So your memory card is full and you’ve snapped up a stack of great images… or so you think, but when you upload them to your computer, you see that what looked great on the viewfinder now looks a little bland. Some pics aren’t sharp enough – some have the colours blown out, some are too dark, some of your friends have eyes like the devil… what can you do? A little extra care taken processing your images can vastly improve any picture faults and have your subjects looking picture perfect once more.
WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT OFTEN WHAT YOU GET
If you really want what you see on your EVF to be reflected on your computer’s monitor and in print, then the first place you want to start is with your monitor. The human eye is terrific at compensating light so it will automatically correct colour – so it can be difficult to know if the colour tones you are looking at on screen are a real reflection of the image… Calibrating your monitor to reflect the same profile settings as your camera is something that is not all that difficult to do and will solve many of your colour issues. Software programs like Adobe Gamma or DataColour Spyder are a great place to start as once the software is installed it will run you through the calibration process.
Many of the new digital cameras come with in-camera editing features so you can begin the process of tweaking your settings before you’ve even download your pics to your computer. Main areas where tweaking occurs are sharpness, (by default digital images are often soft) red eye – you can automatically correct for red eye in most cameras these days and colour correction. Still if you really want to take control it’s best to do all this on your computer with a software program, as you have a far greater ability to make corrections.
SHARPEN IT UP
When using software like Gimp (freeware) or Adobe Photoshop, the first place to start in your image correction process, is image sharpness. Using the unsharp mask tool allows you to split your image into two layers – black and white plus colour – the black and white image will contain all your brightness and thus image contrast and sharpness – adjust this image and you will have a better chance at achieving true sharpness and reducing the halo effect that can be common in many digital images.
Adjusting the levels of the image will assist with contrast problems. Often poor contrast images will have a lot of the pixels clumped together. Open the levels tool in your software to see the images histogram. Drag the slider left or right to increase/decrease the black and white elements of the pic to deliver stronger sharper images. If you do nothing else to your prints- at least do this as it ensures your blacks are black rather than murky gray…
GET THE TONE RIGHT
Another important level to adjust is the tonal range of the image. Once again open the image histogram to get a true picture of what you are seeing – over exposed images will have most of the pixels clumped to the right – under exposed to the left… Either way the image will lack contrast, so you need to adjust it via the level control, adjusting the red, green, blue levels in your pics will immensely improve them for printing.
GET IN THE CURVE
Adjusting the image’s, curve is a more powerful way to adjust tone and level across the dynamic range of an image – adjusting shadows and highlights separately rather than applying them as a wash across the whole range of the image. The most classic curve control is the S Curve which boosts contrast and increases the impact of your shot.
Ever taken a photo of a lovely green field on a blue sky day and discovered your whole image has wound up with a slightly green or blue skew? That’s because with an absence of white subjects in your photo, the camera has had to guess the white balance for the image and it may have latched onto the wrong colour field to do so… So what can you do to get your green field zinging once more? Adjust the colour balance of the image. By adjusting the hue, colour saturation and brightness of the image, you will wind up with a photo that is more true to life…
Sounds terrible doesn’t it? But basically it means that sometimes the edges of your subject rather than looking crisp and sharp will suffer from colour fringing which can give your whole image a fuzzy look. You can reduce this problem in the edit via the hue and saturation controls. Identify the colour of the image fringing and correct it by modifying the colour range.
MAKE IT RAW
If you really want control of your images, shoot in RAW format rather than JPEG.