Image Editing in OrderBy Mike Pasini, Editor
Imaging Resource Newsletter
Some things are better done in order. Julius Epstein, co-author of the screenplay for "Casablanca," felt writing a screenplay was one of them. "Act I, get your guy up a tree," he explained. "Act II, throw rocks at him. Act III, get your guy out of the tree." It doesn't work any other way.
Image editing is like that, too.
Cropping is Act I.
You may need to reshape your image so it fits on your output medium. Or you may want to focus the viewer's attention on some aspect of your image. Whatever the reason, if you're going to crop, do it first. There's no sense manipulating parts of the image you eventually intend to dispose of.
Act II has two scenes.
In Scene One you resize your image (which now includes only the pixels you want) to the requirements of your output device.
Except under extreme duress, avoid enlarging your digital images. Once you've taken the picture or scanned the art, you have all the information you're going to get into that image file. Enlarging to any significant degree only degrades the quality of the image.
In Scene Two you sharpen your resized image. Any time you resize, you lose a little sharpness, a little detail. By judiciously using the unsharp masking filter, you can restore much of the sharpness. Unsharp masking is the least intrusive, most effective way to restore image sharpness so make it a point to always run the unsharp masking filter after resizing.
We'll have a lot to say about unsharp masking another time (how much, which channels, what it actually is, etc.) because it's a fascinating subject and a powerful tool. But we're in the middle of some high drama here, so ...
Act III is when you get your guy out of the tree. Take a look at your histogram, set your highlight and shadow for each color channel, adjust your midtone, nudge your curves if you have to, filter out red-eye, clone defects away. Make it pop, sizzle, and sing.
And then ... well, then you can take a bow.
This article is reprinted from The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter,
Advanced Mode Column, published February 25, 2000