Indy's Camera Review - Digital SLR's
Post Processing
©2009 James Melatis -
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At the very least, great photography is part photographer, part equipment, and part post processing. Everyone probably has their own ideas about the importance of the different parts of the equation, but post processing is part of the total process. With film, creative post processing can sometimes erase 50% to 80% of your mistakes. Unless you do the processing yourself, you send off your film to the lab, they do the hard work, and you get back professional prints. Sometimes the lab can perform miracles. Sometimes they can't do anything to help.

With D-SLR's, the process may be different. The final quality step may depend entirely on your ability to process digital images. If you are used to letting others handle this part of the workflow, this may be a lot more work than you want to do, or are capable of doing. If you shoot a lot of pictures, there may not be enough time in the day to give each image the lab quality touches you are used to. Beginners often overlook post processing until after the camera is purchased, and then are faced with another unexpected learning curve. Of course you still have the choice of sending your files out for processing, but if you want full control of your prints it's best to edit them yourself.

When it comes to editing your images, you will probably want to start by cropping out unwanted picture elements to bring the focus to the subject of the photo, or to capture the most interesting parts of the photo. A lab can't make that decision for you; it depends on your artistic vision, how much resolution you can afford to sacrifice for the crop, and the intent of the project. Next you will want to re-touch the image to remove minor flaws and blemishes. Finally you can enhance and adjust the image and colors to match your vision. The end result can be pure art. In any case, a lot more than you started out with.

There are image-editing programs, and there is Adobe Photoshop. The difference is not even comparable. Besides having the most powerful set of single image editing and printing tools available, Photoshop also has a macro language that allows you to record a complicated series of editing steps and save the process as an action that can be replayed on a different image. It comes with many preset actions, and you can create your own custom actions. Many people share or sell actions on their websites.

You can also use Photoshop's batch processing features to process an entire directory full of images automatically. Another unique feature allows you to turn any saved action into an icon on your desktop called a droplet. A droplet is an executable program that performs the desired process. To create the droplet, you simply drag and drop the pre-recorded action from Photoshop to the Windows desktop. To use the droplet, you simply drag and drop a single image file, a group of files, or an entire drive or directory from windows explorer to the droplet icon on the desktop. The desired action is performed identically and automatically on every file, including creating copies and preserving the original if you recorded the action to do so.

Photoshop is a valuable workflow tool that takes a long time to master, but like D-SLRs it provides incredible results in the hands of an experienced operator. There are no messy chemicals or hazardous waste to dispose of. With a D-SLR and Photoshop, you are finally in complete control of your art. All that is left is to burn your masterpieces onto a CD and mail it to the publisher.
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