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How important is post processing

rickrick Member
edited February 2011 in post-processing
Having read posts specific to digital post processing it makes me wonder exactly how important this is to the modern photographers skill set. In the days of film I remember only very keen amateurs and pros had a darkroom. Nowadays everybody seems to have some form of processing capability on their PC. I have photoshop but rarely use it. Am I at a disadvantage ? Mastery of post processing is obviously directly proportional to producing quality images and hence ones standing in the photographic community, but how important is it to everyone ?.


  • Post processing when it needs it. Post to taste. Not every image needs it.
    And will get to a point where you think you "have" to do something to it and can actually ruin it.
    I think every image needs sharpening of some sort at end, so in a round about way, every image will benefit from some post.
    I just don't consider sharpening "post" because I have an action for it or do it in LR and its a matter of a few clicks and a few seconds.
    Yes, it's technically "post", but its just a process to me. Its a blanket treatment to every image before print.
    Post to me is color adjustment, contrast tweaks, curve adjustment, some cloning of garbage out of background. Neils a master at it.
    Look through his tutorials through tangents. That should keep ya busy for the weekend.
    He has several images where he shows the final product, but also a pull back of setup and a lot of what he did in post to get there.
    You'd be shocked at some of the images how far he went with cloning this and that. Sometimes its necessary to get to the end no doubt.
    I really try to get my images as close to finished in-camera as possible in regards to color, exposure. Cant always control environmental things that need removed, or skin retouching.
    And over years Ive gotten a lot better at it.
    See I shoot a ton of jpegs through the week shooting Seniors and such.
    There's no physical way for me to shoot RAW for Seniors and post-process when you shoot close to 500 images everyday for 3 and 4 months at a time.
    You'd need a bunch of hard drives and days would need to be 40hrs long.
    Let me say this right now. I AM ABSOLUTELY 100% saying RAW is better than the jpegs.
    And I use it when Im shooting 1 person jobs or Im not shooting 50seniors today and then the same everyday that week.
    RAW images will look best, they are sharper, retain more detail(when post right) and give far more latitude in post later if need be.
    But when you shoot as many images as I do everyday, you can get pretty close every time.
    My jpegs go to the lab as shot, and right before the proofs fly through the Noritsu printer, they get a light touch of sharpening and thats it.
    They said every now and again, they will tweak color. And could be due to several things. And they always look fantastic.
    Im the outdoors guy photographing seniors(2 other stations inside) and I use a Quantum QFlash inside a Halo.
    And I use it mostly as fill to clean up green cast from trees and unwanted shadows.
    When under trees, the sun will throw green cast on subject, the flash pulls that right back up. But if my battery is low or I just miss a little, it gets thru.
    When you have 50 seniors coming to you and you must get 8-10 shots per subject everyday, and you only have a few minutes per shot, you can miss a little.
    But out of all images Ive shot out there, theres never been a jpeg toasted and unusable, even adjusting jpegs.
    Whys that.....cause its digital and I see the image on camera. No reason to blow an image unusable....unless you don't care.
    And as much as I use my combo. I can guess where to put the light and at what power etc and get perfect exposure before the first test shot. Its just something the human body cant help but learn after 500 lessons per day LOL.

    Well its gotten away from me. My point to this ramble was, don't let post be a means to good image. Shoot a good image, then sweeten if needed. But always look at it first, subjectively and ask yourself, does it need this or am I doing it for the sake of doing it cause someone told me post is the only way to get good images.
    Think of post as a tool. You wont always use e very tool in your tool box on every job. But its there if you need it.

  • As Dave has mentioned you should try to get the image as close as you can in camera. It's less work that way anyway and I'm not a fan of spending too much time at the computer.

    But having said that all my pics get some post because I only shoot in RAW, if I was shooting the numbers Dave is for something like seniors I would probably shoot jpeg too. The amount of post each image gets varies, it might be basic colour correction and sharpening, but might incluse skin retouching, removing unwanted objects like exit signs and even using multiple exposures for a single shot in the case of landscape or architecture.

    I'm not a big fan of over actioning photos with textures and the like, I think its often used to hide poor technique.

    You don't HAVE to do lots of post, some photos don't require much, but I think some basic skills are very useful. BTW I had a darkroom and the computer room smells much better so I shouldn't complain I suppose ;)
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    Rick ... post-processing has become a definite part of a photographer's signature.

    One thing that always fascinated me, was how post-processing can make images look so vastly different.

    Someone who 2nd shot with me for a while - Elizabeth Millay - is an exceptional photographer. I would let her post images on her blog where she shot with me. And her work looked so much different than my own processing of her images.

    Here's an example:


    We both shot with Canon.
    I had the 1D mk3 bodies and she had 5D bodies.
    So the difference isn't due to the camera brand. It's just in the post-processing.
  • Neil makes a good point here, most photographers have a few finishing moves they develop over time in post that can become part of their 'look'.

    I have to ask though, was Elizabeth shooting mostly available light in those examples? It looks like she is getting proper exposure with slower shutter speeds and higher ISO with the indoor shots. I like both looks though.
  • Neil vNNeil vN Administrator
    For the Elaine / Mairaj wedding, she was shooting a lot more available light.

    Just for the fun of it, I'd give her my Canon 24mm f1.4 and my Canon 35mm f1.4 and Canon 85mm f1.2 .... and tell her to only shoot available light, and only use those three lenses.

    So my work would look like my usual style, and hers would be different because of me imposing a random set of rules on the day. :)

    But still, the processing is noticeably different.
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