Even if you capture the best, Blue Ribbon prize winning image of your artwork, you will often be able to enhance it on the computer. Masterpieces can be improved and terrible pictures can often be saved; sometimes they can be even be made great.
It's likely you have a computer. If you are reading this offline, on your buddy Eugene's machine while he is playing Super Mario 64, or at the library - or if you simply have not yet acquired all the equipment to run your own "digital darkroom" at home - you may skip this page. If you are are almost all set up, but just need software, check out starter digital image editing programs such as Photoshop Elements. It doesn't have the Curves which we explore below but it does have Levels, which can be used to correct color. To get the Curves function, you need the full version of Adobe Photoshop.
Fixing up your photos digitally involves correcting things that went wrong at time of exposure as well as correcting problems that are inherent to the digital process. For example, the process of digitizing an image - scanning it in or taking the picture with a digital camera - often softens the picture. To bring it back to a sharp rendition of the original, we mask the unsharp effect. More on this later.
Digital Fixing 101
Fixing a Flashed-out Photo
Rock Coastline, Flashed
First step: open the image in your image editing software and go to your image color adjusting tool of choice. As mentioned earlier we will use the Curves tool in Photoshop.
Using Curves to Correct Color
You will rarely if ever need or want to pull the curve more than half a square; most images are close to being perfect and too dramatic of a change makes the image look fake.
As you drag your central point, go straight up or straight down - not toward a corner.
Masking the Unsharpness
There is one rule in using the Unsharp Mark filter: don't overdo it. A light touch is all that is needed. In this first example, pushing the filter to its maximum causes the image to get really sharp - sharp like a rusty saw blade. We want to avoid that.
Simple solution: apply the mask just a bit. In this example, I am still going pretty extreme. But I couldn't help myself. It was not until I applied the filter effect and toggled back and forth between the before and after that I realized that my restraint (what little I had) was the right thing to do. A little of this filter goes a long way.
I reapplied the filter a second time after shrinking the image from its big version to the small version that you see below. It seems that any big transformations in the image editor beg for a bit of touch up.
Just keep playing with your images until you get something you are happy with. Email it, print it, set it as your screensaver, or best of all, put it on the Web.