Playing With Pixels
The Digital Darkroom, Changing The Way We Take And Make Pictures

Photos © 2001, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

One of the coolest things about digital imaging is that it has changed the way we take and make pictures. Big time!

I experience this almost every time I shoot. Knowing that an image can be enhanced, fixed, or manipulated in the digital darkroom, I take pictures--sometimes even boring ones--that I normally would not take.

For example, if a scene contains an interesting element or elements but has poor color, I know I can get good--or even great--color by increasing the saturation, lowering the curve, or boosting individual colors--in just a few seconds!

Low contrast is not a problem either. All I have to do is increase the contrast with a few clicks of my mouse.

Unwanted background or foreground elements? No problem, again. I use the cloning (rubber stamp) or blur tools to create a better background or foreground.


I also know that I can use the dodge and burn tools to either lighten or darken specific areas of a picture. I can lighten a subject's eyes to simulate daylight fill-in flash and darken the edges of a picture just like Ansel Adams did in many of his prints.

Finally, I know I have the option of applying digital filters to give my pictures an artistic quality. So, the point of this month's column is: If a scene is not picture perfect, shoot it anyway, and have fun trying to fix it up in the digital darkroom. There is a big difference between taking a picture and making a picture. You might be pleasantly surprised with your results, as I often am.

Here are a few before-and-after pictures to illustrate what I mean.

Photo 1. I photographed this cowgirl in the shade of a barn, while my assistant John Costello held a gold reflector to illuminate her face. I like the overall picture, but it looks just like a snapshot to me. I also think the red scarf really adds a lot to the picture.

Photo 2. To turn my snapshot into a more artistic image, I used the Midnight filter in a Photoshop plug-in called nik Color Efex Pro! The filter darkens the shadows and brightens the highlights and blurs the entire image. The initial effect produced an image that was too dark, so I used Curves to make it brighter.


Photo 3. During my photo session with this cowgirl, I was taken back in time to the Old West. While I was shooting, I envisioned a sepia-toned image. Back home, I used the Sepia Action in Photoshop to create the effect I wanted, again with a few clicks of my trusty mouse.

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