Tips for the pro shooting digitally

The following 4 parts working in harmony will guarantee a good digital image process, start to finish. Create professional images with precision tonal control and simplify the production workflow with predictable results.

i) Capture

Establishing a RAW workflow in your studio is the best way to get the most out of your digital photographic images. Think of the RAW workflow as non-destructive photo editing. By having a RAW file, you can correct and enhance without hurting the overall quality of the pixels and dynamic range of the image.

The RAW file format is digital photography’s equivalent of a negative in film photography: it contains untouched, “raw” pixel information straight from the digital camera’s sensor. Digital cameras normally “develop” this RAW file by converting it into a full color JPEG or TIFF image file, and then store the converted file in your memory card. Digital cameras have to make several interpretative decisions when they develop a RAW file, and so shooting RAW file format offers you more control over how the final JPEG or TIFF image is generated.

The most important numbers to know in digital capture are where the highlight with detail and shadow with detail fall on a final 256 level scale. 240-245 is a good range for highlight detail in print output. On the shadow side, a range of about 20-25 is a good place for darkest shadow detail. Digital capture files can’t be processed properly if they’re overexposed. When it comes to quality, nothing replaces proper exposure for getting the tones to reproduce with all the dynamic range possible. Taking a little more time to expose the image properly will save you twice as much time back at the computer and leave more time for creativity instead of corrections.

ii) Process

Many colour corrections can be streamlined with a little effort on the front end of shooting to custom balance the colour of any photographic situation. It’s less labour intensive to be able to process one image and apply similar enhancements to several more just like it. This is very important for not only continuity between all photographs, but a major time saving during the processing stage of the images. It starts with good computer calibration and custom profiling.

We recommend regular monitor calibration with the use of a hardware monitor calibration device. We use a calibration device from X-rite. This device actually attaches to the front of your monitor and reads colour patches displayed by the software. Using these readings, the software removes any colour cast from your screen, helps otimize the brightness/contrast/colour output and creates a profile describing how your monitor displays colour. Photoshop then uses this profile when displaying images to give you the most accurate colour display possible. This monitor calibration device is an investment of $200 to $300 dollars and is the only way to get the best monitor to print match.

Stay in 16-bit depth mode as long as possible. It is a good time to do all your tonal enhancements. A tool to simplify the RAW processing workflow is Adobe Lightroom. Having Photoshop’s colour setting properly set for your individual needs is the next important step. Adobe RGB (1998) seems to be a good space for general Photography. Pro Photo RGB is a huge space that really captures more colour than can be printed on a sheet of paper.

iii) Output — The Lab Works

We encourage soft proofing using our custom ICC profile specifically built for our printer using Kodak’s Professional Endura Premier paper. This profile can be found on our FTP site. Soft proofing gives you the ability to view on-screen what your photograph’s colours will look like when printed on our printers using Kodak Professional Endura Premier paper. To soft proof effectively, your monitor has to be properly calibrated. Call for details.

When an image is completed and ready to print, get on print what you see on screen, at least as close as possible. We make no adjustments to colour managed files when submitted for output.

It is important that each file has a valid ICC profile embedded. Without this profile we do not know what colour space your files are in. Most photographers use either sRGB or Adobe RGB (1998) as a working colour space. Provide us with colour managed files, changed to 8 bit, saved as a RGB jpeg or tiff with no layers or channels or LZW compression. The name of the file should be fairly short and should not have any odd characters.

iv) Archive

Keep all your digital files organized and properly backed up. Digital camera files should be removed from hard drives and stored properly. A hard drive never announces that it’s going to quit working, 24 hours in advance. Rename all files (with a batch rename and numbering sequence) and folders for automatic keyword tagging, and do weekly back ups of the files on quality DVD’s and CD’s and immediate cataloguing of the backed up files in file cataloguing software for help with quick retrieval.

Tips for the Pro shooting traditionally

Send us your film for dip and dunk processing. We will scan the rolls and make beautiful proofs for you and your clients.