The Development Process
Digital photography brought a new set of tools to photographers, but it didn’t change the inherent photographic process. Photographs still need to be developed. This is especially true with high-end cameras and the use of the raw format (uncompressed and undeveloped) instead of the JPEG format (developed and compressed in camera). A raw file is the equivalent of an undeveloped film.
Q: Why use raw when your camera can develop it for you?
A: Remember when you would bring your undeveloped roll of film to a lab? Chances are you had a favorite lab, one that was better at its craft than others. Likewise, I trust myself better at developing my raw files. No machine can replace human sensibility.
I keep my digital darkroom setup simple:
- Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, for color and tone corrections
- Adobe Photoshop, for lens correction
Q: Are your photographs manipulated?
A: No. There’s a big difference between using Photoshop and manipulating photos, or “photoshopping”. Photoshop is just a tool allowing me to perform the same adjustments that are done in traditional darkrooms.
Color and tone corrections
A raw file is intrinsically flat and neutral. Color and tone corrections help bring back the photograph to life. This is probably the most critical step of my artistic process. I spend a good deal of time making sure the resulting image is true to the scene I admired in the first place.
Lenses introduce a number of imperfections that sometimes need to be corrected: barrel or pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective flaws. Many of these imperfections are particularly noticeable in architecture. A step that I seldom need to use for the type of photography I do, nevertheless noteworthy.