How many times do we hear the old cliche, ” a photograph never lies”. In the digital world this is now, most surely, a myth. The image that the viewer usually sees is processed, often in the camera This means that it is a rendition of what a programmer at Canon or Panasonic believes is the best way to interpret light, contrast, and colours from the original raw data captured by the camera.
I guess it may be true when we look at the RAW image as it is first captured. RAW data is the light that is captured, exactly as it falls on the camera sensor, when the shutter is pressed. There are, however, very few image viewers that will let you see these RAW images on the screen. The ones that do are usually editing software that allow us to make a lie of the final version of the image. We can make it darker, lighter, more contrasty, or change the way the light is represented from warm orange tones to cold blue ones. We can even substitute an unfavourable element within the scene for a nicer one that has been pirated from a completely different photo.
This being so, a big part of the photographer’s craft is in post editing. That is what happens when the RAW image is transferred onto a computer. To do this, the camera must be set to capture the RAW data. Most DSLR camera’s can do this, along with an ever increasing number of compact models. In many ways the RAW image represents the old film negative, and post editing is equivilent to what the technician did in the dark room when he processed the images of the photographs we placed into our old albums and then stored them away in the cupboard.
Even back in the film days, it was posible to adjust the way the light fell on a particular part of the image by a process called dodging and burning. One made the image darker, while the other made it lighter. This could be applied both globally or locally within the scene, depending on what was required.
Modern software programs, such as Lightroom or Affinity Photo, still follow those same methods, albeit in a digital fashion. You will still find a dodge brush or a burn brush in the tool box available to the photographer. In this, the complete art of the craft is more readily available to even the most amature of photographers. It means that they can take a photgraph, process it on their computer and then either print it or publish it on one of many online forums such as Facebook or Instagram. A great benefit is that the images can be stored on thumb drives and plugged into a TV or digital photo frame. This keeps the images alive, right there in the living room, instead of being hiiden away in dusty old albums that rarely see the light of day.
So what does this mean for the point and shoot photographer? Well, nothing much. The camera will usually produce a fine JPEG photogragh that can be printed or posted even with the limited adjustments that are availble to make it pop. However, if you want to do more, consider capturing your images in RAW format and have some fun with editing. There are a number of programs that will allow you to do this, from the free versions to those that you buy or subscibe to. There is a learning curve, but you will be more than happy with the better images you get as a result
What sort of images do you shoot? RAW, or do you let the camera develop the photo for you?
What editing software do you find useful when editing?