Sunday , February 25 2024
If you are new to digital photography or are moving to the digital darkroom, then this should be on your reading list.

Book Review: The Creative Digital Darkroom by Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan

The Creative Digital Darkroom is more than just a how-to book on Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. It is more than just a book about camera use and the fundamentals of visual composition. It is about the creative journey of creating visual images that take you beyond what others may see.

According to the authors, "the eye is the lens, and the mind is the camera." The small, often overlooked details are just as important as the vista and the goal of this book is to teach you how to see, not only what lies ahead, but what might lie ahead so that you can be ready for it when the opportunity presents itself. The book is 429 pages in length and is divided into 10 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Silver to Silicon," is about the transition from the traditional chemical darkroom into the digital darkroom. As time marches on, fewer and fewer people have ever experienced a chemical based development environment, but there is still a lot that can be learned from the techniques and terms that were first; pardon the pun, developed there. This chapter is also about the workflow from capture to print. Chapter 2, "Digital Nuts and Bolts" shows you that just as with a traditional darkroom, a digital darkroom can go from very modest to state of the art. Here you will learn how to build a digital darkroom with Photoshop, set up preferences, and efficiently navigate your files.

Chapter 3, "Scan, Develop, and Organize," are certainly procedural formalities by nature compared to taking the picture, but they are none the less, important steps. Here you will work with the first part image processing in the digital darkroom workflow. This is the part that happens before you bring the image into Photoshop. This will take you from digital capture, through file organization, and then into Camera Raw/Lightroom. Chapter 4, "File Preparation," shows you how to prime your image by reducing and avoiding noise, how to develop a sharpening strategy, how to correct optical and dimensional distortion, and in general, how to clean up your files.

Chapter 5, "Tone and Contrast," starts back at what was the traditional beginning for most wet darkroom photographers; black and white. By focusing on black and white, you will learn how to understand tone and contrast, levels and curves, as well as toning and split-toning effects. You will also learn how to listen to an image while learning how to apply global image improvements. Chapter 6, "Dodging, Burning, and Exposure Control," explain how brightness and contrast are important to designing the look of an image. By taking control away from the camera, you can create the image that you want.

Chapter 7, "Color Correction," examines the fact that because color is all around us, many times we take it for granted. In this chapter, the authors begin with the landscape of color in which they explain that there is no "true color" because there is many factors that allow us to perceive color. From there they tackle color correction, enhancement, and the power of working with Lab; a system that separates the brightness or luminance from the color in an image. Chapter 8, "Creative Color", compares color to the musical score of an image. Just as the score of a movie changes the way that you feel toward the movie, color correction can change how you feel toward an image. Remember that this does not excuse your ability to create a good image in the first place, only that with a good image it can make it better.

Chapter 9, "Creative Enhancements," shows that even with the magic that can be captured through the camera and the lens and the filters as well as with any other image capturing techniques, there is still more that can happen in the digital darkroom. In a lot of ways the focus of this book is on enhancements and so it should be no surprise that there are more tricks up their sleeves. Chapter 10, "Enhancing Focus," deals with something that every photographer needs to come to grips with, and that is focus; or sharpness, resolution power, or fundamentally, making a strong image. As it is with image processing, it is with this book, one of the last things to do to an image is to make it sharp.

The focus of The Creative Digital Darkroom is trying to translate what was the traditional darkroom into the new digital darkroom. The authors do not touch on many of the "new tech" features of Photoshop; rather instead tread on what would be considered traditional techniques. On the other hand it covers some techniques such as curves and levels in more depth than many books other than some of the more technical ones.

The fundamental strengths of The Creative Digital Darkroom is that it performs. It gets straight into detailed examples of each of the technical topics that it covers; topics such as levels and curves, but also things like Blending modes, Camera Raw, and Color Processing. Because it does not get into features, it is relevant if you are using CS, CS2 as well as CS3. Sure there may be some missing items, but overall the flow is the same.

The Creative Digital Darkroom is not about dazzle, rather it is about functionality. It is about improving your workflow. It is about giving you the ability to fine tune your images and make you a better photographer. If you are new to digital photography, if digital is all that you have done and want to learn more from traditional methods, and especially if you are moving from the wet darkroom to the digital darkroom, then The Creative Digital Darkroom should be on your reading list.

About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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