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Welcome to "The After-image" - a blog about digital image editing

"Taking" photographs is easy. Making photographs is hard, but worth the effort. Through examples from my own work I want to show you that the image captured by your camera and stored on your memory card is just one piece in the larger puzzle of producing a photograph worth looking at.

"The After-image" illustrates the "before" and the "after" of digital image editing. It isn't a "how-to" with step-by-step instructions on transforming the RAW image into a finished product. That would be like trying to write instructions on how to tie your shoes! Instead, I illustrate what can be accomplished by showing BEFORE and AFTER images from my own work. Each post features an untouched BEFORE image direct from the memory card followed by the AFTER finished piece. (I also provide brief comments on the main issues I faced in working on the image and how, in a general sense, I tried to deal with them.)

I hope this will inspire you to invest time and effort in learning how to produce your own masterpieces! 

Notice I referred to "RAW" image. People serious about photography understand the importance of "shooting RAW" rather than having their camera automatically convert images to the jpeg format. These posts are written on the assumption that you will be shooting RAW.

Don't get me wrong. The jpeg format is great for certain purposes. If you're taking snapshots, want to quickly post photos to social media, aren't obsessive about the quality of your photographs and don't want to deal with anything other than the simplest image editing software, then jpeg is for you. 

But if you want to produce pieces worthy of hanging on a wall then RAW is your best choice. You will have maximum flexibility of manipulate your images - adjusting for exposure, dynamic range, sharpness, etc. - and in many cases will be able to rescue images from sub-optimal camera settings (e.g. under- or over-exposure) in place when you clicked the shutter.

(On the other hand, in jpeg mode the camera throws away much of the data captured by the sensor and "bakes" settings into the image that affect how it will appear. You can't undo those settings - just as you can't un-bake a cake!)

Shooting RAW means working with photo editing software. I assume you have working knowledge of Photoshop, which I use in all my image editing. (I also use DxO PhotoLab - which does a great job of the first stage of the photo editing process where the RAW image is converted to a more widely accessible format like .psd or .tif or .jpg. Photoshop does this too - just not as well, in my view.)

I have been working in digital photography for about 14 years. I am self-taught, and still learning. Digital photography is perfectly suited to self-teaching. Mistakes don't create wasted film, paper and chemicals. You get immediate feedback from your your camera. And when you edit you can't ruin anything because you can always go back to the original image. So have fun, experiment, don't be afraid!


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"Boat Tour"

On a boat tour of Western Brook Pond in western Newfoundland two women focused on the spectacular scenery while I focused on them. The pastel colors of their windbreakers contrasted with each other and with the natural tones of the land, water and sky. The image tells a strong, simple story: two people awestruck by 600 meter (2000 foot) cliffs towering over a remote, pristine lake. This image required less work than many of the others featured in this blog. It's a good example of how even relatively modest adjustments can transform a photograph from merely "interesting" to "worthy of displaying". I wanted to separate the women from the landscape - make each part of the image stand out in its own right. I was taken by the colors and textures of the jackets so I increased vibrancy a little to bring out the color and used  fine-contrast and tone curve adjustments to  highlight the fabric's folds and shadows. I added drama to the background through t

"Bank Street Bridge"

Built in 1912 and restored in 1993, the Bank Street Bridge is the most attractive piece of civil engineering in Ottawa, Ontario. Beautiful lighting makes it especially eye-catching at night. Odd-looking color casts are always an issue when shooting in artificial light. Your camera's white-balance settings may help but probably won't solve all the color problems in situations like this so corrections with image-editing software are necessary. To get rid of the yellowish-bluish cast in the BEFORE image I desaturated and darkened the yellows,  reds, blues, cyans and magentas. But while I wanted to reduce these colors in some parts of the image, I was careful to retain them in other areas. I didn't want to lose the yellow lines on the road, the red streak of tail-light, the yellow sign above the arch on the right, the yellows/reds in the foliage and the subtle color variations in the cobblestones. A photoshop layer mask allowed me to precisely target the areas where c


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