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Pros and Cons of doing your own Image Editing
by Larry Berman

Some people find working on their images in an editing program fun and creative. Shooting family pictures and being able to show them immediately is a statement to how photography has changed over the years. There used to be a 24-hour wait to see your pictures. Then one hour labs became the norm. Now with a digital camera and home computer, images can be captured and viewed within minutes. The job of the camera manufacturers and software authors is to automate the process to make it seem easy. But though it's not rocket science, there is a difference between being able to edit your pictures to show to your friends and producing high quality image files that accurately portray your art work.
When I first started years ago, I didnít know anything about working with digital images. I learned by doing the images for my first web site. If I had the time to do them over today, they would look a lot better. But Iíve never found the time. And thatís really the key to preparing images for professional use. How many people actually spend the time to learn how to properly do image processing? Just owning a program like Photoshop doesnít make one an expert, just like owning a camera doesnít make one a professional photographer. It takes experience to make those creative decisions that come up during each step of preparing an image. My instruction page is just a guide, as each of the steps will require decisions to be made. How to match color is only one of the important issues that will have to be dealt with.
The first thing you find out when opening one of your images is that every image needs editing. The better the original image file is, the less post processing will be required. The auto exposure setting in a digital camera is excellent, even better than it has been in the past in film cameras. But a basic understanding of digital processing soon teaches you that highlights can loose detail if the contrast range is too great.

Histogram Example

Using a histogram will let you know if a loss of detail is happening. The histogram is a graph generated on the camera's LCD showing the range of exposure. Too high a peak on the right means blown out highlights. Some cameras also have flashing highlights showing areas of lost detail. Photoshop CS2 also has a real time histogram so you can see exposure changes while working on the image. To get the best digital file to work with, exposure has to biased so there's no highlight peaks so as to not loose detail. Your image should be exposed to preserve highlights. Though shadow detail can be brought back using levels and curves in Photoshop, you should try for the best possible exposure as shown in the center histogram.
As an example, one of the techniques I use when shooting with a digital camera is to include the brightest area of the scene close to the center of the frame and lock the exposure. Then I recompose and shoot. Thatís how I bias my exposure to not blow out the highlights as the cameraís auto exposure is compensating for it. Of course Iíll also take the picture composed properly but use the ďhighlight exposure biasĒ as my bracketed exposure. Some cameras have an AE lock button or let you lock exposure by pressing halfway down on the shutter release.
The bottom line in preparing your images for the digital jury system is that itís no less important than hiring a professional photographer to shoot your jury slides, or hiring a top notch mechanic to fix your van so you can get to the next art show. To give yourself the best possible chance in getting accepted into the shows you apply to, you should either spend the time to learn how to do it properly, or hire someone who works with imaging programs daily and understands what artist's need to get into the best art shows. Photoshop is the most complex program Iíve ever worked with. I feel that Iíve barely scratched the surface and Iíve worked with it almost every day for the past five years, and have been part of Adobe's Photoshop beta testing team for the last three versions. When asked how to learn Photoshop, I suggest defining a task and then focus on learning what is necessary to complete that task before going on to the next project.

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