Pro­cess­ing with pur­pose

Ev­ery im­age de­serves to be treated on its own mer­its and ac­cord­ing to its par­tic­u­lar needs, to bring out the best of its qual­i­ties and stay true to its orig­i­nal pur­pose

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The main pur­pose of most pro­cess­ing is to do full jus­tice to the RAW im­age file. This con­tains much more tonal in­for­ma­tion than can ever be re­pro­duced in print or on a nor­mal screen, which its why the RAW pro­cess­ing stage is so im­por­tant, par­tic­u­larly for dif­fi­cult im­ages, such as those with a very high dy­namic range. For most im­ages, the de­fault is sim­ply to op­ti­mise it, which means preparing a TIFF from the RAW file in a such a way that it looks the way most view­ers would ex­pect it to.

A step up from that is ap­ply­ing more skill and more tech­niques to re­ally make the most of the im­age, in ways that may seem small to the ca­sual viewer, but which from a pro­fes­sional point of view can en­hance or re­duce dif­fer­ent ar­eas and/or sub­jects within the frame. This de­tailed, thought­ful ad­just­ment al­most in­evitably means do­ing it lo­cally, for which the ra­dial fil­ter in Light­room and Pho­to­shop, tweaked with a brush, is in­valu­able.

In The case for lo­cal change [see page 80], the im­age has had con­sid­er­able lo­cal ad­just­ment work done, yet it still ap­pears ‘nor­mal’. If you keep a pur­pose to your pro­cess­ing, it means al­ways as­sess­ing the RAW im­age be­fore you be­gin to ad­just. When you as­sess, think first of what you had ex­pected or wanted when you shot the im­age. How close does it look to this orig­i­nal idea? Next, look at it ob­jec­tively, as if you were com­ing to it fresh, with­out pre­con­cep­tions. Are its im­age qual­i­ties all as ex­pected?

With this three-quar­ter back­lit shot, lo­cal ad­just­ment with ra­dial fil­ters main­tained con­trast in selected ar­eas, while em­pha­sis­ing the to­bacco smoke – the mo­ment of the shot was timed to back­light the smoke against the shad­ows in the door­way

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