We've discussed channels in this blog before. Channels are the grayscale image components of which a digital image is comprised (for more information on channels, please go to the blog post, Channeling Channels. In our more common colorspaces, these channels actually look like familiar, black & white depictions of our original scene. However, in the Lab colorspace our channels look entirely different. It's as if we'd scurried down the rabbit hole into Alice's wonderland where things don't quite make sense anymore.
I ruin a lot of nice conversations by bringing up the subject of Lab Color Mode. It's not that people aren't interested in what Lab can do, it simply takes me too long to get to the benefits of this powerful image-editing tool. Like most color-theory discussions, there are few people who consider Lab to be cocktail conversation. One of my failings is that I'm an odd fellow who is actually entertained by color theory. So I need to be careful. Lab color theory is not something most people want to hear about. However, turning listless, lifeless, boring, or damaged photos into exciting images is a topic that many find worthwhile. So, let's start there and see where it takes us.
Image sharpening can be achieved in myriad ways. While variations are endless, the goal remains the same. We wish to sharpen and enhance desired edges yet avoid sharpening any noise or other artifacts. This can be tricky because most sharpening tools look at all edges, not just the ones we find pleasing or essential.
A large part of the beauty and potential of alpha channels is how sophisticated they can be. When working in photomontage we most often desire a mask that eliminates a significant portion of an image element (typically a background) so that it can be composited into a base image. This helps create the illusion of unity and believability of the final composition. Yet, there are times when a mask should have translucency in at least some parts of it in order to make the results look real.
Channels are grayscale image components defined by primary or secondary colors. Well…that statement is only sort of true but we must start here before we elaborate. Sadly, it's these kinds of ambiguities and qualifications that can make people want to avoid the notion of channels altogether. While it is, indeed true that our discussion of channels should start with the basic premise that they are defined by primary-color components, their actual functionality runs far deeper than that. But, begin here we must.
In the last post I declared that Photoshop is essential to effective photo editing. Let's now explore why this is true. While parametric editing with applications like Lightroom and Aperture are efficient, convenient, and non-destructive, we often need access to the tools and capabilities of Photoshop. In fact, I'd argue that we always need them—as long as we have the time and resources to do so.
Raw processing of digital images has become a standard and essential part of the serious, digital workflow. Applications like Adobe's Lightroom and Apple's Aperture have revolutionized imaging workflow. They provide us photographers with efficient and lightweight editing capabilities for our images. One might surmise that this will render Photoshop obsolete. Why invest in a complex and expensive application that takes years to master when very good images can be made quickly and intuitively elsewhere? The argument for the elimination of Photoshop might be compelling but it is also wrong.
I just returned from my seventh Grand Canyon hike. Each time my friends and I have hiked from the rim to the river and back up to the same rim or to the other rim on the opposite side. Each time I've taken my camera. In fact, I've never been on any hike anywhere without a camera. My camera and lens are hiking equipment as important to me as my hiking shoes and poles. Some of my favorite images have been made when on the trail or resting alongside it.
Digital Asset Management requires the careful choosing of image-editing and media-management applications. No decision could be more critical in the pursuit of the imaging workflow. The features of today's application software are enticing. Best-practice workflows depend upon sound decisions with regards to application software. Yet, our workflows must remain adaptable and somewhat independent of any one piece of software. So, what's the best choice in all this?