here for a picture of such a setup). --AFBorchert (talk) 08:47, 24 July 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. You get old, your memory fades. I had a room-mate who worked in publishing. And one of the tools he worked with was something called a "process table". There set up looks similar to some process tables I have seen. I can't believe I forgot all about this technology. The one is my buddy's workplace was horizontal. The object to be filmed was held vertical by suction, and the camera traveled on rails about 4 or 5 meters long. It could handle originals about 1.5 x 1.5 meters.
Cheers! Geo Swan (talk) 20:31, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Uhm yeah, but the point that seems to get ignored completely is that nothing that makes up the high quality of these reproductions ends up on commons. We have only downscaled images, which probably have screwed up icc profiles anyways (or they get enhanced by well meaning edititors). The fraction of commons users with professionally calibrated displays here is most likely zero in any case. So, to get the end results we are hosting, pretty much no skill is needed (well not being a complete moron is minimum level). --Dschwen (talk) 21:29, 25 July 2008 (UTC)