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GraphicThe Creative Digital DarkroomThe Creative Digital Darkroom><

The Creative Digital Darkroom
Author: Katrin Eismann & Sean Duggan
Publisher: O'Reilly Press
Retail Price: $49.99

The Creative Digital Darkroom is almost intimidating in its size and scope. If not intimidating, at least impressive, with over 400 pages of solutions and techniques using the tools of Photoshop CS3, Adobe Camera Raw, and Photoshop Lightroom. The book's back cover touts it as "...ideal for experienced photographers, artists, and educators alike." It is also ideal as an ongoing resource to revisit often in your digital darkroom.

This is not your ordinary Photoshop tips and tricks book, but a really comprehensive, concise, and even inspiring product gained through years of experience by teaching expert Katrin Eismann and fineart photographer Seán Duggan. Although all chapters are clearly organized to explore one aspect of digital darkroom work at a time, I recommend soldiering through all of the first four Chapters in sequence before skipping around the remaining six Chapters. The authors so skillfully explain the digital darkroom concept, workflow, settings, and controls in these first "Essentials" Chapters that the reader is guided onto the professional and logical "right track" to proceed into specific image improvements.

This isn't a book of "quick tips and gratuitous effects" so readily found in the mound of Photoshop and Lightroom books. Subtle adjustments, such as tone and contrast, color correction, exposure control, and sharpening, to name just a few - are explored with techniques of digital processing that are more sophisticated and rewarding than the common knee-jerk lunges to one-trick-pony filter buttons and sliders.

For example, there are step-bystep tutorials for using layer masks and adjustment layers in non-destructive editing. Tutorials achieve everything from hand tinting to dodging and burning, dynamic range to contrast masking, blend modes to smart filters, midtone color correction to lab colorspace, and other sophisticated techniques.

The book has a textbook feel with an abundance of content not watered down by the book-design aesthetic of generous white space. This is a dense, technique-packed volume not targeted at Photoshop or Lightroom neophytes. Even Photoshop geeks will find new and different ways to accomplish digital photographic output that has that look of a master class visual.

Of course, the mantra of "I'll fix it in Photoshop" uttered when a photographer doesn't take the time or thought to get the best possible original digital photo is considered an unprofessional and restricting attitude by the authors. To quote the book, "The best file is one that requires the least amount of work, and getting the image correct in front of the lens reduces tedious, yet essential, file preparation..." So the adjustments and improvements that take place in the digital darkroom on your Mac are meant to be additions to your already superior photographic skills, not a substitute for inferior photography.

Tutorial and example images are available for download from the book's companion website. File names are listed with each tutorial so the reader can work along with the text by applying the steps to the actual image shown in the book. And a bonus chapter, The Print, is available online on the creativedigitaldarkroom. com site.

Well worth the time spent under the expert tutorage of the authors, I would recommend The Creative Digital Darkroom to any photographer who aspires to world-class imagery and realization of their personal photographic vision.

Review by NCMUG member John Hershey