What is a wetting agent in photography

Image processing in photography

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What is image editing anyway?

This is how I develop my photos

In times of digital landscape photography, the topic is exciting image editing the minds. I am also asked again and again how much time I spend on the computer to conjure up such photos. Many look incredulous at my answer. I usually don't waste more than five minutes completely developing an image. But now I have to go back a little further. What is image editing anyway? Like any good photographer, I shoot my photos in raw format. The "raw data" are also referred to as "digital negative" because the image information is saved in its raw state. You surely know the various settings on the compact camera. Landscape, portrait, beach etc. - nothing else happens here than an internal development of your RAW file in the camera. Only that you can no longer influence the result. In addition, a lot of important image information in jpg format is lost forever.

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Image processing in analog times

Just like in analog photography, a digital negative must also be developed before a “finished” photo is created. In the analogous period, a darkroom and developer, stop bath, fixer, wetting agent, demineralized water, a development box with a film coil and a thermometer were required. Not to forget that you can of course also influence the photo during analog development. It starts with the choice of film and ends in the darkroom. With pushing and pulling, for example, you can influence the contrast and grain of the photo. When you cross over, on the other hand, you develop your films in the wrong developer. The result: Your photos come in bright colors, are quite grainy and usually have a high contrast.

In analog photography, image processing also begins much earlier than in digital photography. With a yellow filter, yellow-green filter or a blue filter you can make certain colors lighter or darker in black and white pictures. In the digital age → gray filters, gray graduated filters and polarizing filters play a role. With these three filters you can achieve effects that no image editing program can imitate. There are even filters with which you can give an unbelievable blaze of color to an unspectacular sunset. Another example are haze filters, with which completely irrelevant picture elements simply disappear in a thick fog.

Image processing in the digital age

Nothing else than the development in the darkroom is the development with software on the computer today. The camera manufacturers supply their own software for developing the raw files. But you can also use programs like Adobe Lightroom, ACDSee Ultimate or Corel AfterShot Pro. I've been using Adobe Lightroom for years and I'm extremely satisfied. Of course, you can also pull the color controls in Lightroom as far as they will go - but hardly any photographer will do that. Compared to the results of cross-cuts in analog photography, Lightroom appears downright harmless - with the difference that today you can work much more precisely and see the result immediately. Developing with software like Lightroom is therefore not yet image processing for me, but the necessary development is an absolute must, comparable to analog film development.

This is how I develop my photos

Here I would like to show you some before and after examples. But I have to say that the original photo is always the jpg from the camera, i.e. it has already been developed in the camera - just not as I imagine it to be. It is also important to know that many jpg images give the impression that they are underexposed or overexposed. That is wanted. While many Jpg files actually have photographic defects in terms of exposure, there are undreamt-of possibilities in the raw format.

Nikon sensors, for example - many of which come from Sony - have incredible potential in the depths. In difficult lighting conditions, it makes perfect sense to intentionally underexpose the photo. The shadows are later brightened by software, while the bright areas of the image are ideally exposed. Almost black parts of the image can be brightened with almost no noise. With Canon, things are a little different: The strength of Canon sensors is more in the bright areas of the image. So here it is worthwhile to tend to over-expose a bit and to reduce the lights in development.

The subway in Zion National Park, Utah. Here I especially emphasized the beautiful orange tones

The in-camera “original” is less colorful

The ruined city of Aradena on Crete offers numerous photo opportunities. The morning was actually pretty dreary - until the sun came through the clouds for a moment

In the jpg from the camera, you can still see the gray graduated filter used, which darkens the upper part of the photo. With Lightroom, this shortcoming can be remedied in a few seconds

The coast near Vik in Iceland is incredibly beautiful - but also dangerous. Development took no more than five minutes. Straighten the horizon, change contrasts and saturation a little, pull up depths, sharpen and the work of art was ready

The image “Out of Cam”

Madeira sunset. The sky looked uninviting, but the ocean surf was just fantastic. The fact that the sky was then even a little red was of course awesome. Lightroom development was done in two minutes

The somewhat dark "original"

By the way, there is a photo tutorial here that we shot on the beach that evening

Photo tutorial in Madeira - use of filters and image composition

Personally, I always try to develop my photos very realistically, but that is of course a matter of taste. In the USA, for example, customers like gaudy photos, much more than we do. The photographers turn the controls accordingly. Even those who want to stand out on the Internet are well advised to keep the colors as bright as possible. A well-known photographer, who has been in the photo travel business for years and conjures up fantastic photos, recently said to me: “With this mass of photoshopped images on the Internet, my photos naturally get lost.” Unfortunately, that's the way it is - true quality can usually only be recognized when the developed photo hangs large on the wall. In times of flood of pictures on Instagram and Co - here, filtered cell phone pictures are often more applauded than real works of art - this is of course a problem.

Photoshop is essential in image editing

But I can't get by with Lightroom alone either. Photoshop is essential to my workflow. Aha, you might think now - but it's all fake. Well, my work has little to do with image processing as one or the other has in mind. I only use Photoshop to remove dust spots and other annoying smaller elements. Straightening the horizon and straightening plunging lines is also a thing for Photoshop. But is that image processing already? Opinions differ here. What I'm ultimately getting at: The line between necessary development in the digital darkroom and real image processing is fluid.

Antelope Canyon in Arizona. Is this already a classic image processing? This is definitely going in this direction, although the interventions are still manageable. In the classic way, the contrasts and saturation have been increased a bit. However, there was also a person in the picture. If you don't want the photo to end up in the digital trash can, you have to use Photoshop

In the original you can see a person in the background

But I still think that my photos should look as natural as possible and that everything has to be right when they are taken. Every minute at the computer is a lost minute that should be better spent outside in nature taking photos. That is also one of the reasons why I avoid the subject of High Dynamic Range Image (HDRI). In the end, the photo would rather not be 100 percent perfect than spend hours on the computer - although it is now only a matter of a few clicks to create an HDRI for simple subjects.

And anyway: does a photo always have to be perfect? Doesn't photography make a living from getting the best out of the situation with the means given to you? It's not for nothing that analog photography is experiencing a revival. I also always enjoy walking around with my analog Voigtlander Bessa L with a viewfinder and 15mm lens and reaping pitying looks when I fast-forward the film for the next photo. If only they knew - it is the ultimate deceleration in the flood of images.
With this post we take part in the blog parade called by Thomas → “How far can photo editing go?” part.

Your opinion is important to us

How far can image processing go in landscape photography? Is the development in Lightroom or another program still image processing digital art? Leave a short comment - we are looking forward to it?


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