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DPChallenge Forums >> Individual Photograph Discussion >> How important is knowing how to process an image?
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06/19/2013 11:02:39 PM · #1
Of course lighting, composition and exposure are all vital and need to be there but I am finding more and more how much processing plays a role in my photography. Sure there are those who think processing should be minimal and ask 10 people and get 10 different opinions on how much editing is too much. But that aside, your editing plays a big role. From time to time I will explore some older shots I have done and edit them again now with what I have learned. So here is my example. A before and after from my first wedding. I did a lazy black and white conversion because the color didn't look right but I think my new edit is much more powerful.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1072915.jpg

So how about you? Do you find your edits are as important as lighting/composition? Do you ever go back and edit older photos with your new knowledge?
06/19/2013 11:22:20 PM · #2
Originally posted by MinsoPhoto:

So how about you? Do you find your edits are as important as lighting/composition? Do you ever go back and edit older photos with your new knowledge?


A provocative question, Joshua! You will get lots of different answers. For me, editing is almost the whole reason I do photography. I go back & re-edit old photos often. Or find photos I missed. So, I would say the original photo is like sheet music. The editing is like a live performance.

Message edited by author 2013-06-19 23:36:21.
06/19/2013 11:26:38 PM · #3
I'm more of a purist in general.

Get it right in the camera, then add a bit of pop with the editing.

Sometimes though.. Sometimes it is fun to go all out.

Message edited by author 2013-06-24 01:27:24.
06/19/2013 11:26:55 PM · #4
I am a minimalist kind, but PP is very important. I often go back and I do find amazing (of course IMHO) what I can do now...

I am procrastinating a lot but I should really go back brush a bit.

Good reminder, thanks Joshua.

06/19/2013 11:47:23 PM · #5
My approach is in tune with 21_F.gif pixelpig's. Taking photos for me is a stepping stone. I find the editing to be my creative outlet. This makes sense because I used to take photos as resource material for drawings/paintings. Now I've gotten too lazy to pick up my pencils/brushes, but, through editing, I can still (sometimes) get results that please me.
06/19/2013 11:49:16 PM · #6
I take a lot of pictures in situations where there is no time to set up and no opportunity to re-shoot, e.g. from a moving train, so I sometimes rely a lot on extreme (if relatively simple) editing to "rescue" images; possibly my best example is in this How-To writeup:
Resized original: Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_937334.jpg Final result: Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_934644.jpg More Before/After comparisons here.
06/20/2013 12:14:58 AM · #7
Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1072931.jpg . Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1005136.jpg . Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1056246.jpg
Original..........................1st Edit Mar. 2012............ 2nd Edit Mar. 2013

Message edited by author 2013-06-20 00:16:17.
06/20/2013 12:19:20 AM · #8
Analogue question. What is the best way to cook a chicken? For many the only way is a bit of salt and pepper and roast it. Others get bored and have to go with Chicken Cordon Bleu, Jerked Chicken or Chicken Adobo.

To say that there is one way to properly cook a photograph is to settle for roast chicken every day.
06/20/2013 12:32:36 AM · #9
I could eat chicken wings every day and be very happy.
06/20/2013 12:45:18 AM · #10
Ugh. I don't like chicken at all. I find it very suspicious that whenever someone is trying to describe the taste of some horrible culinary treat, like froglegs or rattlesnake, they always say "it tastes just like chicken."

And the more I discover about the business practices of chicken farming, the less inclined I am to eat chicken. Or any meat.

Message edited by author 2013-06-20 00:46:37.
06/20/2013 12:48:22 AM · #11
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

Analogue question. What is the best way to cook a chicken? For many the only way is a bit of salt and pepper and roast it. Others get bored and have to go with Chicken Cordon Bleu, Jerked Chicken or Chicken Adobo.

To say that there is one way to properly cook a photograph is to settle for roast chicken every day.


How could you forget Tikka Masala?
06/20/2013 01:34:06 AM · #12
Originally posted by Cory:


How could you forget Tikka Masala?

it is on the list, along with Kung Pao Chicken, Old School Fried Chicken, Rosemary Smoked Chicken, Beer Can Chicken, Chicken Satay, Chicken Marbella, Chicken Souvlaki, Lettuce Cup Chicken, the list goes on and on of great ways to cook something as simple as chicken.

And even the simplest way seeming roast chicken, if done the way a master like Thomas Keller (nice video here) does it, which is really really good, takes a lot of complex exacting work to get something simple perfect.

It always cracks me up when people hate the way someone like Jill Greenberg or Andrzej Dragan post porcesses their work and speak longingly for the good old days of people like Ansel Adams and their simple straight forward printing technique that only showed what was really there. And they seem to have no idea how complex the exacting steps and complex manipulation it took to get that simple looking effect.

I found a great video of Ansel printing Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico in the dark room and talking about how the picture is just the musical composition and printing it is like performing the music, different each time until you get just what you want.

Message edited by author 2013-06-20 01:41:33.
06/20/2013 02:08:45 AM · #13
Originally posted by BrennanOB:



I found a great video of Ansel printing Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico in the dark room and talking about how the picture is just the musical composition and printing it is like performing the music, different each time until you get just what you want.


Thanks for sharing
06/20/2013 02:36:35 AM · #14
When I first joined DPC my belief was that it should be possible to capture the final result in the camera and I was happy with photos I had previously taken with no processing such as the following photos that have absolutely no processing. In fact one of the reasons for joining DPC was to improve my ability to take better photos with not a thought of processing.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_965301.jpg

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_963032.jpg

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1072936.jpg

Then I discovered Topaz Adjust and realised very average photos could miraculously be turned into super photos with a bit of processing.

For example here is a photo that I did quite well with:

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1053917.jpg

And here it is with no processing. Without the processing I think it would have scored terribly.

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1072935.jpg

So I now am a big fan of processing. However not every photo calls for so much processing. Some look near perfect out of the camera and only need a slight tweak.
06/20/2013 03:25:16 AM · #15
Proper exposure, composition are still very important regardless of how much you PP.

Tools are also very important. Silver Efex Pro changed somehow my way of processing and I realized that many popular pics here are indeed touched by these tools.

I am sure I could achieve the same results, or at least very similar results only in LR and PP but SEP really changed the game.

Here is one original vs PP that I am pleased with. Also very pleased with the original...

Also I am sure that could have been achieved in a traditional darkroom too ;-)

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1072937.jpg

Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1069299.jpg
06/20/2013 06:05:47 AM · #16
Originally posted by pixelpig:

Originally posted by MinsoPhoto:

So how about you? Do you find your edits are as important as lighting/composition? Do you ever go back and edit older photos with your new knowledge?


A provocative question, Joshua! You will get lots of different answers. For me, editing is almost the whole reason I do photography. I go back & re-edit old photos often. Or find photos I missed. So, I would say the original photo is like sheet music. The editing is like a live performance.


I agree with this the fun bit is messing on the computer,as it was in the darkroom before it.
06/20/2013 07:24:27 AM · #17
you need to find the right balance, some people over do in processing to cover their flaws at capture. IMO, the image ought to be able to stand on its own but made extra special with the proper amount of processing.

Brennans analogy is spot on.
06/20/2013 07:48:35 AM · #18
@ 21_N.gif BrennanOB and 21.gif Cory...OMG you guys forgot all about butter chicken!! ;-)

Sure it's fun to play with PP but on the whole I save that for Expert challenges when anything goes.

But by and large I'm with 21.gif Cory...get as much right in camera as possible and use the pp to enhance what you've got. To me pp is the icing on the cake - it should only accentuate something that is already good, not be used to camouflage any number of sins in the actual cake. See YANAP for any number of mind-boggling examples.

Message edited by author 2013-06-20 07:49:51.
06/20/2013 08:51:26 AM · #19
i did a shoot yesterday, as i was going through the images starting my processing, i realized they didn't really need anything beside a better crop, lens distortion correction and a slight adjustment to the WB since i shot raw.

i actually felt sad and i tried to apply different styles to them and kept going back and leaving them as is. they looked just right with all my sliders zeroed out in LR. i cant help but be a little disappointed that i did such a good job exposing them that they didn't need my help.

granted i still need to do some skin work and that will take time but it was kind of disappointing, made me realize how much i enjoy the processing side of it.
06/20/2013 09:06:32 AM · #20
Originally posted by Mike:

i did a shoot yesterday, as i was going through the images starting my processing, i realized they didn't really need anything beside a better crop, lens distortion correction and a slight adjustment to the WB since i shot raw.

i actually felt sad and i tried to apply different styles to them and kept going back and leaving them as is. they looked just right with all my sliders zeroed out in LR. i cant help but be a little disappointed that i did such a good job exposing them that they didn't need my help.

granted i still need to do some skin work and that will take time but it was kind of disappointing, made me realize how much i enjoy the processing side of it.


I know what you mean, mainly when you nail the lighting you get it just about perfect in camera. I have done a few where I would start editing a photo and it just wouldn't look right. If I am using multiple lights I often don't do as much post as when I shoot natural light with a reflector. And of course it all depends on the mood I want to show in the photo.
06/20/2013 11:10:08 AM · #21
dpc has challenged my out of camera bias, and even forced me to change. If I'm not mistaken, digital photography depends more on pp than film (especially when I was shooting slide film exclusively). But, dpc has shown that knowing HOW to post process an image is crucially important. I generally don't like over processing (unless it is done deliberately), preferring to stay true to the original subject.
My example is Copyrighted_Image_Reuse_Prohibited_1067922.jpg, which was a great shot to start with, but the post processing - adding contrast, crop, muting down the background - just made it so much better.
The biggest thing I notice is that I now have the confidence to attack a shot, using what I've learned about pp to help the picture become what it should be. Still lots to learn, but...
06/20/2013 01:20:07 PM · #22
To go back to the chicken analogy...again, the type of chicken I buy depends on how I plan to cook it. For some recipes skinless boneless breasts are ideal, but for a stew, the more dark meat the better.

If you see post processing as some sort of triage where you try to repair a slightly failed image to return it to what was there in the first place, then that is one approach. If you are a journalist or feel the need to present "just the facts" then that is the best way. But it is not a unidirectional flow. You can process to the shot, or you can shoot to the process, or some combination of the two.

It is just as valid to have a particular look that you will get mostly from your post processing in mind before you press the shutter, using your camera to capture the ingredients that you will cook up in post. I often find that a person or place has an energy that is not available to the camera, so you shoot to the histogram, get the basic ingredients of pixel information into the camera in the most boring and scientific way with little expectation that what you are planning on creating will be more than hinted at in the capture. The resulting image is about as appealing as raw pieces of chicken, but as long as you chose with a particular recipe in mind, then you are ready to make the picture in your mind a reality. The tools in your computer are just as important as the ones in your camera bag in creating a final image.
06/20/2013 01:46:02 PM · #23
Great thoughts Brennan, thanks for sharing.
06/20/2013 02:03:13 PM · #24
and then there are people who are people who dont eat meat.
06/20/2013 02:41:54 PM · #25
Food and photo's are a matter of taste and you can't judge taste.
From corn dogs to caviar taste is taste and everyone's is different.
For the record I would take the corn dogs all day long.
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