Sunday, May 22, 2022

AYWMC: Part 5, Editing: Lesson 1, Editing Is Not Cheating

This post is part of a series entitled A Year With My Camera
Lesson 5.1 in my own words
  • All professional photographers edit their images.
  • Film photography requires chemical baths to develop images. The final look of the photo is controlled by:
    • temperature of developer bath
    • length of time in fix bath
  • Digital cameras are not designed to produce finished photographs.
    • A digital image is just a file of basic information about color and tone levels.
    • Digital images require developing (a.k.a. editing).
    • JPEG images leave the editing to the camera.
    • RAW images are unedited digital files enabling the photographer to edit as desired.
      • There's a supplemental AYWMC lesson on RAW, so I'll make my notes in a separate post
  • Editing software
    • The choices for digital photographers are:
      • Let the camera make the decisions
      • Use software designed for digital photograph editing
    • Use digital editing software is an extension of the camera.
    • Most programs used by professionals are by purchase or monthly subscription fees.
    • There are some decent free programs out there.
  • Basic editing should include checking three things:
    • Exposure - is the image correctly exposed?
      • Use histogram in the software to check
      • Check where the white point is located (the right hand side of the histogram)
      • Underexposed images can be improved by moving the white point slider to touch the right side of the histogram.
    • Color balance - do your indoor shots have a yellow cast?
      • Possible editing tools to correct color balance:
        • color temperature
        • white balance
        • neutral tone picker
        • may vary depending on program used
    • Cropping - can your image be improved by cropping?
      • Some photographers think that cropping is amateurish; that professional photographers can perfectly compose and frame the image in the camera alone.
      • To this, Emma Davies (our teacher) responds, "Says who? If you want to crop, then crop."
    This week's project
    • Choose a favorite image and check the 3 basic editing steps.
    • As a photo prompt for images taken for this lesson, experiment with  background separation.
    • For every image taken in this week, use your editing software for basic editing as needed.
    • Optional: Try experimenting with RAW images

    I don't know if these are favorite images, but they contain issues that I want to learn to improve. I chose them so I could experiment with the editing features discussed in the lesson. I use GIMP because it's open source and free.

    Photo 1: an indoor shot of a bowl of homegrown cherries. It has that yellowish cast indoor photos usually have from artificial lighting.

    Original photograph.


    Exposure adjusted to -1.

    Color temperature adjusted from 6500K (original) to 3550K

    Exposure -1 and color temperature 3550K

    Exposure -1 and color temperature 4314K

    In the exposure dialog box are two sliders: exposure and black level. Black level wasn't mentioned in the lesson, but I experimented with it anyway.

    Exposure -0.3 and black level 0.01

    Exposure -0.3, black level 0.01, and temperature 3500K

    Photo 2: an outdoor photo of a white water lily in the sun. I wanted to experiment with this one because white anything in the sun always washes out. Can I fix it in GIMP?


    Cropped (so I can focus on the flower)

    Exposure -1

    White balance (an automated function in GIMP)

    What I learned

    • I wasn't terribly satisfied with any of the results, so I'm going to need a lot of practice with this. I use my editing software for a few things, but there is much on it that I'm clueless about.
    • That GIMP seems to render exposure differently than the camera does. (I'm guessing this is because with the camera, I have three ways to control exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, plus exposure compensation).
      • In the camera, exposure compensation affects brightness
      • In GIMP, exposure control seems to add overall darkness to the image, i.e add a layer of gray. Hmm, wait a minute. This is something I learned about in the very first lesson, "Introduction to Exposure."
    • I couldn't make sense of what the lesson meant about using the histogram to adjust exposure, so that's something I need to delve into.
    • Conclusions 
      • It's best to make as many adjustments as possible with the camera. Editing may not be cheating, but it shouldn't be used as a crutch either.
      • Not to photograph white objects in direct sun.
      • That I need to do a course on how to use GIMP and all its features.
    Next, I'm going to tackle RAW. Emma Davies Photography Blog has an excellent article explaining it, "What is RAW and Why Do You Need It?" Then I'll take a look at the Michael the Maven video I found on my specific camera (Canon M50), to learn how to use it to shoot RAW. I'll do a separate blog post on my notes and initial experiments with it.You can find that here.

    All images © by Leigh at Leigh's Photography Journal


    Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

    Interesting Leigh. No-one questions the benefits of an editor when writing; I find myself puzzlingly confused that I object to it in photography. Maybe a leftover sense of people "changing images".

    One of the reasons I hand on to our original digital camera - A Kodiak (I am sure they are not made anymore) is the fact that it generated raw images.

    Leigh said...

    TB, understanding this concept is quite liberating. For awhile, I felt guilty when I did any editing, which for the longest time was just cropping and optimizing the image to fewer kilobytes, so it would load faster on someone else's computer.

    I am glad, though, that I refrained from using GIMP for the previous lessons. I needed to learn what the camera can do first and how to use those options. I suppose that really, all of this is looking at photography as an art form. A painter is constantly adjusting details of their paintings until they are satisfied. Why shouldn't it be the same for photographers?

    I'm getting ready to start with RAW. I'm quite excited about it, even though there will be another huge learning curve to learn how to use the RAW editing software!