Creating Dimensionality from Digital Images

Olympus E-P1, m.Zuiko 14-42mm, 14mm f/3.5, 1/3200 sec.

In the previous post, I talked about a lens-sensor combination’s ability to create film-like dimensionality in a photograph.

I should qualify it by letting you know that in the age of digital photography, there is more to it than sensors and lenses. But it certainly starts there, and those two things are the most important.

If you’ve been following the release hoopla about the Leica M9, you should recognize that the M9, combined with the Summilux series of f/1.4 lenses, may set the digital photography standard for creating dimensional images that don’t actually look like digital photographs. It’s pretty refreshing.

Dimensional images, however, also require good photography (technical) skills, and artistic (nontechnical) skills, in addition to the sensor and lens. These three facets maximize the potential for a dimensional image to be created up until the point of capture. If you can’t get that far, then no amount of post processing is going to create that dimensionality for you, at least not without a bit of effort and image manipulation.

But post processing can go a long ways if the OOC (out of camera) image contains good dynamic range, detail, and color depth. In this way, a good sensor (which can be likened to a good film) and good post processing technique can (sometimes) accommodate a bad lens (or at least, a lens that isn’t a Leica!).

This photo was captured in the Uinta Mountains of Utah this summer, with an Olympus E-P1 (good sensor) and m.Zuiko 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 (not the greatest lens, with abrupt bokeh). The lens took care of enough color, and the sensor took care of the dynamic range (which is fantastic on this sensor) and enough detail to set the image up for just a mild bit of post processing in Photoshop CS4 to give it a little breath of life.