Push/Pull Processing

Film and Pixel Quality Still Suffers

In today's digital age, the technology involved in photography is much more advanced. However, professional-quality results still require the best techniques and tools.

Digital capture has a dynamic range and latitude roughly comparable to transparency film. If you've built the skill to work within these limits, you're off to a good start. But if you're accustomed to the wider latitude (extra margin of exposure error) that color negative film affords, it's time to change your thinking.

It may seem that any miracle can be made to happen in the digital darkroom, but correcting a bad exposure has its limits. What may first look like a simple brightness correction can result in a loss of image detail that cannot be "fixed."

In Figure 29, the exposure was calculated by the camera's built-in system. It "observed" the excessive amount of light reflected off the chrome and white background and calculated an exposure to maintain detail in these areas. Averaging in the greater brightness caused underexposure of the overall image (subject failure). Figure 30 shows the result after it was "fixed" in the computer. For Figure 31, the L-758DR was used in incident mode to determine proper exposure. The result (Figure 32) looks great without any computer manipulation. At these small print sizes, the image quality of Figures 30 and 32 might seem equally acceptable. However, when you enlarge and inspect them (Figure 33), it's clear that the quality of the "fixed" image is much lower. By "push processing" the image in postproduction, the software "stretched" the limited information and could not fill in or "fake" the missing data. This literally caused gaps in the range of tones, as shown in the histogram.

Of course, higher-end digital cameras and digital backs will yield better results with some variations in proper exposure. And multiple-exposure techniques as well as raw capture will allow one to effectively extend the exposure latitude of the image. However, once again these techniques add computer processing time and require a good knowledge of postproduction software techniques.

Now, remember why you first started taking pictures. What are the keys that will get you more time shooting?

A histogram and a light meter.

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