How much should we post process ?
I’ve been taking photographs for many years. First with black and white film, then colour film and slides and now with a DSLR. Although processing was a part of the process with film and involved all sorts of techniques to improve the final image, I have always said to myself that I don’t do processing of digital images. I’ve always thought that I try to take the picture as I see it and don’t want to spend hours with photoshop trying to improve the image.
For many years that was true. I took the jpeg image produced by the camera I was using and published it ‘as it was’. Then, a few years ago I discovered that I would get better images if I used RAW images and converted them to jpeg myself. About two years ago I started using Lightroom to do the conversion to jpeg and I’ve recently upgraded to Lightroom 5.
I’ve been reading Martin Evenings Lightroom 4 book recently and been picking up some new techniques to adjust the brightness of a particular colour (used to darken the sky in a shot) and whilst I was using the before/after view it suddenly occurred to me that my original premise has gone out of the window. I now do quite a bit of post processing to improve pictures, and not only to get the picture produced to be a more accurate representation of the original scene.
For example this shot of Raby Castle has been through the following stages to get from the original (lightroom camera default) to the processed
- White balance adjustment
- Exposure correction
- Contrast adjust
- Shadow Correction
- Clarity boost
- Black Clipping adjustment
- Highlight correction
- Lens Correction
- Remove chromatic Aberration
- Post crop vignette added
Now I think the processed shot is better than the original, and I don’t think I’ve gone too far but I’d be interested in people’s views ? Note that both of these images are reduced to only 1000 px on the longest side so not full resolution.
I’m coming to the conclusion that I can sort of justify a variation of my original claim – I don’t do post processing to ridiculous extremes ie I don’t produce pictures with the sky the wrong colour etc but just try to produce pleasing versions of what the camera captures. Come to think of it, that’s probably what photographers have been trying to do for years.