The previous post is about editing a photo, which has been going on as long as there has been photography. Back in the dim reaches of the not-so-distant past I did most of my own B&W developing, and almost all my own printing (if someone wanted a print larger than 11x14 I'd send the work out). Ten minutes in the darkroom was about all it took for a run-of-the mill exposure. Then put it in the dryer, and it was done.
Color was another kettle of fish altogether. I never had a strong urge to move into printing in that realm. Once I got serious about color photography I started shooting slides, and the problems of printmaking went up even more. But so what? To show them to people I needed a screen and a projector and it was done. I only needed color prints when I was making them as gifts, or for sale.
Which made it simple. I'd go to my lab, talk to the printer and mark the crops (wax pencil on the mount), talk about the color balance I wanted and tell 'em how large to make it. Come back in a few hours (for places like Robi's in Lakewood, Washington, one of the best camera stores I've ever had the pleasure to frequent: Full service; in-house, new and used equipment; film and digital. They develop B&W, C-41 and E-6. Kodachrome, of course, has to be sent away. They frame.), or, at most, a couple of days, pick it up, and out the door. I still treat film that way; 20-30 minutes of my time, and some of my money, in exchange for not having to worry about things.
Digital is a little different. I am trading time for money (this is true of so many things, and as a theme it pervades photography). I get to shoot a lot more (I shot almost 9,000 frames in Galapagos. There is no way I could've afforded that, much less been able to take that much film with me, and keep up with changing rolls, the needs of changing light, etc.
To do it right I'd be shooting with two bodies (one B&W, one slide). The companions who shot on film got far fewer images. The flexibility of ISO in the digital camera is only really attainable in some specialised B&W films, like Ilford's XP2, which is one of the things that makes digital even more suited to applications where the light is variable.
So I don't hand the images off to someone else anymore; I do the "developing/printing" myself.
Mostly, I use LightZone, by Lightcrafts. I have Photoshop, and there are things I use it for (cleaning up spots, printing, and plug-ins, like Blow Up and NikEffects), but it's not my editor of choice.
Why? Because Photoshop is expensive, it's complex, it has a slew of features I don't need, it uses a lot of memory and processor time, and it hogs storage space (to avoid accidentally overwriting a file I don't want to overwrite I have to duplicate every file I open. When it's a 20mb-40mb .tif, that starts to eat a lot of storage, even without having to dupe everything.)
Compare that to LightZone. $199.00 USD for the full version. Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux Boxes. For non-linux users there's also a slightly less than full-featured version for $129.00. It works with .jpg, .tif, and .RAW files. All edits are non-destructive. The parent file is treated, effectively, as a negative; regardless of format. The full version allows for some serious batch processing. Want to manage your Colorspace? It's in there. When making a copy, any colorspace you have is available. The software comes with lots, and you can add your own (e.g. the calibration profile of your monitors) If you are sending to a secondary printer, you can put the image into the resident color space of their machines. You can work in that space to start with (assuming you've calibrated your monitor) and your prints should come back to you – or arrive at the customer – looking just as you meant them to look.
Those are the things I like. Things I don't like? There's no way to do spot removal, and I've not managed to figure out how to do bleeds – printing out to the edge.
The controls are as intuitive as anything can be (nothing is intuitive to everyone). If you've studied the Zone System, some of the tools are a lot easier to get a handle on.
The first thing you see is the Browser window
It's straightforward. Click on an image and it is presented large. Drag the slider bar to adjust the size of the thumbnails, or the fields.
Click on the large image and move to the edit window.
If you're working with RAW, there will be a couple of adjustments applied by Lightzone. Those are related to the camera you used, and are meant to make some specific corrections to account for quirks in the way each manufacturer's sensors process the image. Over on the left you'll have all the "styles".
Those are preloaded suites of adjustment to allow one to apply them without having to set up several tools every time. Some are specialised, and you can't recreate them on your own. At the top is a thumbnail of the image being edited. Mouse over that image and an estimation of the effect will be displayed. Handy, but like the LCD on the back of your camera, it's a bit less than exact.
But, you don't care, because anything you do can be undone. Right after you do it or just before you finish, you don't care. Not only that but you can defeat the effect, without deleting it, and see how it affects the stack.
For most of what I do, there are only a couple of tools I use: The Zone Mapper, the Hue/Saturation tool, and the Color Balance tool. The Zone Mapper lets me adjust curves (how curves work, and why they matter is a subject worthy of its own post). The Hue/Saturation tool lets me control how rich the colors are. The Color Balance lets me adjust color casts.
Some things can be done in more than one way: if you want to adjust the temperature, there's a tool at start up (thus changing the WB). Or the Color Balance wheel can be used to apply a cast (as if one had used a filter at the time of exposure).
When a tool is selected, the window in the upper right will show the image.
The options are Zone Mapper (a conversion to gray scale, at ½ zone steps), and Color Mapper, which shows in color, until a color is selected: once selected the image goes to gray scale. The brighter the area, the more saturated the color is in that part of the photo. There's also a Histogram and a map of the RGB values for each pixel.
All of the tools can be used as masking layers. The masking tool has three forms: pure polygons, splines and bezier curves. You can make several masks of the same layer. You can also copy the mask and link it to other layers. When you do that, any change in shape for the new layers is moved to all of them.
If you want to play with the order (say you sharpened things, and then decided to play with some saturations and shadows... the tool can be moved, up or down the stack. Want to do a B&W treatment, click on the B&W tool (or a style) and make a conversion (.jpg, or .tif, 8, or 16 bit, resized to desired dimensions and desired dpi). Then you can disable the B&W, and make new conversions in color.
What I really like about it (and why it's my first choice) is how easy it is to use. If I want to adjust a color, with any tool, I select the eye-dropper, switch to the Color Mask tab in the working window et voila I have the shades of color I want. This can be really useful when using the Color Balance tool, because you can modify a specific color, instead of the entire image. In effect you have a selective filter. Same for Hue/Saturation.
That same sort of thing holds true for all the variations on all the tools.
Which means I can do in five-ten minutes, what used to take me 20-40 in photoshop. If I have a consistent set of features, all I have to do is save it as a style, and I can apply to every photo in a folder, should I want. Workflow is faster - that alone is a huge advantage to the working photographer
In the interest of complete disclosure I helped with the technical notes for LightZone 2.0, which wasn't released. I haven't been paid for this review; and I've been using it since sometime around ver. 1.5. It took me awhile to take the plunge. Once I did, there was no turning back.
People, every so often, wonder how I get pictures.
I use a camera.
All kidding aside that's the meat of it. Darkroom technique can salvage a borderline image, but it can't rescue a muddy piece of crap.So, I'll go through the major steps in editing, and show them.
First, one needs a picture. So the roll/folder has to be gone through. From that an image has to be selected. You just have to trust me that the thing to do is find one you like. Unless I'm going to copy the entire folder, you'll just have to trust me this one is better than most, and a good candidate for printing up.
So, we have a picture. It has action, a bit of drama and a hint of story, but it's not perfect. The most grievous flaw is that the queen is distracted. So I crop it, which has the pleasant side effect of making the swords' motion more evident.
In addition to Her Majesty, the top and bottom have some really gross zonal differences. The stage, and sky are more than six stops from the details on the costumes. So we'll crop those too.
[From here the images are all the same size, if you want to see them in more detail you can open them up full-size (750 pixels wide) and move between them]
It's not a perfect crop, to keep the feet of the swordsman on the left, I had to retain the flowers. I could cut the flowers out, but then there'd be no visual floor for him to stand on. However, cropping that tight; top and bottom, intensifies the linear aspects of the piece, which makes it seem more alive. By giving about three times the space above as I have on the bottom the sense of closeness is increased, which makes the fact of the fencers being inside each others' space more visceral.
On the upside, everyone in the picture now seems to be paying attention to the action, and they take up a larger portion of the frame.
But it's still soft, and the colors might be a little flat.So I'll move the tones. I pushed the top 1 1/2 zones up, about 1/2 zone, and then the middle 4 were compressed/moved up about 1 zone. The rest covered about 1 1/2 zones, which I opened up by dragging them down an extra zone.
I also wanted to warm the image up some, because the reflected sky was giving a blue cast to everything (look at the sleeves of the shirt). To fix that I reset the white point by telling the application (LightZone, my editing application of choice) the shirt of the left hand fencer = 5817K. The original value was 5000K. That gave a more yellow cast to everything, which has the effect of making everything seem brighter (the relations of the colors and the zones they fall in are, basically, unchanged. What's not the same is the highlight and reflections. In the first version there's very little evidence of sun).
It's still not quite what I want. The edges are fuzzy, and the colors are flabby. So I'll sharpen them up, and work on the luminance/saturation.
I divided the red, and blue channels, to adjust the saturation/luminance of them separately, and I finished with a bit of noise reduction; I treated it to a "hard light" filter, increasing the overall contrast.
Voila, we have a picture. Total time, from start to finish, about five minutes.
That is, basically, the way it works; irrespective of medium. For color film, I trade money for time. I talk to my printer and tell him/her what I want the colors to look like, and how bright it ought to look as well as how contrasty. In B&W I spend both time, and money (which is what I do with digital, but I have up-front costs, which replace the ongoing costs of paper and chemicals).