Word about Structure and Understanding

This chapter has two related objectives. The first is to provide readers with a clear and simple method for obtaining the best possible quality in their photographs.

The second goal is to provide a broad understanding of the basic technical concepts that underlie digital image processing.

These two goals might seem to be the same but they really aren't.

If what you are looking for is a general understanding of digital exposure and contrast control so you can get better results, this text is structured so you can read straight through without getting bogged down in the mathematical details of things like bit depth and the digital linear effect. (The truth is, unless you're Thomas Knoll, the primary architect of Adobe Photoshop, most of us only have a relative understanding of these things anyway.)

When you get to those sections you can simply accept my assumptions about what these concepts mean for your work and read on.

If, on the other hand, you're like me and find that developing some understanding of concepts like these is fascinating and important, the text will direct you to appendices that more fully explain these subjects. In addition, Appendix S lists technical source books that will take you as deep into the numbers as you would like to go.

The Automatic Alternative

Many people new to digital photography quickly discover that they can obtain perfectly adequate results using the automatic metering systems provided by camera manufacturers to simplify the shooting process.

Automatic metering modes work well but there are two consequences from overly relying on them. First, they necessarily compromise the quality of your work in situations where a better understanding of photo-technique would allow for more innovative results. If you look closely at the most creative work, you will see that artists understand how to depart from normal ways of working in ways that are beautiful and meaningful. Automatic metering systems aren't designed to do this.

The second consequence of relying on automatic systems is that they prevent you from engaging with and really understanding the details of important photographic techniques. This is especially true with digital photography where there are layers of technical concepts that will be new to most photographers. Most serious photographers will find that the time spent learning more about their systems is worth the effort.

Color Management

Unless you're a very experienced digital image editor and printer, it's probably a good idea for you to read Appendix A on the subject of Color Management before you attempt to apply what you will learn in this chapter. Color Management is the term used to describe the process of calibrating and setting up your system so that your printer produces images that match what you see on your monitor. Many photographers new to digital processes take this step for granted and end up frustrated and waste lots of ink and paper attempting to produce predictable results.

My hope is that the information in Appendix A will resolve all of this and make the process of printing your work as efficient and straightforward as is possible.


As one of the two ways that photographic images enter the digital world, scanning is an important topic of this book, especially as it relates to the issues of image resolution, bit depth, and image quality.

On the other hand, this chapter will not discuss the problems that result from scanning negatives or prints that are badly underexposed or overdeveloped. Reading the preceding chapters of this book will teach you how to avoid producing unworkable negatives and prints in the first place.

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