Your philosophy of how much post processing

Discussion in 'Image Processing' started by Leighgion, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. Leighgion

    Leighgion Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 1, 2012
    Madrid, Spain
    Leigh L Pang
    Back around when I was in college and Photoshop was only around v3.0, image editing was a cool, exciting frontier and I wanted to try everything.

    Fast forward 20+ years and now just about all I do to my RAW files is tweak white balance, manage the exposure and highlights a little and if really needed, crop. A part of my lizard brain scoffs at photos that I can see have gone through extensive post, no matter how good they look.

    I'm not sure that I'm actually happy with all my pics being mostly untouched or if it's just become a combination of inertia and laziness. Recently, with the free Nik plugins, I've tried to dabble with them but it's impossible for me to shake the sense that at that point I'm no longer doing photography and I'm just playing a kind of jumped up video game.

    Am I being unreasonable?
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  2. fredlong

    fredlong Just this guy...

    Apr 18, 2011
    Massachusetts USA
    Yes, you are being unreasonable.

    Post-processing should be done until an image is finished. you say you don't like an image that's been worked on extensively, but unless it's overdone, you have no way of knowing how much work went into an image.

    These discussions always seem to get to Ansel Adams so here goes. Adams processed extensively using every tool available to him. His finished images look natural and set a standard that many photographers aspire to even today.

    If you don't like the look of overdone images don't do that, but if you want your image to say something, then do everything necessary to tell your story.

    Of course if you don't know where you're going you'll never get there. So experiment. Go overboard, push an image to the limits of good taste and beyond. Learn where every tool will take you. Then don't show anyone your experiments. Use what you learn to make images that you will want to show.

    • Agree Agree x 8
  3. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    I like images that evoke emotion, as opposed to looking 'cool'. There's only so much PP can do to bring out the essence of what the impression was at the time, and anything extra draws attention to itself rather than enhancing the emotion. But almost always PP is needed to best draw out the essence of what I was trying to capture.
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  4. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    How much PP? Enough but no more! I have no philosophical objection to PP of any kind so long as I'm happy with the result.
  5. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010

    Ansel Adams: "The negative is the score. The print is the performance."
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
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  6. Giiba

    Giiba Something to someone somewhere

    Aug 19, 2016
    New Westminster, BC
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  7. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    I post process images until they get to where I want them. Sometimes that means, a basic curve adjustment only, other times it's multiple plug ins and a trip through Wonderland.

    Your art, your vision, your right to decide where to start, where to end the whole process.

    Use van Gogh as an example. When he was alive, people thought his art was garbage. Now he is considered one of the greatest painters in human history. Vivian Maier, took pictures, put most of them in a box. People are going ape-s&$t over it.

    Just do you. If it makes you happy and you are not hurting anyone else in the process, I see nothing wrong with where your vision will take you.
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  8. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    "Enough but no more!" does it. I was trying to remember a quote, I think from Einstein, which said something like things should be simple, but no simpler than they need to be.

    There's really only one thing I want to add. I've found over the years that "how much does the job" depends on my processing skills. As my skills have improved over time I've often gone back over an image and managed to achieve a similar or even at times a result I preferred more but with less processing than it originally took me. When you lack skills you take things to far, or use the wrong method, or do other things that then require you to make other adjustments to fix the problems you've introduced solving a different problem.

    Improving your skills enables you to get the same or better result with less processing but improving your skills takes work and practice processing. If you're processing your individual images too much, that's a good sign that you're not doing enough processing to learn how to do less processing.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  9. bigboysdad

    bigboysdad Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 25, 2013
    Sydney/ London
    Whilst my PP philosophy is to be minimal in colour images, that tends to go out the window with mono images. I find Greyscale adjustments to be essential and when I can't always get that mix right (which is not all the time), I need the Silver Effects Pro PS plugin to assist.
  10. ionian

    ionian Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 20, 2016
    Kent, UK
    Without wishing to get too arty farty, it depends entirely on my vision of the image. Many of my pictures aren't meant to be a naturalistic documentary on what I see - they are an interpretation of the scene and my imagination. So post processing plays a big part in that.

    In my experience its not a question of how much processing you do, it's a question of how well you do your processing.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  11. Giiba

    Giiba Something to someone somewhere

    Aug 19, 2016
    New Westminster, BC
    I think this is a point worth considering. If you intend to document something PP can be dishonest; the extreme case is for photo-journalistic purposes in which case PP needs to be at a minimum. However I suspect for most of us this is not a concern.
  12. Giiba

    Giiba Something to someone somewhere

    Aug 19, 2016
    New Westminster, BC
    I would disagree, that is creating the image. Without those basic components there is nothing to show (or modify). It is certainly the begining of the artistic process, and a part that cannot be removed or avoided even if your goal was photojournalistic realism.

    PP modifies that basic exposure to varying degrees.
  13. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    The jpeg is the MP3.:wink:
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
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  14. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Not just errors. Pulling the shadows and saving the highlights is hard to do with the basic exposure controls. Of course in the olde days there were equivalents like developing methods or just changing the film types. Personal style and message have differed greatly from Adams to Cartier-Bresson and, like with we enthusiasts, the joy of the process can easily dominate the balance of exposure and PP.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  15. ShootersIN

    ShootersIN New to Mu-43

    Sep 22, 2016
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    David W. Scott
    i use lightroom for all my processing and it really comes down to the image what it needs. when i go out shooting say i shoot 300 pictures. Out of that the 1st thing is to find the ones i like and 1st qualifier they are sharp. Another thing is hdr. I shoot 5 images then i start with lightroom then to photomatix. After that the image is sent to lightroom where i usually don't have much to do with it.
    I believe 1st stage is cropping to get the subject in focus. 2nd is wb 3rd is Exposure and then contrast. what i like about lightroom is shadows. With that you can bring so much to life which is usually dark. Next is clarity i like to bump that up for sharpness than to Detail where its made sharp and also to eliminate noise if need be. BUT there are tools on top that i use alot ( spot removal, graduated filter and adjustment brush.
    Depending on the image i can go through any given image in 3 to 5 minutes. With that said also look for artistic shots that i can work on if that's the case Topaz impression is next :)
  16. dancebert

    dancebert Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 18, 2014
    Hua Hin, Thailand
    That's where I was until I tried ETSOOI, a tag which means 'Editing The S*** Out of It'. It's easy.

    ETSOOI is an act of desperation born from participating in a 'post a photo a day for a year' project. Start with a photo you'd delete and unleash the bounds of the editor in a desperate attempt to make something, anything, out of the image that someone might like, even just a little bit. I approached it expecting to fail. I failed, until I began to learn the tools and saw how editing an image changed my impression from what I saw before I shot it to what else it could be.

    What I learned is editing in small steps away from 'realistic' can bring the resulting image closer to the effect the scene had on me upon first viewing, before I raised viewfinder to my eye.
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  17. BAKatz

    BAKatz Mu-43 Veteran

    Sep 9, 2010
    Riverdale, NY
    I think, if the RAW image you shot of the Lincoln Memorial, ends up, after editing, resembling Mt.'ve done too much editing.
    • Funny Funny x 6
  18. Leighgion

    Leighgion Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 1, 2012
    Madrid, Spain
    Leigh L Pang
    Thanks everybody for their thoughts.

    I don't have a problem with photographs distorting reality, but while I'm perfectly okay with lens distortions, flare, physical filters and anything else that alters the image on its way to the sensor or film (as well as choosing the film & developer for effect), I lost most all of my interest in doing anything more than the most basic two or three tweaks in post. If you put a gun to my head and force to me come up with a reason, I suppose it's because while I am not and never was a photojournalist, I feel a natural connection to the documentary style. Consequently, I feel more like explorer than craftsman but I figure I should try to change.

    Sat down with my most recent images and experimented with the Nik suite, since time is an issue and the canned effects make things faster. I didn't get too deep, but I've already found some very concrete aesthetic reasons to use the effects. The smeared look that cellphones produce in lower light from heavy NR can be greatly improved by the addition of digital grain effects. I see a similar improvement for shots where my E-PM1 is noiser than I'd like.
  19. David A

    David A Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brisbane, Australia
    I'll take a wild guess and say that your basic 2 or 3 tweaks mostly are in the areas of exposure, contrast and saturation. I think that most of the time that's true for most of us here. Where some of us do "more processing" is in areas like adjusting white balance, using curves and highlights/shadows adjustments, hue/saturation/luminance for individual colour channels, and local adjustments with tools like brushes and graduated/radial filters. Believe it or not, what we're doing with those adjustments is basically just playing with exposure, contrast and saturation. They're the basic elements of a colour photograph and we're just tweaking the same basic elements of the image as you are, we're just doing so with a bit more skill.

    I think when you say you do "basic tweaks" you're looking at processing from the point of view of using the software and "basic tweaks" means making the primary adjustments the software gives you but not getting into the adjustments that take more skill and knowledge. When you develop more skill and knowledge I think you look at processing less from the point of view of using the software and more from the point of view of how best to adjust the various elements of the image in order to get the result you want, whether that be a very documentary result or a very stylised result. You and I may both adjust contrast but you may do so by simply using the contrast slider, I may do so by moving the contrast slider a bit less than you do but then making a shadows adjustment or a highlights adjustment, or a curves adjustment in order to produce a slightly different result which may not alter the overall image contrast but affects contrast in part of the image slightly differently. We're both playing with the same basic elements of the image, the difference is in what we do. Adjusting contrast is a basic tweak to a Raw file but is just using the contrast slider a "basic tweak" and is using the contrast slider plus one or two other controls not a "basic tweak" even though it really only adjusts the same image element? My answer to that question has certainly changed over time as I developed more skill and experience in processing. These days I regard adjusting contrast as a "basic tweak" no matter how many controls I have to use and I try to do it by using as few controls as I need to use. I didn't see it that way at the start and I don't think anyone sees it that way at the start.

    You also mentioned time as a factor and processing an image takes time, whether you do your basic tweaks or do what some of us do. If you decided to try playing with all of the controls that some of us use, it would take you a lot more time than it takes us. It takes time to learn how to use the controls you use and to apply those basic tweaks and I'm prepared to bet that it takes you less time now to apply those tweaks than it took you when you started out. You had to spend time processing in order to be able to spend less time processing. It's the same for us and not only did we end up being able to spend less time doing what we do to an image, we also learn along the way how to do what we do to an image by using fewer adjustments along the way. No matter what level you want to work at, you have to spend time processing if you want to be able to take less time processing and be able to do less processing. I think we all wish that wasn't the case and that we could take a file and produce exactly the result we want on our first try with only a handful of slider adjustments and a few seconds of time but processing doesn't work that way and neither does anything else in life.

    If you're happy the results you get using your basic tweaks then you don't have to do anything more than what you're doing and that's fine. It's your hobby so do it your way and enjoy it. If you want to try and get a bit more out of your images, either now or at some time in the future, you will probably find yourself spending a bit of time on developing skills but you end up spending less time processing an image as you get more proficient at it and you can stop at whatever skill level you're happy with.

    There's really only one other thing I want to say. You can look at processing as work or you can look at it as an enjoyable part of your photography. The time factor is less of an issue if you look at it as an enjoyable thing in its own right and you'll probably find yourself learning more as well if you look at it that way. Processing can be enjoyable and I think it gets more enjoyable as you get better at it. I know I enjoy it. Just approach it with a sense of play.

    I don't think you're wrong in trying to get by with a few basic tweaks, I actually think that's a good thing. I am saying that what you regard as a "basic tweak" can change a lot as your skills and experience increase and you are likely to find your perspective changing over time, especially if you're prepared to spend time and make more adjustments in order to learn how to save time and make fewer adjustments.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  20. System13

    System13 Mu-43 Veteran

    May 11, 2016
    Wisconsin USA
    As an amateur photographer I get asked (or accused) all the time is that Photoshoped?
    Photoshop allows us to make something that wasn't
    What you need to understand is EVERY time you take a picture that's a JPG, the camera changes many things so the picture looks better
    It changes or adds

    White balance (what color is truly white)

    Here's two identical photos, the first one is WB for the moon, the second one is WB for the snow
    D3X5746 Moonset at sunrise. White-balanced for moon.

    by System13, on Flickr
    D3X5747.0 Moonset at sunrise, the sunrise behind reflecting in the windows.

    by System 13, on Flickr


    Here's two identical photos the first one is low contrast, the second one is high contrast
    D3X_1861.2 Egrets in a Water with Orange Sky

    by System 13, on Flickr
    D3X_1861.1 Egrets in a Water with Orange Sky

    by System 13, on Flickr


    Here's two identical photos the first one is low saturation, the second one is high saturation
    D3X_1937.6 Egrets in a Water with Orange Sky

    by System 13, on Flickr
    D3X_1937.2 Egrets in a Water with Orange Sky

    by System 13, on Flickr


    Now I don't have identical pictures showing different sharpness, but here a two of the same set. Notice the yellow pants.
    the first one is low sharpness, the second one is high sharpness

    by System 13, on Flickr

    by System 13, on Flickr

    ALL of this happens inside your camera when you press the button, unless you shoot in RAW (as high-end cameras do)
    Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen

    The human eye is a million times more sensitive than the best camera.
    My point to all this is Photoshoped should mean adding things that aren't there (or removing things that are).
    All my pictures are as I SAW them so the answer is, no not Photoshoped.

    In one football game i took 1200 pictures. I kept 24. Sometimes the unbelievable photo, is real, it's just distilled down
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
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