It’s in the post

by Stefan Fletcher January. 16, 2010 4145 views

First of all, thank you for your considered and careful comments to these musings. Most of you were kind enough to read the post attentively and reply in a way that taught and entertained me.

So: composition, lighting… and now, post-processing.

I think we all began digital photography thinking “snap… picture” before learning about the need to post-process. I know I did. Fair’s fair, after all: before, we would leave a roll of film in the care of a technician and grumble about the result. Now, we have total control – and with that comes the responsibility.

Post-processing does not mean just cropping or even serious infographic art work – at least not to me. Somewhere between the two extremes lies a body of image-editing processes we all do.

What are they?

Do some kinds of image require more post-processing than others?

Is that an acceptable part of our activity?

Can post-processing salvage a bad image?

I’m not interested in a passionate argument for or against it, just what you do and why. FWIW, I post-process every image and my starting (and end) point is always the same: to correct optical flaws inherent in the camera (poor exposure, converging parallels, chromatic aberration, etc.). Once in a blue moon, I’ll clone out extraneous things or even create a pastiche, but mostly as an exception rather than the rule.

The above are all extensively post-processed images and no doubt reposts. My aim was to make it look like they weren't post-processed.

Noise, selective desaturation, blur

Highly selective de/re-saturation

Geometric and exposure correction

Sort of a Rayogram

something of a pastiche on Edwardian tints

Variations on the same theme

An enquiry into art space.

Composite of several images

Striving for an effect…

With the original

Colour correction and composition

Noise, mono treatment

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There are 15 comments , add yours!
Monika 11 years, 3 months ago

if you want to see the real thing you have to be there personally. No matter how goodyour photographic skills or your equipment is, a photo will never show you the smell or the temperature around a place, or a nice breeze blowing in your face when you stand somewhere high, or the sun shining on your back when you watch a sculpture lit in the evening sun. that's all not possible, but what is possible is to dive into a world beyond the real world. hdr or long exposure night shots or simple black & white is something your eye doesn't offer. post processing is nothing bad, it just gives you a different view of the things you can't have when standing their for real, but i find the arguments of those against post processing also valid and acceptable.

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Crisu 11 years, 3 months ago

great set good job

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Kecskemétiné Nelli 11 years, 3 months ago

I like your photos this way. I also post-process my photos a bit if I find it necessary or I want to make it closer to my original conception.

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Soubhagya Sagar Behera 11 years, 3 months ago

It is a very wonderful post Stefan.., I thought of mentioning that our mistakes are also to be taken in consideration.., but I see u have mentioned in the comments section.
As u mentioned I too went early few months without any kind of post processing.., turned out pictures lacked the punch. "Oh the contrast is a bit low..." "I wish the pic was a bit bright" "If only there was a little more saturated pic"...
Eventually it became an integral part of the workflow.. I remember u posted something like this regarding lightroom too a long time back.
Then ever since using raw post processing became lot more easier.

Exposure tweaking, contrast, cropping (not always), selective saturation,sharpening, reducing chromatic aberration, dodging burning, some cloning (if u shoot in India, u need to clone out stuff like over head electric and telephone lines)
And yeah some photos do require more more post than usual. If u see my last few posts of Wildlife, they all were taken pretty dark to keep the shutter speed high enough to prevent any kind of blur, and the exposure then rectified in ACR and subsequently some noise reduction.

Well not all pictures can be salvaged.., but then if u get a bad picture, and if u can afford again, prefer to go and take the picture again! If it is a one time shot, and I have managed to screw it up, then I will try to do as much salvaging as I can!

One more thing, about the argument thing. I appreciate the artists who refrain from any post production, and applaude, but I do get pissed over non photographers, who have touched a camera only to take their own shots in front of their toilet mirrors, to just post on FB.., whose only judgement of a good photographer is non photoshop user...!
Hope u have a fantastic evening!

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Paolo Martini 11 years, 3 months ago

N. 1 - 2 excellent pictures! nice set

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Moira 11 years, 3 months ago

My limit is cropping now and again . Beautiful set.

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Lynda 11 years, 3 months ago

Stefan I'm just a blonde so what do I know? Not much is the answer when it comes to post processing as I've yet to go beyond cropping or conversion to mono or negative. These are superb and makes me think you could sell your work as it's so good. I wont hold it against you if you can't draw and paint! Just kidding as everyone seems to have been very exercised by the artist v photographer debate!

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Thebronzebow 11 years, 3 months ago

I haven't gotten into as much post processing as you are demonstrating here, but I do use it for effect and to correct and image to be closer to what I "saw" at the time. I also now tend to shot slightly underexposed because I know that I will retain more info and can work with the image more from that point of view. I would say that even with film, I believe that there was still some play in the process. Probably the only timer that doesn't occur it the pinhole/box type. I'm sure someone can enlighten me as to the correct name for those)

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Jarvo J 11 years, 3 months ago

Magnificent set and thanks for another mind work-out. I agree with Brian about 9 and 10 - this is probably he best example of I've seen of post processing.

Here's the post processing I tend to do:

Usually: Increase the sharpness by as much as I can without starting to notice the speckles; up the contrast by about 2%; play with the white balance settings.

Frequently: Crop; Rotate; Change the exposure level; Play with the saturation level and then decide to leave it unchanged; Play with the colour tone and then decide to leave it unchanged; Clone out minor blemishes; Tweak the perspective - mainly in an attempt to straighten the edges (especially if I've used my 17-85mm at its shortest f.l. the difference in barrel distortion between 17mm and 18mm has to be seen to be believed).

Occasionally: Change the saturation; change the colour tone; add motion blur; add lens flare; mess about with different layers.

Do some kinds of image require more post-processing than others? Probably. I tend to use it more either when I've got an idea for an image that will require pp to achieve or to correct any flaws.

Is that an acceptable part of our activity? I guess it's up to everyone to chose what's acceptable to them. I accept it but I know others aren't so keen. i guess it depends what you want to achieve. I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment Ulli Michel, The Art of Seeing. This is a collection of Reuters photography. For them post processing isn't on, because their clients need to know that their pictures represent what happened and not some fictional account.

Can post-processing salvage a bad image? I tend to think of picture quality as being normally distributed on some form of bell curve. I think that, with the exception of the extreme ends of the curve, it's reasonable to expect some improvement through post processing. Whether it can salvage a bad image though it probably depends on how bad it really is and what your criteria of salvagable is. I suspect that if you have the chance it might be better to try again in getting the right image in the first place.

I love this set of postings. I hope that with post processeng we are not on the last of the set. I do genuinely think of you as being the post processing king here on Photoblog. How about some more detailed posts explaining the the processes you have outlined here?

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 11 years, 3 months ago

I just try and shoot for your what and how the final image is going to presented whether it is print, web or whatever. Cropping is usually a must, but overall comp and exposure should be considered heavily at the time of taking the shot. I know it's so much easily now to just set the white balance to auto and the exposure to 0 and then adjust everything in post AFTER the fact, but it wasn't that long ago where if we DIDN'T do all of this 'in camera', we 'were up the creek'...

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Kodachromelives 11 years, 3 months ago

love 3 and 11

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Stefan Fletcher 11 years, 3 months ago

I forgot to mention: "correct optical flaws inherent in the camera [b]and my mistakes[/b]".

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Brian 11 years, 3 months ago

I also think 5 is an absolutely beautiful picture. For this post I think you should show the originals for all like in 9 and 10.

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Justgood 11 years, 3 months ago

Fine post. I like especially the collage No 6!

11 years, 3 months ago Edited
Brian 11 years, 3 months ago

Post processing is what I struggle with most. For the most part I stick with a little cropping, minor exposure and saturation changes. On my last post I attempted to clone out some moulding from the ceiling but any close look will see it was a poor attempt:) I definately need to learn more on post processing.
I'm impressed with 9 and 10 above, you seem to have it mastered:)

11 years, 3 months ago Edited