DIG­I­TAL DARK­ROOM

Choose the work­flow that’s right for you and en­hance your land­scapes with dodg­ing, burn­ing and blend­ing

NPhoto - - Feature -

Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, and Ed­ward We­ston each had their own post-pro­cess­ing work­flow – a se­quence of steps for de­vel­op­ing, edit­ing, and fil­ing neg­a­tives, then more com­plex pro­ce­dures for print­ing the best ones.

The tools may have changed, but a good, con­sis­tent work­flow is still vi­tal – per­haps even more so with the thou­sands of images that dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phers of­ten gen­er­ate. A good work­flow should be stream­lined but pow­er­ful. You want to wring out max­i­mum beauty with min­i­mal ef­fort. It also needs to be flex­i­ble so you can make changes later with­out hav­ing to start over. Ev­ery step should be ed­itable with­out hav­ing to throw away other changes.

To­day two main op­tions fit those cri­te­ria: RAW work­flows (for ex­am­ple us­ing Lightroom), and Pho­to­shop ones.

RAW work­flow

This method uses Lightroom, Aper­ture, Adobe Cam­era Raw, Nikon Cap­ture, Cap­ture One, or any soft­ware that works di­rectly with RAW images to do most of the work, with oc­ca­sional for­ays into Pho­to­shop to per­form more com­plex tasks. All these RAW pro­ces­sors are non­de­struc­tive, which means that the orig­i­nal file is never mod­i­fied, and all changes to the im­age’s ap­pear­ance are writ­ten as in­struc­tions in the file’s meta­data.

This work­flow is vi­able only if the soft­ware can do most rou­tine tasks. For me this in­cludes dodg­ing, burn­ing, and curves, as ev­ery im­age needs some dodg­ing or burn­ing, and curves are the only way to have com­plete con­trol over im­age con­trast.

While I call this a RAW work­flow, many of these pro­grams work well with JPEGs.

Pho­to­shop work­flow

This method of­ten starts with an­other pro­gram for edit­ing, sort­ing, and mak­ing ba­sic ad­just­ments, but uses Pho­to­shop for the heavy lift­ing. Pho­to­shop is the most pow­er­ful and so­phis­ti­cated im­age-edit­ing pro­gram avail­able, and you may pre­fer to take ad­van­tage of its power right away. This work­flow is also a bet­ter choice if your other soft­ware can’t do rou­tine tasks like dodg­ing and burn­ing, or lacks curves. If you know you’re go­ing to take an im­age into Pho­to­shop, it’s bet­ter to make min­i­mal ad­just­ments in other soft­ware, as this leaves you with more flex­i­bil­ity later. All you need to do is get the white bal­ance close, and en­sure you’re bring­ing as much high­light and shadow de­tail as pos­si­ble into Pho­to­shop. Some sharp­en­ing may be needed for RAW files, or JPEGs with min­i­mal sharp­en­ing ap­plied in-cam­era.

Since Pho­to­shop was not de­signed to be a non-de­struc­tive ed­i­tor, you have to make it be­have like one – us­ing ad­just­ment lay­ers to keep all changes ed­itable.

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