Images Look Darker in Print Than They Do on Your Monitor

and they always will. It’s an unavoidable reality.

The reason for this has little to do with color management, inks, paper surfaces, device profiles, or any other adjustment-related issue. The simple fact is that your monitor’s white is illuminated by a projected light source and the white of your paper print is illuminated by reflected light. This tone range difference takes its most egregious toll on the darker parts of the image; the three-quarter tones. The very tones that get slighted by your camera’s image sensor are also the most vulnerable in print.

As I often claim, detail is a product (result) of contrast. Contrast is the measured difference between two tones. On the printed page, this statement has to be further clarified… detail is determined by the perceived difference between two tones. Here’s the visible proof behind the statement.

ShadowTone Adjustment

Consider the visual extremes (light vs. dark) of both of these media vehicles- paper and the computer display for the moment. In the case of pictures in print, the white of the printed substrate (usually paper) is determined by the whiteness of the paper and the strength of the light reflecting from the unprinted part of the paper. The darkest color (usually a multi-color, composite black) of the print is determined by the density (or light-absorbing) opacity of the colorant (usually ink).

The computer display plays the contrast game by a completely different set of rules. While the black of the monitor does have its opacity limitations, the white illuminate of the display is limited only by the brightness of the (typically) LED (light emitting diode) elements; which in turn are affected by the brightness or gain dialed in by you, the user. Brightness directly affects contrast. With more light comes more potential contrast, and where there is contrast, there is detail.

Which system do you suppose displays the most contrast? Duh!

As a color separator in the litho trade, I faced this same type of problem when reproducing images from photographic prints versus photographic transparencies. It was always easier to capture detail from a transparency than from a print. In technical terms, a printed page typically measures a reflective contrast of 1.7 points of density, while a transparency can display upwards of 3.8 points of density, depending on the strength of the backlit light source. More dynamic range produces more steps (bits in digital lingo) in the tonal scale and thus more detail. With digital images, the spread is even higher. When prints are compared to LED displays, the contrast ratio is huge on the display but remain the same for print.

You simply cannot pour enough light onto a page to bring the reflected brightness to the level of a projected display, just like you cannot dial down the brightness of the display to match the normal contrast of a printed picture. It’s apples and peanuts anyway you “look” at it. The two methods of viewing a picture are simply, fundamentally, and totally different.

THIS is why you can see detail in the darker portions of a displayed image that you just cannot see in the printed version of the picture. The contrast ratio visible in print is simply not in the same league as your backlit computer display. It is woefully insufficient.

ShadowTone Adjustment2_1

So, what can be done to close this light range gap? Can you do anything to improve the detail in the darker portions of the image? Absolutely. But you must 1) recognize that this issue exists, and 2) you must learn how to effectively compensate the tonal range for the difference. You can make a significant difference in your printed images by taking the same actions that we litho folks have done for decades… you have to learn to shape the internal contrast of the images before they go to print, and that includes your inkjet.

Remember that camera image sensors record light linearly, one photon at a time, but your eyes/brain perceive light quite differently. Camera images record light with a serious bias toward the lighter side of the tone scale (an area we call quarter tones), while recording very little data in the darker portion of the tone range (the three-quarter tones). The result in print is almost always a lack of detail in the darkest parts of the image. When this lack of data is combined with the print’s lower contrast ratio, shadow detail takes the hit.

Tone Region ControlsHere’s the secret to maintaining detail in the darker (3/4) portions of your image. Slide the Shadows slider to the right. How much to adjust the image will vary with each image. Low key images will require more adjustment than full range images. Learning to adjust your images to print all available detail is critical for serious photographers. Pay attention to separating tones in the darker parts of the image where detail can be buried when printed.

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

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It All Starts With Tonal Clarity

No matter where you go with image preparation, it all begins with distinction; the purposeful shaping of the image’s tonal values. Regardless of whether you prefer color or black and white, exposing detail (without over sharpening) is job number one.

YallerFlawer-O YallerFlawer-F

YallerFlawer-F-Slice

YallerFlawer-BW

I suppose I could have either picked a more perfect flower or even “fixed” the imperfections in Photoshop, but the intent here was to reveal the detail, scars and all. Sometimes the truth ain’t pretty, but it’s always the truth.

Had I just published what I captured with the original shot, you would have never seen the amazing little hairs on both the stem and the business end of this flower. But they were there and now you see what I saw.

YallerFlarers BasicYallerFlarers Sharp

The simple truth is that camera image sensors don’t capture as much detail as the simple diagrams make you believe. While the pixels you see on the screen are perfect checkerboard squares, the initial image pixels that are captured by the camera are somewhat blurred due to RGB filter averaging and always benefit from a little additional sharpening during the editing process (see above). I didn’t go to extremes to reveal this detail, I simply made some internal tone adjustments and added some minimal sharpening.

Next time you edit you photos, think of how distinct the detail was in the original scene. Let that be your guide. Don’t overproduce your images. Just determine to show your viewers what the original scene dynamics looked like.

Camera-Bayer array

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked (and sometimes overstated). Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | 2 Comments

The Image Saturation Balancing Act

Saturation is a founding member of color’s sacred trinity of color elements; hue, saturation, and brightness. Hue is the color of color, or what differentiates red from blue, or green, or orange. Brightness (or luminance) deals with light; how bright or dull a color appears, largely a matter of light and dark. Saturation is the measure of how intense or diluted the color is; the difference between pungent and pastel.

Everybody likes nice rich pictures, they are the eye-candy of life. But there is an important balance that must be struck between that brilliant color and the image’s overall tonality. Tonality is the form of an image; the skeletal structure that gives purpose and definition to the color. Think of tonality as the Christmas tree structure that supports the lights and ornaments. That structure retains the shape or definition of the image.

YelLily

Even though we all love saturated color, great care should be taken when boosting saturation in our digital images because there is a thin line between optimal saturation and tonal range damage.

Max SaturationSaturation has a photographic definition and a household definition. I believe we need to understand both in order to accurately balance saturation with its counterpart, tonality.

Photographic saturation is basically color intensity, expressed as the degree to which it differs from black and white. Get the picture? It’s what differentiates a grayscale image from a color image. A color image without saturation is just luminance (tonal structure).

No Saturation

Now consider the more common “household” definition of saturation: the state when no more of something can be added. Combining these two definitions actually provides a very practical guideline to the use of saturation in digital imaging. It’s called “too much of even a good thing is still too much!” In a practical sense, there is a balance point in which too much saturation actually robs the image balance and definition. If your image lacks highlight detail, consider backing off the saturation level.

Don't Lose Your Balance.

Don’t Lose Your Balance.

Try this simple exercise to understand the the function of saturation. Open up an image in Photoshop and pull up the Hue/Saturation dialog box. Now slide the Saturation triangle all the way to the left. See what you have left? A grayscale (what we use to call black and white) image… all form and no color. Now slide that Saturation triangle all the way to the right side of the scale. After you pull your eyeballs out of the back of your head you’ll notice that the image’s form has now been pretty much destroyed… overboard color and distorted form.

We all enjoy very colorful things. Current television programming confirms this. Note: I grew up in Miami and can’t remember ever seeing a perpetual state of late afternoon lighting like I see on the Miami crime shows. God gave us an imagination that is very rich and colorful. And frankly, sometimes really dull digital images need a little boost in color. But take great care in the exercise of your imagination as it can push your pictures beyond “believable.”

Here’s a tip on how to how to maintain the “best” of a good thing. Go back to the Hue/Saturation adjustment dialog and carefully slide the Saturation triangle to the right but stop short of losing any tonal definition. You must strike a balance. If you enjoy more saturation, try backing off the luminance (brightness) channel to achieve the same result. Just like other issues in photography, more saturation in an image isn’t necessarily better, it’s just… more!

Think about it!

Please leave a comment.  If you find this worthwhile, please share it with your friends and sign up for more. This ain’t rocket science, but it is information that is many times overlooked. Take some time to get back to the basics and your photographic results will give evidence that you did.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

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Histograms Can See in the Dark

The lowly Histogram is truly a functionless graph that merely monitors the tonal distribution of an image. It functions much like a thermometer in that it reports the current condition of the image. And it only reports one aspect of the image:luminance. Even when you view individual color channels, the graph only reflects the relative (dark-light) range of the color’s values. The image’s color issues (saturation and hue) are not addressed directly, though changing either will influence the luminance.

The Histogram cannot alter an image’s condition, it simply reflects any changes to the tonality made by adjustment tools. It has one spectacular feature that makes it my very favorite diagnostic tool; it can literally see in the dark.

Window Lighthouse B4Window Lighthouse Aft

My first peek at shots on my camera’s memory card happens in the camera, right after I finish shooting each subject and just before I put the camera back in the sling. The second look happens when I’m culling and transferring images onto my computer. This second look is usually an evaluation of content and composition more than exposure. I can usually tell which shots are preliminary keepers by viewing the collection from a very impersonal and objective viewpoint. If the shot doesn’t speak to me at first glance, I’m quick to erase it (both RAW and JPEG icons) immediately. Yes, I always capture both file types and yes, I immediately throw out extras. I can’t afford the clutter.

AmyEricWedding

When it comes time to see the keepers at a larger size, my criteria changes to tonal range. Unless the shot involves known and acceptable stark (black or white) backgrounds, I want to know how much elbow room I’ll have to rearrange the tonal range. Most of the time I can tell just by seeing the relative contrast of the image, but many times (and for many reasons), this visual process can be deceiving. This is when I start looking at the Histogram. This graph has its limitations, but the one talent it has is it’s ability to see potential detail beyond what my eye can see.

LowKeyHere’s a truth you can take to the bank. Even if the image visually appears too dark and beyond repair, if there is a slope, even a steep slope that can be seen on either side of the graph, then both shadow and highlight tonality can be rebuilt.

Put the Histogram to work early in the photo process. Let it diagnose each picture and show you the truth that may be eluding you on the monitor.

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. You can’t beat the price.

I enjoy speaking to schools, photo clubs and organizations every month presenting programs on digital photography, post production, and color science. If you’d like me to speak to your group, drop me a line.

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | Leave a comment

Photo Finishing

Digital photos require a three-step process just as film cameras did two decades ago. It’s popular to think of photography requiring two steps (shooting the picture and producing a physical print), but the process involves three steps with digital images too, even if you print an image directly from your camera. Surprised?

In film days, images were 1) captured on physical film, 2) the film was developed in a photo lab and hung to dry, and then 3) prints were produced from the negatives… three steps. It would seem that digital pictures only require two steps; capturing the image and printing the picture, but you should know that there is a third process that will (and must) take place before the image is printed. All digital images that are printed must include capture, processing, and printing.

Virtually all digital images are captured by the camera’s image sensor as RAW data. You may choose to save the images in JPEG format, but your camera originally captures RAW data. That’s the way digital camera work! It is the single function of the image sensor to collect all the light data from the scene. What happens to that data after the capture process is totally up to you. You can opt for the camera to process the image as a JPEG (literally let the manufacturer decide what your picture should look like) or you can choose to save the RAW data and then YOU shape the image on your computer.

JPEG Files. The image sensor sense reads each point of light and passes the information on to the camera’s image processor to convert the light measurement into digital data. If  your camera is set to save JPEG images, the processor parses the data (analyses the light hitting the sensor) and forms it into an average contrast picture. Most JPEG images deliver reasonable results from average lighting conditions. If you set your camera to save only JPEG images, the original RAW data is converted to JPEG before it is discarded, and you’ll be the proud owner of a “reasonable” picture. Hm-mm.  Photo finished!

OR, you can choose to save the image as a RAW file and process it yourself. Even if you choose this option, your camera’s version of the JPEG image will display immediately when you open the file in Camera Raw or Lightroom. Nothing lost! If you like the camera interpretation, you can keep it (sounds like a political phrase, but it’s not).

However, if you want to make some adjustments to the image, that RAW file is packed full of adjustment options (color and tonal elbowroom) that allow you to be your own photo finisher. Now that’s true photo finishing. Absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Any questions?

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | 2 Comments

Are You Taking Yourself Serious?

Now there’s a question you probably haven’t heard since junior high school! I remember my mother asking that question (in so many words) just after she read my teacher’s note on the back of my report card… “Herby is a smart young man and could really do well if he would just apply himself.” I’ll bet your teacher said something to that effect at some point in your past too. I think we’ve all heard it!

Well, I’m not your mother or your teacher, but I have to ask that question just to make you think about it. Step back and take an honest look at your photos. This isn’t a contest where you have to compete with other photographers, but this is a contest. You are competing with yourself. When you bought your camera, you (quietly) justified the purchase with a promise that you’d take this stuff serious. This was the hobby that wouldn’t end up in the back of the closet.

How you doin? Are you serious enough to turn off the “Auto” functions and take control?

I’d be willing to bet that at some point perhaps years ago, your interest in photography bloomed and now you’ve purchased a camera that has more settings and controls than you understand, and you probably haven’t even seen them all yet. Do I dare ask if you actually got past page 3 of the instruction book? You read photography articles and watch YouTube videos presented by kids who know more about photography than you do. You may have even joined a local camera club and now attend the meetings every month.

But if you are like the majority of photo buffs, you’re kind of stuck in no man’s land; good enough to take decent pictures and get “likes” on Facebook, but not good enough to really use the technology in your camera and on your computer. You may be more dependent on your camera’s automatic settings and someone else’s editing presets than you want to be. You can get past the trial-and-error stage and make good on your promise to yourself, and you know it! So, when is it going to happen?

You are a logical person with a good head on your shoulders. You know you can do this if you found a systematic, practical way to learn the process. But there is more to photography than learning the controls. You must understand the why of photo science, not just the how of the camera buttons. Many people learn the controls of the camera and never understand the key principle in photography… light. Light is the only thing you can control in the photographic process. Until you grasp how light behaves, you’ll never really understand how to capture it properly.

But once you get it, the controls and settings on your camera will make perfect logical sense. Virtually every control on your camera, from lens to shutter, concerns the control and shaping of light. Controlling color is all about controlling light. As a matter of fact, without light, there is no color. The more you know about what makes photography work the better you will become as a photographer.

The Trend. I speak to photography clubs all the time and there is an uncanny similarity to the groups. 1) Most of the members (and visitors) are over 40 years old. 2) Women outnumber men. 3) One quarter of the attendees shoot with their smart phone. 4) One quarter have very expensive DSLRs. 5) There is always one resident Photoshop Diva. 6) Most attendees use Lightroom and some other special post-production software to add personality to their shots (ON1 Photo Raw, Alien Skin Exposure3, Luminar, Topaz, Affinity Photo, etc.).

You can learn a lot about photography from online sources and courses, but this will take a commitment.

1) pick up your camera and shoot something each day. Pick a specific time each day that you can dedicate 15 minutes to the task. Shoot the same subject under the same lighting conditions with various different vantage points and angles. Take notes on how you set your camera up for a specific scene and then examine the results of that effort and learn from what you observe.

2) commit to learn something new about light every day. Learn about the differences in color during different times during the day. Observe how lighting conditions change the contrast and drama of the scene, and how to adapt your settings to capture the light during those periods.

Commitment and personal discipline will deliver results that you (and others) will begin to notice. I bet the “likes” you get on Facebook will start to include personal comments.

That’s the way I sees it. Why not sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts. Let’s commit to grow together. Your Mom would be proud.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | Leave a comment

RAW Files Are NOT Like Color Negatives

It is commonly accepted that digital RAW files are equivalent to a photographic film color negative. Here’s the rationale… A color negative is a physical record of how light is recorded onto the individual red, green, and blue emulsion layers of silver-based film, such as Agfa’s Agfacolor, Fuji’s Velvia, and Kodak’s Professional Portra.

Once the film is developed, it is placed in a photographic enlarger and projected onto light-sensitive, three-emulsion layers of photographic paper, each layer sensitive to red, green, and blue light. After the print is developed, the resulting image reveals a full range of colors and tones captured by the film.

From this description, the digital RAW image to color film analogy seems accurate. The color negative contains all the spectral and luminance information from the scene and the combination of various color filters and exposure times are able to produce a variety of differing versions of that scene. The same is true of RAW files.

At first blush, that makes sense. I bought into this analogy when it was first proclaimed  twenty-five years ago. But through all these years, something about this analogy never quite added up, but I didn’t know why. Until now.

Here’s where the color negative analogy breaks down. While color prints were processed from color negatives, publications and coffee table books were always reproduced from (positive, or color reversal) transparencies or slides, such as Kodachrome and Ektachrome, Fujichrome, and Agfachrome.

Color prints were second-generation copies; each print produced on paper from a projected negative source (basically a picture of a picture). The (lithographic) quality of a color print was technically inferior in depth, sharpness and saturation to a color transparency. Images scanned by color separators directly from slides and transparencies were first-generation, and contained all the purist elements of the original photo, and therefor, the very sharpest printed images were reproduced from photographic transparencies.

Herbiology One: The digital data gathered and recorded as a RAW file more accurately parallels a film color positive (transparency) or slide than a color negative. Henceforth, RAW images should be the digital equivalent of color slides.

Herbiology Two: JPEG images are like dehydrated photographs reduced to an irreducible minimum of color and tonal information. Because these images contain significantly-reduced dynamic range and spectral data, JPEG images are more like Polaroid prints than full-bodied photographs.

Herbiology Three: Technically speaking, digital images are not photographs. That word was coined by Sir John Herschel from photo “light” and graph “instrument for recording” and describes a tangible photo record of an event. Digital images are not actually tangible until they are printed. This is why we call the digital recording an “image.”

That’s the way I sees it. If you have an argument with this position, take it to a higher court! In the mean time, sign up (above right) to get personal notices of future posts.

Speaking Promo

If you’d like to understand even more of what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light!

 

 

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | 2 Comments

Beware of Buzzwords

Every time a new technology breakthrough emerges it is accompanied by a baffling bunch of techie buzzwords; terms intended to explain the breakthrough. The problem is that many of the  pundits and writers involved with that industry use these (heretofore unknown) buzzwords in an attempt to convey their intelligence to others while explaining the new technology, but they rarely explain the buzzwords. This is always amusing.

I currently make my living as a writer and speaker. I try really hard to explain technical issues in an untechnical manner simply so people who want to understand things better won’t get more confused by my explanation than they already are by the technology.

I avoid buzzwords whenever possible and try to explain them when I must use them. Pundits and authorities like to impress each other with these terms. A kind of techie chest-bump. Which is OK since all the pundits understand the terms. For the rest of the world, we either feel stupid or think of them as arrogant– or both.

I remember when the big buzzword in digital imaging was “color management.” In 1992, my company had produced the industry’s first color scanning software for Photoshop and we were developing AI tables for our Photoshop automation software. We understood how to manage color.

I had been managing color images from photography to lithography for decades. By that time (mid-nineties), I had serious trade training in photographic films and transparencies, photo filters and color correction, RGB-CMYK color separations, PMS (Pantone Matching System) color ink formulations, color presswork and contract proofing. Managing color was what I did for a living.

I remember reading up on color issues in a published Adobe article and ran across this simple definition; a buzzword term that was bandied about in the early Adobe color management frenzy. I had to blink a couple of times and re-read it.

Tristimulus Values. Any color on the CIE chromaticity diagram can be considered to be a mixture of the three CIE primaries, X,Y,Z. That mixture may be specified by three numbers X,Y,Z called tristimulus values. The CIE primaries are not real colors, but convenient mathematical constructs.”

There, hows that for clarity? Do you feel smarter? I’m sure your practical understanding of color just cleared right up. The color science part of me understands this jargon, but the average Photoshop jockey… probably not. But he/she might grasp the concept if the issue was presented in practical, everyday terms.

Lesson #1: Photoshop was not developed by photographers, artists, or printers. It was developed by computer scientists, mathematicians and software developers and sold to photographers, artists, and printers. Color theory vs usable information.

Lesson #2: Most of the bleeding edge trends in technology never impact the practical side of life, maybe because they aren’t explained in simple enough terms.

Lesson #3: Please learn about the science of light and color and then share it with others, but drop the buzzwords. Most won’t understand what you’re talking about, and the rest won’t be impressed with your brilliance.

Lesson #4: Buzzword are thrown about to impress an audience with the speaker/author’s intelligence and to prove to the other pundits that they deserve their position on the platform.

Suggestion #1: If you would like to learn the practical side of color science (with a minimal use of buzzwords), check out gottaknowvideos. Untechnically technical.

Posted in Tonality and Appearance | Leave a comment

Serious Photographers Don’t Use Post-Processing

I’m not sure where this concept originated, but I know it didn’t come from the professional photographic community. This sophomoric bravado may be sincere in its conviction but it is sincerely wrong in its claim. Actually, the polar opposite is true.

History Lesson. If you shot film before the digital camera revolution, the following explanation is unnecessary. However, if you are a recent participant (last 20 years) in digital photography, you might want to understand this.

B&W Films. Black and White films were largely processed and printed by individual photographers in their personal darkrooms as a matter of preference, pride, and skill. The film development variables and print controls afforded to B&W were doable and rewarding, and B&W prints have always provided photographers a form of serious artistic expression. We revered Ansel Adams and he always post-processed his own images. He advocated the art of shaping the light.

Bowers SBS

Dave Bowers, President Flagler Beach Photography Club. Digital color capture converted to B/W

Black and white photography is the original and most obvious form of “post-processing” in film photography. Anyone who has ever dodged, burned, dipped and rocked trays in a sink in the darkroom understands this passion completely. Occasionally, when we needed extreme enlargements, we sent our negatives to a commercial lab for printing and dry-mounting on art boards.

Color Films. Color films were a completely different story. Professional photographers, photo retouchers, ad agencies, art/design studios, airbrush artists, art directors, photo technicians, darkroom jockeys, and even serious hobbyists prior to 1995, all entrusted their exposed color film exclusively to the services of professional photo labs for processing.

Very few professional photographers even processed their own color negatives, and precious few brave individuals produced their own color prints. The controls were simply too limited and all work had to be done in total darkness. There was no fun in the process.

Color Prints. Color prints (beyond Drugstore-grade 4×6 glossies) were produced almost exclusively for galleries, exhibits and wall decorations. Most of these prints were retouched for color, texture, and detail. Prints were rarely used for publications and high-end lithography unless serious airbrushing alterations were required. In that case, C-prints were produced for the retouching work before being handed off to the engraver.

Color Transparencies. Very few of us even processed our own Ektachrome slides (35mm) and transparencies (4×5 and 8x 10), and Kodachrome slides were only produced in 35mm size, were processed exclusively by Kodak-licensed labs. Kodachromes were rarely used in the printing process. Color transparencies were hardly ever used in the production of individual prints but were the preferred photographic original for publications and picture books.

Color Engraving. One more note about post-processing images. Virtually all chromes destined for publication or collateral materials were precision color-corrected by photoengravers and color separators during the color conversion from RGB to CMYK. Nobody outside the trade knew about the color transitions that occurred inside the shop. Any color photos that bypassed the color correction stage always appeared dull.

Lithography (high-end print) has always been handled by color trade professionals and involved the generation of multiple color-corrected proofs before going to press. I was a color separator for decades, and worked for National Geographic’s premier color engraver, so I know this first hand.

Virtually every mass-printed color picture, whether for publication, fine art, or advertising was heavily post-processed, just as it continues to be today for all commercial publications. I am a photo retoucher even today for several high-end City Magazines.

Disclaimer… professional post-processing stops way short of today’s typically-overproduced trend. In the color trade, we color balanced and adjusted tonality so that each image reproduced with punch and precision on press, but we stopped short of the surrealistic images, saturated colors and grunge hi-def appearance so popular in today’s processing software. True professionals respect the art of restraint. We live in the real world; Fantasyland only exists at Disney.

Personal Publishing. Only the phenomenon of the Internet and the advent of social media have provided a platform for the masses to publish their pictures any way they wish. They’re not hard to spot. Ironically, most social media affords the User various forms of photo effects, which is just a novel form of post-processing.

Next time someone demeans post-production, maybe you should have them read this post. That’s the way I sees it. Let me know what you think. Sign up for this blog and join me on a regular basis. I love to hear other opinions and feedback. Life’s for learning.

If you’d like to understand what makes color work, how light behaves, and how easy it is to shape the light in your photographic images, go to http://gottaknowvideos.com and get Bright About Light! All the answers to these (and more) questions are answered in an easy-to-understand video series.

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Overlooking the Obvious: The Art of Not Seeing What You’re Looking At

I make myself shoot something every day for the shear discipline of it. You’re only good at what you do every day, and I intend to stay on top of my game. Occasionally I’ll walk around my own neighborhood in search of my subject du jour. Occasionally I walk for half an hour without seeing anything worthy of turning on the camera.

Today was one of those days. Nothing. Just boring nothing.

Then I opened my mind in addition to my eyes and suddenly I couldn’t stop framing and shooting.

UnobviousWhat happened? I stopped looking for that interesting detail and dramatic lighting and started seeing what was right in front of me. Maybe not the knock-your-eyes-out color burst variety, but the simple beauty of natural composition. And it doesn’t have to be limited to nature, but the beauty of visual contrast. The contrast of shapes, colors, textures that are around us all day every day.

Something reminded me that you shouldn’t have to look special to be noticed, just bloom where you’re planted. Everything has a purpose. My purpose today was to open my eyes.

Sometimes I’m guilty of packing a subconscious agenda when I slip into my shoulder sling and I expect something in front of me to scream “look at me, I’m worthy.” I had to wince when I finally realized my smugness. Today I saw what I wasn’t looking for and it woke me up. You truly see what you’re looking for, and in the process sometimes you miss what’s staring right back at you.

Photographers come in all shapes and sizes and use this marvelous process for a variety of reasons; artistic, philosophical, nature, sports, babies, politics, etc. Depending on the day, I’ll wear any pair of those shoes. But whatever your bent or purpose, I encourage you to look wider than normal and see the world you’re missing. It might be your best work.

No lecture or lesson here. Just a personal observation. Look at life differently and shoot something new tomorrow and then share it with me. I’d love to see it.

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