Images in the Digital Domain

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There's so much power in Photoshop CS that if you're a photographer and don't use all the tools it has to offer, you're putting a crimp in your creativity, and seriously restricting your flexibility. For the devoted photographer, both amateur and professional, not using Photoshop is like limiting yourself to a single lens or zoom setting, using only one film, or using a digital camera exclusively in fully automatic mode. (And if you'd like to break out of that mold, you might want to check out my books Mastering Digital SLR Photography and Mastering Digital Photography, both from Course Technology.)

Certainly, some incredible images have been created by photographers who work under mind-boggling limitations (a few ingenious pictures taken with pinhole cameras come to mind). For example, one of the photos shown in Figure 1.1 was taken with a sophisticated digital SLR camera equipped with a $700 macro close-up lens, and using studio lighting equipment priced at another grand or two. The other photo was taken with a $200 4-megapixel point-and-shoot camera with a fixed focal-length lens (no zoom!), no optical viewfinder (just the LCD for composing the picture), and a pair of $7.00 high intensity desk lamps for illumination.

Figure 1.1. One of these photos was taken with a digital SLR camera, the other with a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Which setup would you rather use?

Figure 1.1. One of these photos was taken with a digital SLR camera, the other with a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Which setup would you rather use?

Can you tell which is which? And, even if you can tell the difference, won't you agree that even the cheapie photo is acceptable for many applications, such as, perhaps, display on a website? Have I discovered a way to save thousands of dollars? Or have I shown that trying to get by using the bare minimum tools is nothing more than an easy way to impose limitations on your creativity?

Unless you enjoy hobbling yourself as a creative constraint (and that's a valid exercise), I'd wager that you'll want to use all the photographic tools at your disposal, and Photoshop is one of them. To my mind, Photoshop is the most important innovation in photography since, say, the zoom lens or through-the-lens viewing, or, in the computer age, the solid-state sensor.

The best part about adding this image editor to your repertoire is that many of the skills you acquired working behind the viewfinder are directly transferable to Photoshop. If you have darkroom skills that stood you in good stead before the current transition to digital photograph, so much the better. I'll list some of these valuable skills later in this chapter.

Seasoned photographers who adopt digital imaging and Photoshop as their primary tools have a commanding advantage over those who approach Adobe's flagship image editor from the computer or traditional art realms. Terms like lens flare, motion blur, and grain are familiar to you. If you are a more advanced photographer, you probably understand techniques like solarization, or perhaps even graphic reproduction concepts like halftones, mezzotints, or unsharp masking. Those whose perspective is more pixel- than photography-oriented must learn these terms the hard way.

To see what I mean, examine Figure 1.2. Many photographers will recognize the traditional photographic effects used to create that image. (Bear with me for a moment if you are not steeped in photographic technical minutiae.) The "sun" image appears to have a halo caused by lens flare with the telephoto or zoom lens used to take the picture. The odd flag colors could be produced by partially exposing transparency film during development, a technique which reverses some colors to produce an effect called solarization. The rich colors were a direct result of the photographer's choice of a film stock known for vivid colors. And, of course, the flag and buildings appear compressed in space because that's what telephoto lenses do.

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