The Computer is the Darkroom and Sometimes the Camera

When I was much younger I built a full dark room in the basement of our first home.  I fondly remember buying a Besler enlarger that would work with 33 mm and 120 film.  I would develop my own black and white film.  Although I would do mostly black and white prints where you could magically watch the print develop in the tray of developer chemical, I also would make some color prints using a drum where you poured the chemicals into the end while it rotated.  Any post processing I did was with a filter on the enlarger or using dogging and burning in while making the print.

How things have changed and the darkroom just doesn’t exist anymore for most all people.  Instead the computer is the darkroom and the tools we have are vastly superior what we could do with film.  It has gone to the extent that using CGI, many product “photos” are not really photos at all since no camera was used.  Instead the image was entirely created using only a computer.  Look at the following image of a Nikon DSLR.  Can you tell that this was created only with a computer?

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This image was created using a program called called KeyShot by Luxion.  For more information visitthe KeyShot website gallery that currently has 13 pages full of these renders.  This brings me to my view of photography and the different aspects.  Many aspiring photographers spend most of their attention on the far right of the graphic below and talk mostly about the equipment.

what-make-for-great-photo

Needless to say, the highest quality camera and lens will not, by itself, create a great photograph.  Yes, the photo may be sharp, and well exposed, but could be rather uninteresting.  Needless to say, those who spend their energy talking only about their equipment don’t post may of their photos for the world to see.  They often spend more energy and time arguing why their brand or type of camera is better than they do with actually taking and post processing photos.

At the other end is the artistic aspect where those with the right skills know how to capture a great photograph or video by using the right techniques.  They understand the principles of depth of field and lighting.  The may go out in the early morning or late evening to get the right shot.

Where these two extremes can come together, the meeting of the technical and artistic, is in the area of post processing.  Today that means a good computer and the right software, along with some computer skills and some artistic abilities.

Post Processing Software

In this middle ground, this is what works best for me.

  • Lightroom (Adobe).  This one of the best programs of it’s kind.  It not only handles all the organizing of your photos but now includes many tools for post processing.  I find that 90% of the time, this is all I need from moving the image from the camera, to post processing, to generated an image for the end use.  Although version 4 has improved it’s handling of video images, it still lacks significantly in that area, but when it comes to handle JPEG or RAW images, it excels.
  • Photoshop (Adobe).  Still the kind of image editors.  For those times when I need to go beyond the abilities of Lightroom, from within Lightroom I will choose to edit in Photoshop.  That will create a virtual copy and you still will have the original and the edited version showing in Lightroom.
  • Nik Software (Google).  Google bought this company and recently reduced it’s prices.  It has several modules that provide some fantastic post processing abilities with less effort that would be required using only Photoshop.
  • Final Cut Pro (Apple).  For video editing I find this the best software for myself.  There are both simpler and more sophisticated approaches, but for me this is the program to use.

For some this might be overkill while for others it might not be enough, but for me, this is all I use or feel I need.

 

 

Nik Software Now Affordable

I have long been intrigued by the suite of software that Nik Software offered. They had modules from everything like HDR to stunning Black and White. The problem was that their software was just too pricey for me, with each of there modules costing $100 or more, plus if you wanted the versions that worked with Photoshop rather than Lightroom that cost extra.

The good news is that Google has purchased Nik Software and has dramatically lowered the price. Rather than selling each of the six modules separately, it is all one suite together for $149. And there is one installer so it works with all the supported applications that you own, in my case both Lightroom and Photoshop.  I found a discount code “WBEEM” that saved me an additional $22, although I don’t know how long that code will be valid.  With only a short time experimenting with this software, I have included some examples below.

Sydney Harbor

I took this photo with a Nikon D300.   I really liked the photo but in this area you don’t usually get the breathtaking skies that I might find in some other areas of the world.  These examples show what I was able to do with Nik software.

Nik offers effects that range from very subtle to obviously over done and unrealistic.  I tried to to pick some examples somewhat in the middle.  For each effect you can make adjustments.

 Original

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HDR Efex Pro 2 (using single image)

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Color Efex Pro 4

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Silver Efex Pro 2

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New Zealand Sounds

As we cruised through the Sounds of New Zealand the view was magical.  As is too often the case, when you capture the image with a camera, it doesn’t look quite like what you remember.  This photo was taken with a Nikon D300 and using Nik Software, I was able to get an image with only a few clicks that better represented what I thought I was viewing.

Original

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HDR Efex Pro 2 (using single image)

FJK201202-6115-Edit

For a extensive introduction to all the modules in the Nik software collection and and an overview of how to use them, here is a 60 minute YouTube video.