Back to Courier Columns Page

by Phil Ball

Q. I have a very nice digital camera that takes quality pictures. Yet I've often heard you say in your classes that any photo can be improved in post-processing. Do I really need to spend time working in an image editor to make nice prints? I'd rather spend time out taking pictures.

A. No, you don't have to do anything in post-processing but it does give you a lot more control with how your images look. I agree that today's cameras do a fine job taking nice images but a little work on your computer afterwards will turn your nice images into really great ones. A child's rendition of chopsticks played on the piano is nice but a skilled pianist can make it sound like it belongs in Carnegie Hall. You can accept the good images your camera gives you or you can put some feeling into it and make improvements with your imaging software.

What we saw when we decided to take a picture is often not quite what our camera gives us. Most modern cameras give good results for focus and exposure but may be lacking in some areas. For instance, we see a lot more detail in the shadows on sunny days than the camera will easily show us at first glance. The detail is usually there, we just need to show it with image-editing software. I love what my Shadows/Highlights tool does in my computer to dig out the missing detail in the shadows. I've learned that it doesn't do much for burned out highlights so I try to expose them accurately in camera, knowing that the Shadows/Highlights tool will greatly improve the shadow detail.

For another example, many times we take an image where the subject is correct but the background is intrusive. Often a bit of darkening and blurring of the background in post-processing will emphasize the subject and de-emphasize that distracting background. The human eye often goes to the lighter parts of the image and that should be your subject. I enjoy taking pictures but take great pleasure in improving them later on my computer.

Published: Courier 7/7/13 - Page 3C