Digital Photography and Me

Posted Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 08:00 AM


Me trying to look pro
Me trying to look pro.

Listen up kids, long ago, in photography, before this confounded thing we call “digital,” there was this little medium we called film. It was delicate, time-consuming, expensive, had a set ISO, and we could only shoot 12, 24, or the massive 36 shots on one roll. We bought these rolls in packs at Costco to save money, and stored what we didn’t use in the fridge to keep them fresh. Just to make prints we camped out in darkrooms and used huge enlarger machines and dodged and burned with our hands. We ruined our pictures (not to mention our clothes) when we weren’t careful with emulsion and gosh-darned it, we liked it that way!

Ok, so I’m not really that old. While I did do all that, I thankfully didn’t have to for very long and was an early adopter of the digital photography revolution. I owe a lot to Dan Dawson, our wedding photographer, who gave me my first glimpse of the digital SLR–the Canon d30 (not to be confused with the 30D) for you old-timers. It wasn’t until much later that I got my own digital SLR, but now, years later, as the new medium has matured, even 5 year olds have $30 digital point-and-shoots and can make prints right from their printer of their own home.

I don’t consider myself a professional by any means, but with the help of some friends and family who are, I think I’ve gotten to be pretty good shot. I love taking pictures of family events, and especially my boys. A couple weekends ago, when California was redefining “winter” with warm, sunny days in January, I took some shots of Caleb and Tyler.

While point and shoot cameras do some auto-correction in-camera, digital SLR’s give you the option of saving the “raw” image, unedited, leaving that to the photographer later with the software of their choice, e.g. Photoshop, Aperture, or Lightroom. (But we all know Aperture is what real photographers use…) The raw image looks something like this:

The raw image straight out of the camera (click to enalrge).

In its unedited form, aren’t ready for print. It’s too dark, there’s not enough contrast, and just needs more massaging. That’s where the beauty of the digital age really comes in. Do any photographers out there actually miss the darkroom? That whole painful process is now done on the computer, in, as they say “in your underwear.” Here’s the same image after cropping, softening, level-adjustment, dodging and burning.

The finished photo, ready for print (click to enalrge).

After all the image-editing has been done, we end up with a more dramatic photo. The boys, the focal-point of the photo, really stand-out while the grass around them is de-emphasized. I think it’s ready to send to Bay Photo for an 8×10! What do you think? Any of you pro guys have any suggestions for improvement?

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