There seem to be growth cycles that photographers go through. One of them is related to postprocessing of photographs. When I started taking pictures, I didn’t really do much to my pictures, on the belief that a good photographer ought to get things right straight out of the camera. I only shot film as a consumer, and not for very long. While I had a brief exposure to a photographic darkroom, I didn’t leave with the right impression about the role of the developing and printing process. Until I got Aperture, I never adjusted a picture. After I got Aperture, I mostly made small exposure, contrast or saturation bumps, never more than that. Now I am using Lightroom rather than Aperture, and I am still doing mostly the same sorts of things, although I’ve started to work more with adjusting the black point and contrast curves of pictures. In the last 6-7 months, I’ve started to use Photoshop on pictures. I was able to do a bit here and a bit there. I checked out books from the library, I bought a few books on Photoshop CS3 when it came out. My friend Ogalthorpe, sat with me once and showed me how he works some of his magic on his pictures.
It seemed like things were going in one ear and out the other, partially because I didn’t have a good idea of what I was trying to do or why. That made retaining the “how” pretty difficult.
I recently picked up The Creative Digital Darkroom by Katrin Eismann and Sean Duggan. This is the first Photoshop book that actually tries to walk you though the reasoning behind why you are doing what you are doing, and that does it in language that can be understood by someone with zero darkroom experience. I really appreciated the emphasis on the creative aspects in the middle of all the pictures of curves, layers, layer masks, and all the usual Photoshop stuff. The book is very recent, so it covers Photoshop CS3, and in places where Lightroom can do the same thing, there is coverage of Lightroom as well.
My skill level is such that the two chapters (out of 10!) “Toning and Contrast” and “Dodging, Burning, and Exposure Control” will probably keep me busy for a good long time. I am sure that as I start to apply some of these principles, I will grow into material in the other chapters. But for now, I am happy to have what feels like a basic footing that I can work from. Now all I need to do is spend some time making images good enough to process a lot.