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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"

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A lot of interesting things are happening in this photograph shot on the Alaska Highway on a spring day near Haines Junction, Yukon. The jagged, snow-covered mountains with diagonal shadows created by late-afternoon sun; the dramatic curve of the highway swooping into and out of the frame; the cloudy sky; the finger of bare, rust-colored trees and brush jutting into the photo from the lower left. The trick was to maximize the potential in each of these separate elements, and then pull them together into a coherent, believable photograph. The first thing that struck me was the strong bluish cast in the BEFORE image. I did a color balance correction to warm up the palette. But I still wasn't satisfied so I used a hue/saturation adjustment layer in photoshop to de-intensify the yellow and red tones. My goal was to strike a good balance between warmth and whiteness in the snow and clouds. Those were global adjustments. But I also had to work separately on the three distinct