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]