Is Enhancing My Digital Images Really Worth the Effort?

I run a photography workshop on cruise ships called “Enjoy Your Camera”. In all my time doing this, I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked about digital enhancement by photographers of all skill levels. The question is always the same: is enhancing my digital images really worth the effort?

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

This article is not intended to deal with serious enhancement and manipulation using Photoshop-style software. It is aimed at camera enthusiasts who just want to enjoy their photography and not spend too much time in front of their computers. An interesting point is that the earliest known camera photograph—taken by Joseph Niepce around 1826—needed to be enhanced to be appreciated!

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

Joseph Niepce’s original photo

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

The first-ever photo taken—after being enhanced

If you are using near-universal JPEG files in your camera, your image has already been enhanced to a certain extent by the camera’s built-in software to give you what the manufacturer has decided is the best result from the data captured by the camera.

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

Compare this image with the enhanced one at the start of the article

You, however, can probably work on this and do a lot better with not too much effort. If you are using RAW files, which are untouched by the camera, you have to do some work to find the benefit of all the data captured in these files.

There are numerous software packages available; which one you use is obviously up to you. I happen to use DxO or Adobe Lightroom, but in a pretty basic manner. They are a powerful programs capable of doing far more than I do, but what I do with them suits me and I enjoy the results.

If you are happy with what your camera produces, great—they are your photographs, after all. However, just have a look at some of these examples below to see what a difference a few tweaks to lighting, sharpness and contrast can make.

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

Straight off the camera

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

With some enhancement

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

On the left is an under-exposed RAW, but enhancement brightens it up signifcantly

Software enhancement is part and parcel of digital photography.

Here are a couple more examples to encourage you!

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

Remember that your smartphone images will also benefit greatly from enhancement. You can accomplish this with in-phone apps such as Snapseed.

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

is digital photo enhancement worthwhile

I hope this short article has managed to whet your appetite and encourage you to sample the wonderful world of photo enhancement. Take the time to fiddle and play around with the various sliders if you are just starting—they are excellent fun, as you can see the results immediately.

About the Author:
Roger Lee is a Johannesburg-based photographic trainer and a cruise ship Photographic Workshop Host at www.camerabasics.net. He runs a “Enjoy Your Camera” course and has eBooks for people who don’t want to drown in detail and just take good images.

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