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Sunday
Jul012007

About

IMG_0491 I have been interested in birds and wildlife since I was very young. I am lucky and very grateful that my parents shared and encouraged this love of the outdoors, helping me grow that early interest into something more. I was also fascinated by my father's darkroom; the smell of chemicals and that odd red light are some of my earliest memories of winter evenings at home. This naturally led me to develop an interest in cameras and photography, learning the basics with a manual SLR when I was in my early teens.

The technical revelation of Canon EOS cameras first arrived in my life in the early 1990s, although it was a switch to digital with the new millenia that really fueled my passion for photography. After a dalliance with Nikon Coolpix, I went back to Canon and their digital SLR cameras.

I have spent the past few years combining my love of birds, wildlife and the outdoors with my passion for photography; always looking for a moment of fleeting light or defining action to translate into an image; always enjoying just being there.

The photo was created by my wife Vanessa.

Sunday
Jul012007

Digital technique - the basics

There are many software tools available to carry out the basic post-processing of images and the following series of articles will take you step-by-step through the techniques with some of the popular ones.

Basic adjustments made during post-processing usually include:

  • Brightness and Contrast
  • Correcting colour casts (White Balance)
  • Saturation
  • Cropping
  • Resizing
  • Sharpening

The first article uses paint.net - this is free software for digital photo editing that is highly regarded by many people. The functionality is limited but provides almost everything that you need to make basic adjustments to your photos.

The Gimp is a well known and very popular open source project that has the most functionality in any of the free digital image manipulation packages. Another advantage is the fact that it is cross-platform, so will work on Mac OS X and Linux as well as Windows.

The basics with paint.net

The basics with The Gimp

Sunday
Jul012007

Who needs Workflow?

Dark-eyed JuncoSo you bought the best digital SLR you can afford, the best lens available and you have worked hard in the field to set everything up, used a tripod, pressed the shutter release at just the right moment – you now have the perfect digital photo of the scene…or do you?

Photographers have always strived to technically improve their photographs by using the best film, sturdy tripod and head, great lenses, good technique, correct exposure and sharp focus. All of these things are still true; although digital cameras have replaced the film selection with other choices and decisions – what settings in camera should you use and how you post-process the photograph to improve image quality – I call this the Digital Technique. It is how you, the photographer, treat your digital photograph to get the best possible final image, whether that is to create a true representation of what you saw, the best aesthetic representation of a subject or just to add that little bit of ‘sparkle’.

Settings such as White balance, Saturation and Contrast all contribute to the final image, whether printed or just displayed on screen. Learning how and when to make changes to settings will go a long way towards improving your digital images, in just the same way as correct exposure and sharp focus are vitally important – get the White balance wrong and even a razor sharp image won’t save you! It isn’t just about colour and tone, even choosing the format that your camera uses to save the photograph is part of the Digital Technique – it can make an incredible difference to the options available to you later in the workflow and what you can use the images for.

Semipalmated SandpiperHowever, Digital Technique shouldn’t end in the camera…why not review the image on your computer and refine those settings whilst dynamically seeing the result? You can actually see what that extra bit of colour saturation does to the image, how a slight contrast boost makes the subject ‘pop’…Digital Technique is where a photographer’s vision is fully realised.

So, what is the difference from Digital Technique and other digital manipulation you have heard about? Absolutely nothing! It is just how you think about the process. It is not about fooling the viewer or trying to present something that was not there - it is about creating the image that you saw when you pressed the shutter release. Consider some of the basic techniques that a photographer employs to create a photo:

  • Composition - showing only what the photographer wants, without distractions, changing (cropping) the viewers perspective. This is normally achieved through lens selection (field of view) and careful camera position.
  • Focus - what and how much of a scene that is in sharp focus is restricted by the focus point and depth of field the photographer chooses.
  • Exposure - a photographer will decide how the scene will be exposed. This exposure may be darker or lighter than reality to allow detail to be retained in very bright or dark areas of the scene.
  • Hue and Saturation - using certain filters can alter the hue of an image and different film types produce different levels of colour saturation – for example Fujifilm’s high resolution, high saturation Velvia film has been the choice of many landscape photographers for the past decade or so.

Each of these techniques is manipulation by the photographer to create the photograph. These techniques still apply with digital photography but we have more choice and improved tools with which to work. You can still choose to set the saturation and hue prior to pressing the shutter or decide that you will adjust it afterwards to get the best result. Does this make you a worse photographer or allow you freedom to focus on other aspects such as composition and the fleeting light?

1DN_2584By thinking of Digital Technique as part of your photography toolkit you will be able to get the best out of your camera. Even a simple Digital Technique will make sure that your camera settings are optimal for the image you are creating regardless of when and how you make the setting – whether in camera or during post-processing.

The subsequent articles will guide you through various techniques to help you to decide on what you will include in your Digital Technique. The intention is to start with a basic set of steps to produce images for sharing online, then subsequently build on these fundamentals to maximise the quality of the image.

So, even if you don’t want to spend time in front of your computer post-processing photos, you can still use Digital Technique to maximise the quality of your images – you never know, you may even enjoy it!

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