Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Artwork


Michael Jackson photo collage is the first of a number of artworks intended for a series called THREE KINGS AND A COUPLE OF QUEENS. Inspired by using mixed media; with random snippets and visual pointers the idea is to create a poster effect as a tribute to the life of iconic artists. Next on the hit parade will be Elvis Presley, followed by John Lennon and then Freddie Mercury. Marilyn Monroe will be last of the queens to enter this hall of fame. Print medium, size and edition has not been finalised yet. View all new projects here >>

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Understanding the digital darkroom (Processing vs. Editing)

Article by Martin Osner [September 2013] It still amazes me how much misunderstanding there is around the issue of processing and editing of digital images. On a daily basis I find myself having to defend questions regarding the post-production of my own work, as well as helping folk who are getting into digital photography. But, before I begin my explanation around this topic let me first discuss a few important issues. One must understand that digital photography evolved out of analogue film photography. Electronic capture was pioneered by Kodak in an attempt to find an alternative to silver halide technology. Ironically, though, and by not really believing in the future of digital technology, the very thing they created sunk their corporation in just fifteen years – but this is a topic for another day.

The point I am making is that digital was founded out of film and chemical technology, and a lot of what we see in digital processing is similar to that of film technology. As someone who still shoots in both film and digital, it is still incredible to me that not much has changed in the processing of photographs, even though there has been a crossover of technologies. Let me explain. With film, once exposed, firstly we need to develop the negatives or slides. One cannot see or evaluate the exposed latent image until the film has been put through this development process. Digital is somewhat the same. When shooting in Camera RAW we also need firstly to process the digital exposure. A RAW file is known as the digital negative where the red, green and blue layers are recorded separately.

As with film processing this is where the quality lies. Unfortunately, when shooting in a JPEG format, you allow the camera software to automatically process your image without custom control. Convenient, yes – but not a good idea! When processing in silver halide one has the ability to over or under develop the film to control contrast and exposure. This is known as pushing or pulling the film. You can also choose to process in cross-over chemistry, known as cross processing, i.e. negative to slide or slide to negative. In digital, the RAW file processor equally allows for pre-editing control. This is where we correct or enhance the colour, manage contrast and detail, tweak exposure, apply sharpness, and so much more. The important thing to understand in both technologies is that the quality of the final image is established at the point of processing, and not when editing.

One needs to understand that there are two distinct steps in the process of photography, and this applies equally to film as it does to digital imaging. First you process the file – this is where most of your pre-editing should be done. Then, once “developed” the processed file is flattened out of RAW and ready for final editing in photo-editing software of choice, if indeed necessary. As with film, we first process the negative or slide, and then we print. In this process we have the ability to enhance the print using exposure and chemical techniques known as burning and dodging. We can also choose the colour saturation and surface texture of the paper. Using advanced darkroom and post printing skills one can also do layer printing, masking, as well as apply airbrushing techniques. Finally the print will be spotted for dust marks. Digital editing is very similar. Opening the processed RAW file in a photo-editing suite like Photoshop or Aperture (to name a few), the photograph can now be corrected or enhanced and spotted for dust marks. The skill required in darkroom processing is equal to that needed today in digital editing. The only difference is that you don’t come away from your computer smelling of chemicals. I think where many amateur photographers go wrong, is simply that they shoot in JPEG format at time of capture. In doing so the image quality and latitude of colour depth is compromised. JPEG is a compressed file format, and can never be compared to Camera RAW when it comes down to control and quality.

You must realize that image processing is part of digital photography, period! My advice would be to do most of your processing and pre-editing in Camera RAW, where the colour layers have not yet been flattened. And amazingly, the best software available to us to do this is actually free. The technology today in Adobe Camera RAW, or DNG, is just unbelievable and can be downloaded free of charge. It is here in the RAW processor where you will set your colour temperature, tweak your exposure and contrast, set your saturation, apply graduated contrast controls, repair or exaggerate lens aberrations and vignettes, and apply a sharpness value, to name but a few. Learn to do as much pre-editing processing in Camera RAW before saving as a flattened file. Then, if necessary, you can apply any further corrections or enhancements in a photo-editing programme like Photoshop. To speed up the processing and editing process I suggest you find a workflow procedure that works for you. At the end of the day nothing has changed in photography, as it all comes back to quality. The public at large considers digital as a quick, convenient and simple format of photography. This is really a myth. Don’t be fooled, digital is as challenging as film and requires just as much technique and skill as chemical processing.

Learn how to process out of RAW, then set your camera to record in RAW only! Do 80% of your corrections in RAW processing. Now you’re cooking!