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Before or After the Shutter - food for thought

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by kevinparis, Apr 30, 2011.

  1. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    There has been a lot of lively debate here recently, revolving around post processing or 'getting it right' in the camera.

    I have been thinking a bit about this and it seems to me that there is, and always has been, two distinct phases in the photographic process, namely what happens before you press the shutter and what happens after.

    Before the shutter is universal to all photography. Its the recognition of a subject, the framing , the composition,the lighting, the choice of lens/ camera/sensor/film stock, the setting of suitable exposure and focus.

    Getting as much right as possible before the shutter is obviously what you should aim for, and indeed your modern digital camera will help make some of those decisions for you. But neither the photographer or the circumstances will always be perfect

    After the shutter is all about how you will use the image you have taken.

    For some people it may be as simple as showing the picture on the back of the camera, or as we did with film, send your 36 shots off to the lab and take what came back.

    For others the pressing of the shutter is only a stage in delivering the final image.Whether its making big prints, cropping, dodging and burning or retouching, these have always been a necessary part of the photographic process for some in order to achieve their ultimate vision.

    There are times when photography is used to capture a 'reality', though in truth it seldom does. Most photos are only a representation of a reality, we don't see the world in selective focus, or B/W, or cropped to a pleasing composition.

    To me the joy of photography is using the before the shutter skills along with the after the shutter skill to produce an image that goes beyond capturing a reality , and into telling a story or communicating a mood or an emotion.

    Just my opinions... any thoughts

    • Like Like x 13
  2. Well put. There seems to sometimes be an assertion that post-processing is used solely to "fix mistakes", or that it somehow a less pure form of photography.

    I particularly like this bit;

    Thanks for your post, Kevin
    • Like Like x 4
  3. acercanto

    acercanto Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2011
    SW VA, USA
    Well said, Kevin. My photography hasn't gotten to the point of trying to evoke emotion, I don't think. I'm still just trying to capture a scene in an appealing manner. Most of my PP is trying to make the photo look as accurate to what my eyes saw as possible.
    There's a saying among hikers, Hike Your Own Hike. :smile:

  4. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    thanks lucky and acer.

    just noticed that was post number 666..... oh I am a little devil after all


  5. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    Hi Kevin,

    What a really great post / thread.

    I second everything you've written here, and Nic's observation of a key statement as well.

    If folks had no interest in making images to their liking, to their vision, to express their own view. We'd all be shooting with nothing other than point and shoot cameras.... Why make any adjustments at all?

    Having a camera with selective exposure controls really is the first stage in creating an image in your own personal way, learning the EV system as a very young man was my first nudge in that direction... long before digital PP was a thought.

    I always believed the dark room was part and parcel of the finished image, nothing has changed in that regard for me..

    1. Seeing the image. The LIGHT!
    2. Choice of hardware / camera body
    3. Choice of lens or focal length to represent your vision (framing)
    3. Choice of film / film speed / film type (now much easier)
    4. Which paper / which process / which finish (now digital until printing)

    All of the above have been important aspects of the entire experience of photography. One can indulge to his or her hearts content in any aspect, or all of them.

    The world you capture in your images looks much different at f1.7 / 1000, than it does at f11 / 125.

    But, alas that is only the beginning of the journey.....
    • Like Like x 1
  6. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    MANY people are touting that the advantage of RAW is more latitude, that they don't have to worry about nailing exposure properly in camera, they will just fix it later. This is just wrong.

    I know I frequently come off as "anti post processing", but it is because people are communicating that they want to "fix" photos in post, not enhance or bring them to the next level.

    What is the Ansel Adams quote - the negative is the score, and the print is the performance (?) That is what we should be aiming for.

    You can have the best musicians in the world, but if I wrote the score, it will be crap. Generally, it will turn out better to have a phenomenal score with average musicians.

    Both are important, but more important to nail it before the shutter IMHO.
    • Like Like x 2
  7. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    I agree that getting it right before the shutter is the most important, and that anything that happens after the shutter should be about enhancing and delivering the original vision.

    I am still working through my before/after shutter hypothesis/theory or what ever it is.... maybe its the basis for a way of teaching photography.... not sure

    • Like Like x 1
  8. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Somewhere in this world there is a line ... unfortunately not a very clear line between a photographer and a digital artist. "Over fixing" an image may cross that line from photography into digital manipulator. I wish to stay true to photography and minimize my digital darkroom to what I could do in a wet darkroom. Not that over-fixing is bad or that being a digital artist is bad ... it all depends on one's perspective of photography and oneself.

    Kevin stated "... There are times when photography is used to capture a 'reality', though in truth it seldom does. Most photos are only a representation of a reality, we don't see the world in selective focus, or B/W, or cropped to a pleasing composition."

    I disagree with Kevin. We can see in selective focus, B&W and cropped. If we didn't then photographer's would not use selective focus, B&W and crop. The beauty of the camera is that this tool can capture realty ... the realty of the photographer. Each and everyone of us sees the world differently ... a five y/o see the world much larger than an adult ... one who grew up in the inner city sees the world differently than one growing up on a farm. The more photographic skills and experience one obtains the better one can capture and display their individual realty.

    Sometimes realty can be documentary and other times one's realty can be manipulated and transcends from documentation into art.

    In any case, getting it right in the camera is vitally important. Getting it right delivers more details and less computer time. For me, as a former news photog, the difference between the camera and the computer is similar to the difference between photo journalists and reporters. A reporter can write a story from any bar in town ... the photog has to be in the field ... at the center of the news ... witnessing the action. I wish to spend my time in the field capturing images rather then in front of a monitor making them right.

    My $.04,
    • Like Like x 1
  9. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Ansel Adam coined "Previsualization" to describe seeing the final image before the shutter is released.

    • Like Like x 1
  10. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    The point I was trying to make was that there is a difference between what the eye sees and what the eye sees through a camera - only with a camera do you start to see cropping, selective focus etc.

    Its been my experience on this and other forums that often people get caught up in trying to capture the absolute reality usually at the expense of of creativity or communication.

    I am aware of the concept of previsualisation - which I buy into to a degree but I don't think thats what I am going for with my before/after shutter thing

    anyway.... its all good fun

    • Like Like x 1
  11. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    For me, the difference is between what the eye sees and what the mind can see. mmmh .. I can think of three way of seeing:

    1) What we see (but not really "looking/focusing");
    2) What we can see through the camera's lens; and
    3) What you can imagine through the mind's eye.

    I'm anxiously waiting for the next installment of "Before & After".

    Good Luck and Good Shooting,

    PS- I corrected my original text from "wrong" to "disagree". (It was early when I first posted and hadn't had my wake-up hit of coffee.)
    • Like Like x 3
  12. Pan Korop

    Pan Korop Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 31, 2011
    Phare Ouest
    Panatomic for action...

    Quite. And his method implied quite careful developing techniques for each negative, this implying sheet film, back in the lab. Mainly to expand and or contract the tonal scale depending on each original scene contrast, in order to shape it into the print as previsualized.

    Expand scale with a CMOS? All we have is HDR. Contract? So little: I know only of the super-slow ISO setting gaining ca. one Zone on top-end Nikons. The 100 ISO on :43: does almost the same, btw. Whatever: no Zone System without post-processing.

    Same I don't see any reason to carry around whole sets of Y, YF, R & B filters, pick one and set it on the lens before clicking, for the (lone) pleasure of saying it's right in the jpeg: I'll do better, closer to what I previsualized in the (digital) darkroom. "Neg by neg" when needed. Same applies to colour if I want. Not that I don't carry any filter nowadays: ND and PL are always in the kit, for they are those that have to be taken care of at the pre-click stage...

    I said I see no reason--well, none other than a pose. It reminds of the one which led a few famous photographers to print with black borders--and many more to follow the fad. Originally, it wasn't decoration, but a statement: "see, I don't crop my my negs, they are right from the click". Funny when so many used Leicas, which were the pro cameras with the most inaccurate viewfinders ever! And if you had a chance to look at their contact strips, you saw so many successive variations of the same scene, that the "perfect click" idea revealed itself as quite relative...

    The all done when clicking attitude would normally imply: jpeg, no cropping whatsover (complete with black borders :rolleyes: ) and by all means no bracketing, correct?

    Gary mentioned the specific work of the hard news photojournalists. I once did an exclusive series of a violent event. Just being there: heard kaboom, grabbed whatever camera I had on a reproduction bench (manual SLR, 50 macro) rushed in the street, did the job. When the roll was over--what, only 24 frames???--I remembered it was a short roll of Pan-X (ISO 32), not Plus-X (ISO 125) which I set my meter to, but it was time to rush to the press agency. The lab man looked at the roll and barked "what the ... is that?". No sweat, I asked him how long he souped his negs that day, derived a way longer time and the shots came out absolutely ok. Actually, even with this solid "push-processing", they had never seen such fine grain in the photo news desk before :redface:
    So, was I right from the click, or not? I beg yes: the shots were in. So what if there was some post-processing involved? Knowing how to push a film, that was homework, but before the click :biggrin:
    • Like Like x 4
  13. BrianK

    BrianK Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 20, 2011
    Lansing MI
    My before / after shutter thing

    Thanks Kevin, this thread made me think of just my last few days of shooting, and gave me yet another opportunity to post a pic : )

    Now while i have been taking pictures for over 20 years, I have not cared about the "image" until recently with my Canon 40D, then I really got into it when I got my G2, and sold my original Digital Rebel 300 and 40D and bought some legacy glass.

    So basically Im new at this "image" thing, never used/heard of the term legacy glass till I got my G2

    Yesterday after dinner, I drove around for about an hour in my town looking for things I might want to take a image of at a later time with a little thought put into it, pre visualization maybe but I definitely thought in terms of black and white, and other processing/filters, angles, crop, etc.

    Small example, I have a ton of pics of this tree but day before yesterday I noticed the sun peering thru would make a cool black and white, so I assumed from the get go I would be post processing it, as far as getting it right in camera to me that meant I wanted a wide horizontal focus area with soft and dreamy edges, I really did not care so much about color, as I focused on contrast and exposure and ended up with this yuck RAW image


    I find it hard to call it pre visualization at this time as I have maybe five minutes of thought into it : )

    Anyway after the RAW import tweaks and SFX I ended up with exactly what I wanted and posted it in the SFX thread.


    So trying to make lemonade out of the lemon colors I stared with I ended up tweaking a vintage look from a PS Tutorial that I then posted in the sunsets thread


    But after all that at the end of the day it turns out that my favorite version is the desktop pic I created out of the color version cropped to 1440x900 for my macbook.


    So while I generally agree with both Gary and Kevin : )

    "My" before/after shutter thing is all over the map , is mostly random, rarely thought out, except when it is : )

    However I will have to think more about "in camera" as I just bought a seriously beat up Rolleicord 6x6 120 film camera, Im in real trouble now.
    • Like Like x 5
  14. There is no doubt that the term "I'll just fix it in post" is often used quite flippantly and gives the impression that the majority of post-processing is attempting to fix fundamental problems with the original image, and that may well be true. I've certainly rescued a more than a few images which weren't quite right. But, processing won't make a shot that is completely wrong, right.

    My favourite form of post-processing, the bit I highlighted earlier from Kevin's OP, is to emphasize the "mood" of an image, to inject something of what you felt into what you saw.
    • Like Like x 3
  15. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    thanks guys for all the responses - not sure really what I have started :) 

    This whole forum is an interesting place due to the mix of people here.

    There are long time served professional with a wealth of knowledge and there people who are just starting with their first 'proper' camera... and then there are a bunch of us like me in the middle, those who have the fundamentals in place but are still learning or discovering their voice or vision

    It would be great to keep this technically agnostic, a thread free of high concept artistic theories and technical minutae and full instead of pragmatic advice aimed at those starting in photography .

    I have spent a large part of my working life in the tech industry working out how to translate features into benefits that can be easily communicated… and thats my goal for this thread - to discuss the universal things that allow you to take better photos.

    Gary brought up the concept of previsualisation - I think the Ansel Adams approach is a little over blown, but there is benefit in learning to look at a picture before you take it.

    Recognising that there is a picture to take is the first step . I have seen so many example of so called 'street photography' that in the end are random photos of people on a street. You have to look out for the unusual, the juxtaposition of contrasts. the shapes and shadows created in an urban environment

    Street photography is one of those areas where the before and the after shutter experience often work together. Well they do for me… because I am a cowardly street photographer - I steal shots from the hip and then save them with judicious cropping.

    I will of course have chosen an appropriate lens ( a mild wide angle like the Pan 20mm or the Oly 17mm) and set the camera up to give me a good combination of shutter/aperture/ISO before the shutter

    I am not aiming to provide all the answers… just reflect on how I work and hopefully provoke discussion.

    BrianK's post is a great example of the kind of response I am looking for


    • Like Like x 4
  16. Pan Korop

    Pan Korop Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 31, 2011
    Phare Ouest
    I seldom post-process colour photographs--except the stitched ones for obvious reasons. For these, if I could easily buy and get quickly processed 220 Fujichrome, I'd stick to my Linhof 617 and Seitz rotocamera... plus post-process thanks to the 4x5" scanner (still kicking!)...

    However, I systematically post-process all my shots intended for B&W: Photoshop, flip view through R, G, B channels (B&W, not coloured on-screen rendition) then fine-tune which mix of the channels (sometimes, only two of them) I'll use. This might explain my former statement about B&W and Y, G, R, B filters...

    Btw, I don't use Nik B&W software--never had a chance to try it.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    What are you talking about? I do not understand your point? Adams' concept of previsualization was about the total process ... first, imaging the final print in one's mind, then choosing the the proper shutter speed, aperture, lens, camera position, film type and ASA, negative development scenario, paper grade/contrast and print development scenario to make it all happen.

    Every professional photog I knew, as well as myself, would develop our B&W film to enhance how we exposed that particular roll. Pretty much a standard operating procedure. Typically, we would develop and print our photos, but on occasion a staffer would step if we couldn't leave the field. We'd always scribble development information for the staffer to follow when developing the film ... i.e. ASA, developer type and developer dilution, temp and always-always agitation instructions.

    I am surprised the photog didn't recognized Pan-X, we all tried it for fun at one time or another, but not for news. Tri-X was the standard film of the news media. Anything other than Tri-X would have been considered abnormal. Maybe you were not clear, but adjusting development time to accomodate an unusual ASA isn't "push processing" if you shot the scene at ASA 32. Push-Processing is when one "Pushes" the standard ASA a stop or two higher than what is standard for that film. Take Tri-X, which is normally ASA 400, for low light situations, would be pushed to ASA 800 (one stop) or ASA 1600 (two stops). This under exposure would be compensated by over-development. When I was shooting news I'd probably on average twice a week at ASA 1600. All night time and indoor sports were routinely pushed to ASA 1600.

    I shot news from the '60's to the early '80's ... the camera of choice for nearly all news photogs were Nikons (F, FTn, F2, et cetera). While most of us had Leica's, they were not the camera of choice, they were seen as more of fun and collectable camera. A Motorized Nikon could shoot 6 FPS and had a greater choice of fast telephoto and wide lenses. Nikons never failed (okay very rarely ... but they seemed indestructible).

    I believe it was Henri Cartier-Bresson, who first filed out his negative carrier resulting in a black border around the print, displaying that he cropped in the camera not in the enlarger. (The negative carrier is a device use to sandwich the negative, with a cut-out for isolating a single negative for insertion into an enlarger. Typically, the cut-out is the identical size of an exposed negative. Filing out the carrier allows one to print outside the exposed image and include the clear border areas as part of the print.)

    In my youth I also filed out my negative carrier so I could be as big a jerk as Henri.
    28689834_LCMXG-X2-2. ASA 400

    28693850_yj73g-XL-1. ASA 1600

    28693858_MncQX-L. ASA 400

    I've been in the process of removing said egotistical borders.

    Your mention of photo journalism is odd because news/photo journalism is an arena where "previsualization", as Adams practiced the concept, is a secondary consideration. The news photogs principle directive to accurately record and document the story. More often than not, environmental and accuracy factors, factors which you had no control, dictated how you shoot the scene. While we, (news photogs), all had individual styles ... those who could shoot news and add some artistic flare and still remain true to the story, were the exception and made us regular photo journalists envious and work harder.

    I shoot in RAW and post process all my images. Sometimes, when processing the RAW file with a "Global" manipulation only program, (such as DPP), I globally could not attain my desired IQ. So I'd leave the converted image with a poor I.Q., knowing that I could attain the image I desired with additional processing using "selective' manipulation tools as found in Photo Shop and the like. In a weird way, kinda like under-exposing and over-developing.

    • Like Like x 3
  18. Alanroseman

    Alanroseman Super Moderator Emeritus

    Dec 21, 2010
    New England
    PS. Gary.

    All three example images are typical of your posts.... excellent!

    Number 1 - is doubly excellent...
  19. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    thanks for that Gary - great photos and a great insight to the world of photojournalism, where getting the picture is paramount, and where the technicalities become instinctive through necessity and a lot of practice :) 

    Picking up on your 'after the shutter' workflow today, my way of working is very much based round the current generation of all in one photo apps like Aperture and Lightroom.

    I find it liberating that I can take my card from my camera and plug it into the reader and then as the RAW files are imported into Aperture, they can be assigned to a project and the files stored in a file structure of my choosing.

    ( RAW only - never really understood the RAW+JPEG argument - bit like the old shampoo ad - 'why take 2 bottles into the shower!!!)

    Even while they are being imported I can start to sort through the shots - In Aperture pressing the 9 key marks a photo as a reject, keys 1-5 apply a star rating.

    I quickly sort my images this way, rejecting all the obvious mistakes and marking 5 star those I think I will work on.

    The keeper rate is very variable for me - somedays it can approach 0% on other days I have seen me work up 10 shots from a 60 shot shooting session

    I don't spend a lot of time on post production, usually just a check of the levels in the Curves, very often a crop to tighten up the composition, and maybe a B/W conversion, or adding a little contrast or definition (sharpening)

    I have started to explore some of the possibiities of brushing in adjustments , which in many cases replaces the convoluted layer based techniques so beloved of the Photoshop crowd.

    All of this is of course non destructive - I can go back to my original RAW at any stage, or work up multiple variations without creating huge files - as I said - very liberating

    I seldom do any retouching, or fine micromanagement of my pixels and so I can happily live without Photoshop in any of its incarnations.

    Almost all my shots end up on the web - though printing is something I want to explore in the future

    anyway enough for the moment, lets keep this thread bubbling along


  20. GaryAyala

    GaryAyala Mu-43 Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Those were samples of printing beyond the negative (borders). Here's a better example. see how the borders are uneven (which has been somewhat replicated in many processting programs today).

    28693854_po8Vr-X2-1. ASA 1600

    K- I also use one-stop Aperture now. Just a bit more convenient than multiple programs. I spend way to much time in processing ... I guess I really appreciate the control one has over the medium in the computer ... so much different than a wet darkroom. I need to tighten up and streamline my processing. So a bit more detail on your workflow K, would be interesting to me and how it fits into your Before & After thoughts.

    A- I thought you would have loved the Gregory Peck photo.

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