in the digital darkroom

The smell of darkroom chemicals, despite their toxicity, used to relax me. In the dim, red light, I'd watch magic happen each and every time I dropped a piece of photo paper into the developer. The acrid fumes would burn my nostrils, but still my breath would quicken as I gazed down and watched a picture manifest itself right before my eyes. 

It's been years since I stepped into a darkroom, but I now have the magic of Lightroom and Photoshop at my disposal. All the fun without the harmful chemicals! While Lightroom does most of the heavy lifting for my photos, there are moments when I call upon Photoshop's strengths for specific tasks. Three such jobs I like to assign photoshop is dodging/burning, curves, and toning. 


I'm currently putting the finishing touches on Johanna and Mason's wedding photos (exciting!) and the photo above is one of my favourites. I loved the wild violets on Johanna's neighbour's lawn, so we snuck over for a few shots. In order to get the bright exposure on the dress I wanted, I had to overexpose the violets themselves in the moment. Because I shoot in RAW, it is easy to restore the full tones of the image with a little burning in photoshop. In the second photo, you can see that I've brought back the richer colour of the violets as they appeared in real life, while still keeping the bright, ethereal white of Johanna's beautiful dress.

Once I'd restored the violets, I realized I wanted an overall lightness to the image, I applied a curves layer to bump up the midtones and give it a bit more of a hazy feeling. Then I adjusted the colour balance slightly to impart a creamier tone. While most of the time Lightroom is all I need and Photoshop isn't necessary, for some photos it helps with more specific adjustments to achieve an exact look you have in mind.

If you have any questions about post-processing, don't be shy to leave a comment. I'm by no means a guru, but I've developed my own techniques over time that allow me to quickly and efficiently make minimal artistic edits. And now, if you'll excuse me, I have some editing to finish!