Developing Digital Photos
April 09, 2014 • 2 Comments
Can we see your photos?
One of the "tough" questions I get whenever I come back from a location is, "Can we see your photos?" The quick (and unsatisfying answer) is typically, "No, I haven't developed them yet."
The long answer, and one I hope you'll take the time to read, follows below. I've included a few photos to help you see what I mean.
(Before I go any further, I don't want to turn this into a discussion about "getting it right in-camera." Countless bytes of internet space and hot air are already devoted to that. This discussion starts assuming that I took the photo/subject/composition/etc. I wanted to take with the camera, and looks at why that isn't necessarily the end of the process.)
Do you trust your camera?
Do I trust my camera? Yes.
Does my camera see the scene with a creative eye and always make the right decisions? No.
Bear with me for a moment while I get into some of the non-specific details. (...and try not to think too much about that last descriptor, or the fact that I started and ended this sentence with "...and.")
Like it or not, every digital camera will make certain "development" decisions for you, such as color adjustments, saturation, contrast, and sharpness. Through the camera's settings, you can tell the camera what to do with these, but when you press the shutter it bakes those decisions into your photo. The camera applies these to the .jpg (jpeg) file and then compresses it (reduces the file size without generally affecting the quality), and any extra information is lost to the digital ether. This would be the equivalent of a Polaroid - instant gratification, but almost NOTHING you can do to affect how it develops.
Don't get me wrong- you can make good photographs this way and save a lot of time. The tradeoff comes in how much control you're willing to give up, and how much time you have/want to spend after-the-fact.
Instead of .jpg, I usually shoot in "RAW" or the camera's proprietary "digital negative" format. (Depending on your camera, this may not even be an option.) Simply put, this format retains EVERY bit of information that the camera captures when I press the shutter, but it doesn't let the camera make any of the other development decisions. When it comes to my professional work, I want make most of the those decisions myself using computer software such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. Rather than a Polaroid, this is more analogous to shooting on film and then developing at home in a darkroom, giving individual attention to each photo. In fact, one of the reasons Adobe named it "Lightroom" is that it is the software equivalent of a traditional darkroom. Rather than working on film negatives in the dark, I'm working with digital positives on my computer screen.
Although this takes more time, it offers me much better control over the final image.
Compare the results below. (Click for larger view.)
Sunrise at Thor's Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park
So why does it take so long for me to show you my photos? Because it takes time to bring out the best in each one.
As I begin to bring these photos online, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. If you see something you'd like as a print, please contact me and we'll make that happen.
Thanks for looking,
Recent PostsLake Superior at Sunrise Many Thanks! Black Friday and Small Business Saturday Photos for Grace The Old Barn Is there a single "best" lens for photographing landscapes? How to put a landscape photographer out of business - Part 2 A Home for Grace You Can't Rush Art How to put a landscape photographer out of business - Part 1