Words and photographs by Thomas Bradford, 26 February 2018.
I took this photo at Siti Khadijah Market in Kota Bharu, Malaysia. It was 2006, and I had spent the morning exploring the colourful market and taking many photos. As I was leaving, I found this little cat looking longingly at the fish and couldn’t resist taking a quick picture.
Location: Siti Khadijah Market, Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Camera: Nikon D70
Lens: Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED
Settings: 70mm | ISO1600 | 1/125 sec | f/5.6
Post Processing: Adobe Lightroom And Photoshop | Nik Collection
You'll notice I’ve made the interesting creative choice of taking this photo at ISO 1600 in broad daylight. Well okay, no. The truth is this was not intentional; I had forgotten to reset the ISO after shooting inside the dark market building. Not such a big deal right? The photo looks fine, and besides ISO 1600 isn’t that high. Well, on a modern camera this maybe true. I know many photographers think nothing of cranking that ISO all the way up to eleven. But back in 2006, ISO 1600 was a lot. In fact, I later decided never to shoot above ISO 800 with this particular camera. This photo looked so bad at the time, I came close to deleting it.
The camera I used was a Nikon D70, my first DSLR. I was still experimenting with it when I took this, which explains why I made the mistake, or at least that's my excuse. But, the poor image quality wasn't just the fault of the camera, but also because of the post processing software that was available back then, or rather wasn’t available. Lightroom was still a year away and the full version of Photoshop was prohibitively expensive for most enthusiasts like me. So, I had to use the software that came with the camera to do all the post processing. I don’t remember the name of that software now; I think the trauma may have blocked it from my mind. All I remember is that using it was a miserable and ineffective experience.
The photo had terrible colour noise and graininess. The colours had no depth or richness and if I increased the saturation, it only introduced more noise. There was also horrible banding in the mid tones and highlights. In fact, this photo had just about every technical problem a digital photo can have, to some degree. And there was nothing I could do about it. My finger hovered over the delete button, but luckily in the end I decided to keep it. Despite all its problems, I liked it as a keepsake. I put it on an external hard drive, and that’s where it stayed for the next four years.
It was 2010 before I dug it out for another look. By this time I was using Adobe Lightroom 3, I also had a full version of Photoshop with several specialised plug-ins from other developers. It was a joy to find that with the new software I could fix many of the problems to great affect, giving this old photo a whole new lease of life. It’s amazing how far post processing software has come, and also a testament to the quality of the RAW file format I used. I guess the lesson here is; shoot RAW, and don’t delete those old photos you like just because they have technical problems. In a few years you may find you’re able to fix those problems and bring your old photos back from the dead.

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