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Digital imaging - Getting to grips with concepts

by Gordon Beddis

Reproduced from in focus 66 (October 1999)



Nearly every photographer I have spoken to recently seems apprehensive about Digital Imaging, most see it as a direct threat to their photographic art.

Digital cameras at this time produce good quality images that can be downloaded directly on to your PC, but as yet not the quality of modern slide film. It is getting there, as the march of technology increases, so prices drop. I was intrigued to see Nikon release the new D1 digital camera: it looks and views like a 35mm SLR, as well as taking most of the lens'range. It won't be long before someone puts one in housing.

Good images

I have spent many hours working on a below average picture that I thought I could make into a winner, only to end up with an average picture. So we need good images in the first place to use on our computers and it has to be said if we take good enough pictures, why then do we need to digitally enhance them anyway? Well the truth is you don't, you can just scan and print. That is, if you can produce the good photographs in the first place! The reality is that most underwater photographers are never entirely happy with their work. How often have you missed the highlight in the fish's eye? In the past you would make a very small hole in the slide on the fish's eye, so that the light came though when projected. What about the dreaded backscatter? You would have to spend a long time spotting them out with paint or felt tip pen!

Digital Printing

Most photographers produce straight or little altered work from scanned images for portfolio and competitions. What then is all the fuss and hype about, I hear you say? People think that you can make a great picture from a very bad one and that any twit with a computer can do it. In my view you need the knowledge and skill to produce quality prints on a consistent basis.

Digital Enhance

This term applies to the same enhancements that con be made via normal processing, they tend to be subtle in their application and generally considered acceptable for competition work.

1. Hue and Saturation - shifting the colour within the colour range.

2. Colour Enhance - making a colour more/less vivid.

3. Contrast - adjustments to make parts of the picture stand out.

4. Dodge and Burn - making parts of the image darker or lighter.

5. Small alterations in pixel - e.g. highlights and backscatter removal.

6. Cropping - zooming in on one part to make a better composition.

These should be applied to the one image (no multiple images) and should be owned by the photographer presenting the image.

A small rule of KISS applies here, that is, KEEP IT SIMPLE (STUPID). Do not over-cook the application of enhancements and I believe you will end up with a more pleasing result.

Make something you con show people, they will admire your work. Then, you hit them with 'It's a digital print you know!' What a good feeling when they ore not sure, so remember, be subtle.

Digital Manipulation

Any thing goes, you are only limited by your imagination, but I have listed a few of more of the common techniques used.

1. Cloning - copying pixels of one item to create an identical one in a different part of the picture.

2. Filters - too numerous to mention (my favourite is Lighting Effects).

3. Background/foreground change.

4. Montage - blending more then one photograph.

5. Cut and Poste.

The sky's the limit but think about every change very carefully, save your work often under new fi le names so you con go back when you mess it up.

I got into this to produce prints, faster than by normal processing and so the irreplaceable film never went out of my possession. For that reason I also process my own film.

More detaiIs and maybe some 'before and after' photo's next time?



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