The following is an excerpt from David duChemin’s book Within The Frame, 10th Anniversary Edition.

Photography has changed so much since I first took up the craft. With the advent of digital imaging and the incredible pace of its progress, we’re really just making it up as we go along. And as we do, the various purists and holdouts take one position on the role of programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom in the digital darkroom, and the technophiles take another. Very few of the arguments made one way or the other ever seem to touch on topics like “vision,” and that’s when I lose interest in them.

I mentioned previously that I believe three images go into a final photograph— the image you envision, the image you capture in camera, and the image you refine in post-production using software-based darkrooms like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. The better you are at the second two, the closer the final photograph will be to the first, i.e., your vision. And the better you are at refining and communicating that vision, the stronger your photographs become.

21mm, 1/30 @ f/16, ISO 800 Venice, Italy. This image (left) was run through Adobe Lightroom using basic adjustments and split-toning (warm in the highlights, cool green in the shadows) to bring the mood I felt back into the image (below). But filters on lenses, darkroom techniques, and now digital manipulation are no substitute for an image that just wasn’t well conceived in the first place. As brilliant landscape photographer Bruce Percy once said to me, “You can’t polish a turd.” Wise words.

A role exists for both the camera and the digital darkroom in the creation of a digital photograph. The camera does certain things well, and where it does those things better than the digital darkroom, it should be allowed to do that task. Where post-production does a task better than the camera, it should be allowed to do that: the right tool for the right job. When that understanding gets inverted, photography becomes less a process about serving your vision and more an exercise in salvage techniques. So often Adobe Photoshop is turned to for the task of making a photograph less bad, and it’s remarkably good at that task. Sometimes. But Photoshop doesn’t have a revision filter that will make a poorly conceived and poorly executed photograph sparkle with vision. Lazy vision can’t be recovered in Photoshop. You can’t re-compose your photograph or change your perspective or choice of moments in Lightroom. There is no Un-Suck filter.

Where the digital darkroom shines is in refining an excellent digital negative and making it even better. When digital photographers look at post-production and the in-camera capture as partners in the act of creation, we are better able to assign them the roles they are best suited to. This is important because it changes our perspective—it assumes that we have a certain workflow—from shooting in RAW to developing, refining, and printing in post-production, and it allows us to choose the right tools for the task at hand. The digital darkroom has put the control back in our hands again, making it that much easier to serve our vision.

But it means a commitment to learning the basics, not so we can make our images look less bad, but so we can bring them into closer alignment with how we see the people, places, and cultures we photograph. Here’s an example: digital cameras have weaknesses in the areas of contrast and sharpening and allow you no control over either, though both can dramatically affect the look and feel of an image. It is for things like this (and more) that we turn to post-production tools like Photoshop or Lightroom—but it begins with getting the best capture possible.