In the beginning, getting a sharp full-toned image may be quite a challenge. It takes a while for a photographer to develop an eye. Yet if you give yourself time, you will begin to understand what images in the real world look good and will translate properly into a photograph.
If you are unable to achieve a crisp image that has a full range of tones from light to dark with darkroom controls, you are probably not exposing your photos correctly to begin with. Take a number of pictures using exposure compensation (see Chapter 9) so that you can experiment with finding the right exposure. Digital photography does not have the tonal range of film, especially color print film. This means that digital photography is less forgiving and highlights can easily be overexposed. Getting a proper exposure is actually more difficult with digital than with print film.
Tonal range: The range, measured in stops, between light and dark that can be captured on light-sensitive material. Color print film has a range of about eight stops, color slide film and digital photos have about six stops. Once you have a properly exposed digital photograph, however, the range can be expanded with digital darkroom software.
Use these tips to help with your image editing:
Many digital darkroom programs have an autocorrection setting. Usually this quickly calculates the color balance, contrast, and brightness all together. If you use this setting and get bad results, it's because the program can only guess at what your image should look like.
Even though a program may allow you to process an image with several settings together, it's best to process a photo with one setting at a time. This accomplishes several things: You can see the effect that one control has on the image without confusing it with another control. You can toggle back and forth with the undo/redo button to judge the effect of your changes. And you can undo the change by itself if you don't like the results.
Some programs, even very expensive ones, will only display a thumbnail of your image as you make changes. Until you are more practiced, choose a program that gives you a full view. In the beginning it is easier to work with a program that allows you to see the photograph full size as you make changes. The free and excellent program IrfanView will allow you to do this, for example.