The Digital Darkroom

The Photography Editing and Post Processing Blog

The Rise of the Photographer’s Digital darkroom.

Up until the photography digital revolution around ten or so years ago the photographer had little control over the finished look and style of his/her photographs. Most photographers shot a film, took it to the processing lab of their choice, waited a few days and then collected their prints. This system had been in place for a number of years since the advent and wide availability of colour film, previous to this, in the black and white era many photographers, particularly the professional photographer had their own darkroom and processed and printed their work themselves. In many ways this was a similar scenario to how things are today in that the photographer was able to keep things “in house” develop an individual style of printing and have full control over the look of their final prints.


This sense of coming full circle is interesting in that it allows most photographers full control of the look of their images again. It is possible to again develop an individual style and to have control over the image from capture to final print. Previously this was achieved in the traditional darkroom using chemicals to process the film and enlargers and chemicals for printing. Today, in the digital darkroom essentially the same results can be achieved using digital files, computer software and a good quality well callibrated monitor.


So, what exactly is needed to set up a digital darkroom? The first and main requirement is a reasonable fast computer with a reasonably large hard drive for storing images. You will also need some way of transferring images from your camera to the computer. Usually a card reader does the trick or some computers these days have a built in card reader slot where it is possible to slot the memory card straight into the computer. Some form of photo sorting and editing software will now be needed. A majority of professional photographers will use Adobe bridge and or possibly Adobe Photoshop at this point although there are a number of less powerful free photo sorting and editing solutions available as well. Adobe also produce an extremely powerful product called Lightroom which is capable of sorting, editing and outputting in a wide variety of formats.


Whilst editing it is important to be able to see properly and clearly the images you are working on. Most average computer monitors are not particularly colour accurate and don’t really calibrate all that well so a larger higher quality monitor is much more desirable. It is also possible to edit with a mouse but a graphics pad and pen will make working much more pleasurable and accurate.


Finally, in terms of output a majority of photographers will send their individually processed and edited files to a commercial lab to be printed. This is easily achieved and often images can be sent electronically over the internet to even avoid postage. It is important that your monitor is calibrated to the labs printing machines to ensure that what you see on your computer monitor is exactly what you get on the the prints when you see them in real life. Additionally, in recent years the quality and reliability of printers has increased so that it is now possible to print in house as well. This enables a wider variety of papers to be used and again enhances the amount of control and choice that the photographer has over the final image and output.