Digital Photographic Practice Conclusion

So, as my work on the Digital Photographic Practice module draws to a close, I can safely say that this has been the most enjoyable body of work I have completed so far with the OCA.  Don’t get me wrong, it has been hard going and very technical at times, and my old ‘grey-matter’ has seen its biggest learning curve since leaving school, but I do think it has been worth it – I have come a long way …

During part one we looked at histograms and after much work on my part, the penny finally dropped; I use the histogram function on my camera quiet often now, especially when it is difficult to see my image’s representation on the LCD screen.  This topic also tied in with colour management and tonal range of both our camera and of a scene.

It was part one of this module that made me scrutinise my own personal workflow, therefore leading to the biggest single change to my work ethic, as I was introduced too and started working with Photoshop.  This initial introduction only covered editing properties in the sense of deciding what should and should not stay within a batch of images, but I was converted – the post-processing cynic using and enjoying a programme created by Adobe, wonders will never cease.

In part two, we continued to look at the fundamentals of digital imagery, discussing linear capture and the differences between what our camera sees vs. what our eyes see when looking at a scene.  We also looked at digital noise, dynamic range and white balance/overall colour in our images.

My journey with both my digital workflow and Photoshop continued, as I started to play with digital manipulation more and more; it was around this point that I started to question myself and to question the ethics surrounding post-processing within digital photography.

Next we moved on to look at RAW, and it was here I began to appreciate why I use this medium when taking photos.  In the past I just used RAW because it seemed the right thing to do, but know I can see that there are endless opportunities available to me when working with this raw, unprocessed image data.

We looked in detail at optimising tone and colour during this module, which lead nicely into a comprehensive look at Monochrome.  I have always appreciated black and white photography, but never really understood the best practice in achieving good B&W images, until now, as I now know that the key lies in tones, textures and compositional representation.  As I worked through the black and white exercises, I actually came to appreciate colour even more; having spent many weeks thinking in black and white, I came to realise that it is actually colour and combinations of colour that make good mono photographs, as those colours convert into great tones, and tonal range is the fundamental base for black and white imagery.

When I initially set out with DPP, image processing was something I looked forward to with anticipation, and as each section started to teach me the workings of my chosen enhancement software, it took away some of the fears I had been feeling in using computers to make changes to my work.  I also came to realise that it is okay to manipulate images, as long as the manipulation is controlled and not taken out of context.

Part four of this module was titled Reality and Intervention, quiet fitting as here we looked at many of the digital practices available in post-processing, we also had to ask ourselves how we felt about the ethics behind image manipulation.

It was while asking myself about digital manipulation that I came to realise how selective I am about my likes and dislikes surrounding the subject.  I personally have no quarrel with changing exposure, colour balance or other small areas within my images; these changes are often necessary, due to the inaccuracies of my camera, or due to my misjudgement of settings at the time of shooting.  However, my concerns lie with those images that have been over processed and passed off as ‘original, out of camera’ photos.  Images where models have been altered or scenes processed with overly gaudy colours, these kinds of manipulation are not my cup of tea and something I hope to steer clear of in the future.

Assignment four was great fun, and really went against all of my ethical beliefs, but as it was obvious that my image had been manipulated, I actually had no major issue with the final body of work – and I think if an author is honest about his or her work, then manipulation can also be forgiven!

Finally, the last part of this module tied up our studies and covered a few incidentals that warranted a mention and thought within our work.

We started of by tying up our workflow and looking at the management of backing up and saving our work.  Back at the beginning of the module I had looked into (and documented) this and arranged my post-processing to include backing up my files.  I continue to do this today, and plan to add an additional step to this when I back-up of my work from the year onto an external hard drive that will be kept locked away safely from my computer.

One thing I found at the end of the module is something I wish I had found at the beginning and that is image sharpening, or more specifically the un-sharp mask filter.  What a difference this filter makes to ones work, to a point that I now include it at the end of my digital workflow; I can see a vast improvement in the final images I produce.  I have recently had 5 of my favourite images from 2013 printed and when looking at these prints for the first time, I was quiet speechless at the quality of the work.  The application of the un-sharp mask makes such a difference to the prints you really have to see it to believe it.

So, there you have it, an abridged version of the Digital Photographic Practice module.  When I studied The Art of Photography I really learnt and understood how to take good photos, I saw a vast improvement in both my photographic knowledge and in the images I was capturing.  During this module I have begun to understand and appreciate the digital side of photography, I have only really scratched the surface and am looking forward to learning more about digital photographic practices.  I have once again seen a vast improvement in my photography, as my images are beginning to take on more shape; perhaps I am finally finding my photographic voice, we will have to see what the next module brings …

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