Saturday, May 29, 2010

Editing Life

One advantage that digital cameras have over traditional film cameras is the ability to take the original image file and alter it on a computer with a program like Photoshop. We've all seen the results of creative people (and those that just think they are) with edited pictures. The problem I've been dealing with since I bought my new camera isn't whether to touch up photos or not, but rather, when to stop.

I've been trying out a couple of programs to develop digital images, notably Adobe Lightroom 2 and the editing software that came with the camera called Digital Photo Professional. I know what you are going to say: Digital pictures don't need developing, but most can use a tweak or two before they are ready to be shown. When I started using my camera I would have a very large number of pictures that would require a lot of work to be good enough. I have been getting better at using my camera so I don't need to do that much to get a photo to where I want it. Take these pictures below. The first one is the original image exported directly from the camera's raw file, that's the format that I have my camera set to as default. Raw images can be manipulated much easier and with better results than with a .jpg or other format. It's not really a bad picture, but it definitely looks underexposed resulting in an image that's a bit too dark.

This next image was my first attempt
at correcting the original shot. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was doing. I started by adjusting the exposure and used the graduated filter tool to darken the sky. I then adjusted the vibrance and saturation. Changing the vibrance and saturation settings warmed up the image considerably and made it brighter, but it also made it look unnatural. Another advantage of the raw format, changes made to the image are not permanent. That means that any and all changes made to the image are reversible (thankfully!).

And this last one is my latest attempt to make the image look as natural as possible. I used a bit more restraint in changing the image this time around. I did brighten up the image a bit, as well as adjust the saturation and vibrance, but hopefully not enough to make the image seem fake. What is obvious is that the the picture itself was not taken in the best possible circumstances. The day was very overcast and that detracted from the overall shot. I'll have to go back soon and see if I can do better with more natural light and less cloud cover.

Any image can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Digital images can be recolored, aged, made into a black and white picture or any combination of those options. The key is to know what you want the image to be and convey and when to stop making adjustments. Practice with whatever program you use is nearly as important as shooting the image in the first place. I still need a lot of practice with both.

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