The Digital Darkroom
Even if you don't shoot RAW, it pays to learn how to fine tune your JPEG images for the best quality prints. In this occasional series, Pete Wilson-Jones takes you through the essentials of image correction in Photoshop.
It's not stretching the truth to say the shift from film-based photography to digital imaging over the past decade is pretty much complete. For many photographers - amateur and professional - shooting on film and learning traditional wet darkroom skills is now a thing of the past, and the realm of the enthusiast. The upside is that the move to digital has given us more control over the photographic process than ever before. The downside is that without some kind of formal training, using computer-based programs like Photoshop as a digital darkroom can be downright daunting for the less-experienced or new-to-digital shooter.
Wet vs Dry
Having gone through photo school at the time when Photoshop was first making its presence (and potential) felt in the photographic process, I was uniquely positioned for the crossover from the 'wet' to digital darkroom. The earliest versions of Photoshop were pretty basic of course, offering up a limited range of tools that most photographers would be familiar with, but it was revolutionary in a number of ways. It eliminated the need for an expensive and dedicated darkroom, and passed affordable control of the entire photographic process to the photographer.
Lesson 1: Contrast & Exposure
Photoshop CS3 and higher versions include some great 'one stop' tools for correcting exposure and contrast in your JPEG images. Some readers will be aware that in general digital cameras have a limit to their exposure range - around 8 or 9 f/stops. This, of course, means that in a high-contrast situation it’s physically impossible to take a single image which captures the entire range of tones from brightest white to deepest shadow without some areas of the image being over or under-exposed. Hence terms like 'expose for the highlights' or 'expose for the shadows' are common to the photography enthusiast’s language. Some get around this limitation by shooting a series of HDR (high dynamic range) images of the same scene, then merging them digitally to create a full tonal range photo. But for the JPEG or “point-and-shoot” photographer that can be a bit too technical!...
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: 10 tips for reliable DSLR auto-focus; Trekking in the Andes; Capturing images during the "magic hours"; Profile - Andrea Francolini; Locations - Yea & District, Vic; Picking the perfect camera bag; Nikon 1 V1
This story was first published in the Australian Photography February 2012 issue of Australian Photography > February 2012.