Digital Images — Digital Darkroom — Part two

Ear­li­er this week I start­ed this series by look­ing at my dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy work­flow as applied to image acqui­si­tion (tak­ing the pic­ture). Today I’m going to look at what I do with the image in my mobile pho­to stu­dio, my iPad Dark­room, if you will.

I’ve got the image, now what?
Tak­ing the pho­to is just the start­ing point. Once you have a neat image, you can eas­i­ly make it stronger by care­ful­ly apply­ing mod­ern dig­i­tal dark­room tech­niques.

In my case, I shoot on a Dig­i­tal SLR (Pana­son­ic Lumix FZ-30), or a Canon Pow­er­shot Point-and-shoot.

On the FZ-30, I shoot RAW+jpg, which poten­tial­ly gives me the most dig­i­tal infor­ma­tion to work with in the dig­i­tal dark­room. The Canon gives me .jpg so I have to take what I can get.

I say poten­tial­ly because cur­rent­ly, only a few apps sup­port (or are plan­ning to sup­port) RAW. Edit­ing a .jpg is ade­quate, but not opti­mal.

Get­ting the images into the iPad means I need Apple’s Cam­era Con­nec­tion Kit — a great lit­tle pack­age that con­tains two don­gles that plug into the iPad’s data con­nec­tor. One is a stan­dard SD card read­er, the oth­er is a USB port — which also opens up oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties that I’ll get into in anoth­er post.

Load­ing the images into the iPad is straight­for­ward. Select and Import.

But once they’re there, the fun can begin.
In my case, I usu­al­ly load them into Pho­to Pal or Pho­to­gene for a first bit of cleanup, which means adjust­ing the colour bal­ance (to make the whites white) adjust­ing the lev­els and con­trast, etc. Basi­cal­ly bring­ing the image much clos­er to what I remem­ber I saw when I cap­tured it — or clos­er to what I want the image to be.

Then I exper­i­ment with Crop­ping — if need­ed. I gen­er­al­ly don’t in-cam­era crop too much when I take the shot, know­ing that I do like to fine-tune it when I’m in the dark­room.

As I’m doing this, I save a few ver­sions after I change some­thing sig­nif­i­cant, like crop­ping. Sim­ply because I like to be able to go back to a pre­vi­ous ver­sion, espe­cial­ly as I do bounce around between var­i­ous apps quite a lot to get the look I want.

tiffen.jpgSo, I’ve got the image bal­anced, cropped and tweaked. Time to head into the fil­ters sec­tion of my apps. Or save my image out and load it into some fil­ter-spe­cif­ic apps like the very cool Pho­to FX app by Tiff­en (yeah, the glass fil­ter mak­ers).

Now, depend­ing on the app, you may have greater or less con­trol over the appli­ca­tion of a par­tic­u­lar fil­ter. For exam­ple, Insta­gram and Cam­era Bag apply the fil­ter, peri­od. You can’t tweak the degree to which the fil­ter is applied.

Oth­ers, like Pho­to Pal, and Cam­era+ let you select the degree to which a fil­ter or effect is applied to your image.

While the for­mer gives you a very fast way to tweak your pho­tos and get them out there, when I’m cre­at­ing an image, I pre­fer to take the time and apply a fil­ter care­ful­ly.

Also, I try to not over-fil­ter, my images. Too much work with fil­ters can real­ly spoil an image, rather than adding val­ue to it.

But back to the con­cept of edit­ing your images on an iPad.
In the not to dis­tant future the iPad 2 will be released. Many pun­dits believe it’ll have a cam­era too, so mak­ing images with your iPad will be even eas­i­er.

Two Steps. Two Process­es.
As I said in the pre­vi­ous post, I like to keep the image acqui­si­tion and image edit­ing process­es sep­a­rate.

For me, a cam­era is not real­ly a com­pro­mise device. It’s total­ly geared to acquir­ing an image and stor­ing it on a mem­o­ry device, with the best pos­si­ble lens, com­po­si­tion aids, flash light­ing sup­port, focus­ing aids and auto­mat­ic tools up the wazoo!

The dig­i­tal dark­room, be it on a PC/Mac, at a com­mer­cial pho­to lab, or on an iPad, is designed to help you make the most of the image that the cam­era deliv­ered.

The raw com­put­ing pow­er allows greater cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties than on-cam­era options. Image edit­ing soft­ware, fil­ters, out­put options (email, social net­work shar­ing, etc) all are more pow­er­ful off-cam­era than on.

Which is why my desk­top dark­room is Adobe Light­room, and my mobile iPad dark­room con­sists of the pletho­ra of apps on my iPad.[ad#Future Shop Attri­bu­tion Foot­er]