To pick up again the theme with which we began, workflow, these last exercises concern finishing and displaying the final image.
Digital photography allows you full control over the entire process, indeed, almost demands it, and a finished photograph is really the whole point of the process. There are nowadays two forms of displaying a photograph that are widely available. These are a print and a web gallery. We will deal with aspects of these in a moment, but first you should consider an essential part of any production workflow, the making of safe copies.
An axiom of digital imaging, or digital anything for that matter, is that you always keep safe copies-back ups, in other words. Think of the wastebasket on the monitor screen more as an incinerator. In lapses of concentration, or in the mistaken belief that you have a copy of an image stored in another folder, it is all too easy to throw a unique image away. The computer may crash at the wrong moment. In the anguish that follows, we all remember that we should have made a back-up and stored it somewhere safe.
The rule for working out when and how often you should make back-ups, is to imagine how badly you would feel if you suddenly lost a particular group of recent images, whether these were originals as shot, or some that you had spent time processing. There are several ways of backing up files, and there is even special software to manage this. However, at least for the time being, it will be quite sufficient to make copies. However, doing this just into another folder on the same hard drive is not a complete solution, as it is no protection against serious damage to your hard drive, (or theft, or loosing your laptop or computer). Archives need a separate physical location, and you may also consider saving your images on different media, such as a DVD.
A printer is a pre-requisite for this course, and the assumption is that you have already been making use of it in your submitted work. Modern printers have come a long way in a few years in quality and ease of use, and you should be reasonably satisfied with the way your images appear. Provided that your monitor is calibrated, even if only by eye, and providing that you follow the printer’s manufacturer’s procedure for setting up the driver software, you should be achieving image reproduction that looks close to what you see on the screen. Completely accurate, gallery-quality reproduction is a slightly different matter, but this is not the place to go into advance detail, and for this early course, not really necessary.
Sharpening is available in every processing software, and the question is, when and how much, and even if, you should apply it. Sharpening can be divided into two classes of operation. One is to correct losses of sharpness due to the process, the other is to optimise the appearance of the image for the medium where it will be displayed. Experienced photographers are always wary of over-sharpening because, while the sharpening process often appears to improve an image at first glance, it can also damage the image by introducing artefacts, such as halos around contrasty edges. One valuable rule is that if you sharpen, do it on a copy of the original. If you shoot RAW as a standard practice, there is no danger of over-writing the original RAW file.
We will concern ourselves here with the second reason for sharpening, to suit the final medium, to discover for yourself the ideal amount of sharpening for your print, and to appreciate the differences between viewing sharpness on the computer screen and on paper.
The next exercise looks at sharpening to suit the final medium. You’ll investigate the ideal amount of sharpening for a print and consider the differences between viewing sharpness on the computer screen versus on paper.