|Basics - If you
have spent several hundred dollars or more on your digital camera gear,
then you really ought to spend a little time on getting the best from it.
There are many in depth guides available on the web and in print if you
want more detailed information. What I offer here are a few simple ideas
that everyone should learn about and that will make a noticeable difference.
Exposure - Flashies
|Correct exposure in a camera is about capturing
the image with a good range of tones with some pure black and some
pure white in the frame and plenty of detail in-between.
If you don't expose a picture correctly, then you will be missing
details that no amount of adjustment in the "digital darkroom"
will ever be able to recover, the detail just wasn't there in
the first place.
Most cameras offer a couple of aids to getting
the correct exposure at the time you take it, so allowing you to
re-take if necessary and make sure you capture the image properly,
these are the "flashies" and histograms.
At first sight the flashies and histograms on your
camera may seem to be unnecessarily complex displays of information.
They are your best guide to the technical quality of the picture
you have just taken - learn to use them and become a better photographer.
Your camera should
be set up so that you can see the shot as soon as you have taken
it. You may occasionally see flashing red (or other coloured) regions
as in this picture (caught in mid-flash) sometimes the regions are
flashing red then white, sometimes red then black.
is telling you that these regions are either over or under exposed
and that you have lost some detail. lets say that there are 50 levels
of brightness in the picture for simplicity. In the case of the
picture to the left it is saying that some of the levels say 40
to 50 that should be distinct and have some detail are all being
put into the level 50 category - the brightest, and all of the flashing
pixels will be plain white in the file.
you should do about it in this case is to retake the picture while
adjusting the exposure downwards i.e. allow less light through the
lens so the bright end of the exposure scale is not overwhelmed.
Use the EV Compensation button to do this.
You should also
be able to enable a histogram to appear immediately after exposure
along with the reviewed picture. This tells you how well spread
and so accurately captured the details of the picture are.
In the example to the left the histogram is pushed over towards
the right hand side showing that there is some detail that is off
the scale at that point and so will be missing from the picture.
If the picture is underexposed then the histogram is pushed towards
the left hand side. Again the answer is retake the picture with
|The peaks on this histogram are well spaced
across it's width and not pushed against either edge.
||In this over-exposed image, the histogram is pushed
up to the right hand side showing that highlight detail is lost.
||In this under-exposed image, the histogram is pushed
to the left hand side showing that shadow detail is lost.
Basic Digital Darkroom Techniques
It has promise but it's a bit bland and
there's no real focus on any particular element.
be using Photoshop CS5 to make adjustments to this, though the changes
I'll make are quite basic and other photograph manipulating
software packages can also perform the steps I will take.
Before you start, make sure you keep the original image and
save any changes to a different file or as a different filename
or you won't be able to go back again if it all goes horribly
wrong - believe me, at times it will!
The original had a slightly sloping
horizon, while I try to avoid this when taking pictures, it's
difficult to get it right every time and often pictures are slightly
I rotated the image by 1 degree counter clockwise, you
can see how the edges of the picture have tilted as a result of
Pick an element of the picture that should be horizontal
or vertical to get this right. You can turn on gridlines if necessary
while you do this to make it easier, turn them off again afterwards.
- Crop after rotation:
Cut off those long thin white
triangles that result from rotating using the cop tool. Crop as
tightly as possible so as to keep as much of the image as possible
for the next steps.
- Crop to choose the most interesting part of the image and most
Those mountains to the left
were an interesting shape but all in shadow. The ice at the bottom
of the picture is out of focus as it's too close to the camera.
In this case I chose to crop quite a lot of the original picture
away so giving some foreground interest and a pleasing arrangement
of mountains in light and shadow in the background.
Finished manipulated image
- Contrast, Color balance and Sharpen:
image was too flat and lacked something. The final steps were to
adjust the color balance very slightly and increase brightness and
contrast - again very slightly. I used the automatic levels to do
this and was reasonably happy with the results, Photoshop allows
you to fade any effect applied so I toned down the automatic levels
to what I thought was more suitable.
The last step was to
The original is below the final image
to the left, well worth taking the extra time and effort in the
Digital Darkroom to improve the image.
The key is not to
make too many changes and not to make them too drastic or you end
up with something that just doesn't look real.
make sure you save your original image for when thing go wrong.
decide what to show people
The possible downside of all these pictures that can
be taken using digital cameras is that it's very easy and tempting
to take a huge number of pictures of any particular scene, many
of which will be very similar. There is nothing wrong in this in
itself - it's one of the advantages of digital photography over
film photography after all.
However, please make sure you
edit out the also-rans and pictures that are so similar as to be
no difference between them.
I have been subjected to other
people's pictures myself where they maybe have two good shots
of a scene, but have shown about ten that are very similar as they
can't make the decision themselves as to which is the best one
to show. It doesn't make the viewing experience better, it just
tends to make it rather tedious.
So be a ruthless editor
when putting together a slide show of your trip to the wilderness,
it'll make what you produce all the more impressive for it.
Photographic pages -
1 - Equipment | 2 -
3 - Digital Technique
National Geographic Photography
Field Guide: Secrets to Making Great Pictures
Buy from USA
The Basic Book of Photography
Buy from USA
The Ansel Adams Guide:
Book 1: Basic Techniques of Photography
Buy from USA
Buy from UK
Ansel Adams prints and