The Analog Darkroom
Remember the days (or not) when photographs needed to be developed in a dark room? In those early days of photography, many steps were involved in getting a photo to its final stage. Even if you didn’t develop your own photos, it was always a couple of days waiting before picking them up at the photo store and opening the envelope to check if all photo prints looked ok.
The Digital Darkroom
With digital photography, the darkroom is replaced by a computer, software, monitor and optional printer. It’s up to you to put the red bulb in that room and the smell of chemicals.
You could be happy with the photos straight out of the camera, but they also need to be processed or better enhanced because I shoot RAW. Here you can read all about the hardware & software I use to get the maximum quality out of the photos.
Desktop or Laptop?
There is no doubt that you need a fast computer to process all those images, especially when you shoot RAW like me. A desktop or laptop can do the work. There is no big difference anymore in processing power. I’m using both a Windows PC and OSX Apple mac primarily to check for compatibility issues between Internet browsers.
With the ever-increasing megapixel camera market, files are getting larger in size. 50Mb per photo is not exceptional anymore these days. An investment in good storage hardware is a must! Click here to read all about storage and backup.
Hardware Calibrated Monitor
The display is more important than the computer!
A fast computer is nice, but what about the display? After all, you will change some critical settings of the photo like colour, white balance, sharpness etc., visually. I’m using a hardware colour-calibrated display, the PhotoVue BenQ SW271. This is a 27″ 4k display with build-in colour calibration ready for the future.
Often neglected by photographers, even by professionals, every display needs to be calibrated by a specially-made tool. The Datacolor SpyderX Pro Display Calibrator does that work for me. This tool measures the colours on the screen and, at the same time, the lighting conditions in the room and creates a calibrated profile to use on my computer. This is an essential part before starting the post-processing because if the display is not calibrated correctly, you will never get the optimal results on every display in the world!
A better control
Since early 2020 I’m also using the Loupedeck CT to change all those settings in many software applications. It’s a relief to focus on the photo while physically turning the knobs instead of moving all those sliders with the mouse or keyboard.
For local adjustments, it’s always easier to paint with a pen than with a mouse. The Wacom tablets are already more than 10 years the perfect tool for this.
RAW Editors & Plug-ins
Most photographers use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to process all those RAW photos, but since I’m using a Fujifilm camera, I switched to Capture One. In my opinion (and I’m not the only one), Capture One handles the Fujifilm RAW files in a better way than Adobe Lightroom.
Besides a RAW editor, I use a couple of other applications to enhance my photos. Although Adobe Lightroom or Capture One handles noise, I prefer Topaz DeNoise AI. This application is superior in removing unwanted noise in photos.
If I need some special filters or add some extra punch to an image, I use DxO Nik Collection.
In the end, I save my photos with JPEGmini Pro. This reduces the file size of the photo without visible quality loss. Once they are online, the photos are further reduced and converted to the WebP format.
Eliminating, sorting and tagging the photos
After I do a backup of all the photos, I start with Asset Management, eliminating (deleting) the bad ones and keeping the good ones. Sorting by subject and every photo that qualifies for publishing gets a tag or keyword; in that way, it’s easier to find a particular photo during post-processing. The whole process can be tedious and sometimes boring, especially when you took hundreds or thousands of photos during a trip. But believe me, a well-organized library will be a joy to use afterwards.
Adjusting the basic settings
It can be a bit overwhelming, for starters, when you first open a RAW editor; with all those settings, you can easily lose control. Fortunately, there are a lot of video tutorials and courses online. For example, this is the Capture One Pro YouTube Channel.
I always shoot RAW instead of JPEG, which means that I can manipulate the photos in extreme ways, but most of the time, I stick with the basic corrections like white balance, exposure, colour, sharpness and noise reduction.
The final version of my photos will be published on this website, and their file size needs to be as small as possible. Otherwise, it will take a visitor with a slow Internet connection ages to load them. As I mentioned before, I use JPEGmini Pro to optimize the file size. Another step in the final touch is to add a watermark; this is unfortunately still necessary (I sometimes see my photos being used for commercial purposes!). Although it’s easy for an experienced Photoshop user to remove those watermarks, it’s an extra warning not to use my photos without permission.
If you print them on paper, you don’t need to worry about file sizes, and more attention goes out to colours (CYMK) and resolution. A good quality print needs to have a minimum of 300dpi. I’m using the Epson ET-7750 A3 Printer for this.