Both amateur and professional photographers rely heavily on photographic process workers and processing machine operators to develop film, make prints or slides, and do related tasks, such as enlarging or retouching photographs. Photographic processing machine operators operate various machines, such as mounting presses and motion picture film printing, photographic printing, and film developing machines. Photographic process workers perform more delicate tasks, such as retouching photographic negatives, prints and images to emphasize or correct specific features.
Photographic processing machine operators often have specialized jobs. Film process technicians operate machines that develop exposed photographic film or sensitized paper in a series of chemical and water baths to produce negative or positive images. First, technicians mix developing and fixing solutions, following a formula. They then load the film in the machine, which immerses the exposed film in a developer solution. This brings out the latent image. The next steps include immersing the negative in a stop-bath to halt the developer action, transferring it to a hyposolution to fix the image, and then immersing it in water to remove the chemicals. The technician then dries the film. In some cases, these steps are performed by hand.
Color printer operators control equipment that produces color prints from negatives. These workers read customer instructions to determine processing requirements. They load film into color printing equipment, examine negatives to determine equipment control settings, set controls, and produce a specified number of prints. Finally, they inspect the finished prints for defects, remove any that are found, and insert the processed negatives and prints into an envelope for return to the customer.
Processing machine operators who work with digital images first load the raw images onto a computer, either directly from the camera or more commonly from a storage device such as a flash card or CD. Most processing of the images is done automatically by software, but they may also be reviewed manually by the operator, who then selects which images the customer wants printed and the quantity. Some digital processors also upload images onto a Web site so that the customer can view them from a home computer and also share them with others through the Internet.
Photographic process workers, sometimes known as digital imaging technicians, use computer images of conventional negatives and specialized computer software to vary the contrast of images, remove unwanted background, or combine features from different photographs. Although computers and digital technology are replacing much manual work, some photographic process workers, especially those who work in portrait studios, still perform many specialized tasks by hand directly on the photo or negative. Airbrush artists restore damaged and faded photographs, and may color or shade drawings to create photographic likenesses using an airbrush. Photographic retouchers alter photographic negatives, prints, or images to accentuate the subject. Colorists apply oil colors to portrait photographs to create natural, lifelike appearances. Photographic spotters remove imperfections on photographic prints and images.