Photo Kit: Every modern photographer should learn digital photo editing - Tech Opinion | The Star Online

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Photo Kit: Every modern photographer should learn digital photo editing


Learn it: Photoshop is now an essential tool in a photographer's arsenal.

Learn it: Photoshop is now an essential tool in a photographer's arsenal.

There used to be a time when we would take photos on our film cameras and once we’d finished a roll of film, we’d pop it out of the camera and send it off to the photo lab to be processed.

What you may not be aware of is that even when running the film through the automated minilab machine, the technician handling the machine will occasionally make adjustments to colour and contrast and brighten up underexposed photos to produce your final prints.

Sure, most of these minilab technicians produced some terrible-looking prints since they’re only interested in brightening up your intentionally moody, dark shots, but if you wanted to, you could pay for a nice hand-printed enlargement from a professional printer that will do the job right and make a nice wall-mountable print for you.

While you could do the processing and printing yourself, there wasn’t necessarily a need to learn how to do it yourself and in fact, many serious professional photographers didn’t bother with darkroom work.

However, those days are gone – today, when you take a photo on your digital camera, the whole of this process of editing is now in your hands and it’s essentially up to you to perform the editing step before you print out the photo on an inkjet printer or post it up on Facebook.

So my point is this – if you’re serious about photography, you really do need to learn how to use Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom because if you don’t, you’re skipping one of the most important steps in the process of creating your image.

Of course, if you’re simply into taking snapshots of your kids and your holidays, there’s no necessity to learn Photoshop when there’s a load of Instagram filters available, but if you’re taking up photography as a serious hobby, you really should learn how to edit your photos.

That’s the funny thing about some older photographers I’ve met – many of them think that editing your photo in Lightroom or Photoshop is somehow manipulating reality and sullying its sanctity, even though many of the adjustments in photo editing software are simply mimicking what you did in the darkroom.

The fact is this – photo editing has always been part and parcel of photography.

The only difference is that the job has shifted from the photolab to you and that’s a good thing since you are now in control of the whole process and any image that comes from you is truly all yours and not somebody’s interpretation of what your photo should look like.

I know Photoshop and Lightroom can be quite daunting – I remember first picking opening up Photoshop and was almost in tears after half an hour of trying to understand how it works.

It’s a fact that Photoshop (and Lightroom to a certain extent) can be quite difficult to understand even for those well-versed in how a PC works – you need to understand the concept of layers, lassos and a whole lot of keyboard shortcuts before you can effectively use the software.

What I did was to go and pick up a copy of Photoshop for Dummies and within days I learned how to use it and after a few months I was quite proficient at it.

Unlike when I started, there’s a lot of Internet resources these days on how to use Photoshop and Lightroom – all you have to do is look for them.

Tan Kit Hoong (tankh@thestar.com.my) is a journalist who's been an enthusiastic photographer longer than he's been reporting tech news and this monthly column allows him to ramble on about cameras and photography.

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