Get Serious About Post Processing Your Photography

July 22, 2013 — 8 Comments

This post was going to be about sharpening your images. Its effectiveness for maximising impact in your own photography, most especially when showing work for competitions.

And here’s an image, from a cell phone, to show how effective sharpening can be.

2012-08-23-0028  2013 comp

Except it doesn’t really work, because I processed it. I boosted the saturation and the contrast which, let’s face it, is the very definition of sharpening. The improvement in this image is attributed to a balanced effort of colour processing and additional sharpening which, if correctly applied, should be crisp without noticing any pixels!

So, the direction of the post has stepped back to the importance and effectiveness of processing your images.

I don’t know why but I am still surprised to find people who don’t process their images. They’re quite accepting of this fact and, a significant proportion, are quite proud of their images straight out of the camera.

I’ll state this clearly and concisely for the record – capture your photographs to the best of yours and your camera’s ability. Get the best light you can. if you need to and can move, do so, use a flash, whatever. Forgive my language, but you simply cannot polish a turd. Photoshop is not an excuse for your shortcomings at capture time. Don’t get me started on people ‘rescuing’ their images by converting to black and white. That’s another post entirely!

Where was I. Oh yes, those deluded people who don’t need to process their images…

If you’ve set up your camera’s picture mode for a bit of extra contrast, sharpening and, possibly, saturation. Or you’ve set Vivid or Landscape Mode, etc. You do realise you are post processing? Well, your camera is and at capture time. You don’t count in my subset of misguided photographers.

These days the sub set of cameras I consider extremely capable of capturing scenes properly is just ginormous. Literally the base to mid end of the compact camera market and cell phones comprise the sub par machines.

The principal reason for editing images is to exert your own particular style on your photographs and this has been going on in dark rooms well before the digital era.

Another reason for post processing is to compensate for the additional layers on top of your sensors. Colour cameras need to deduce colour and require a Beyer filter. In addition, your camera probably also has an Optical Low Pass Filter to correct colour and reduce moire patterning.

My camera is one of the few with a ‘naked’ sensor and still I would not consider putting forward unprocessed images.

Take this one. This image is as captured. No additional settings or processing, but a correct exposure.

LMM1001458 no processingMy good friend, Jarret, drying his underwater housing for his Nikon D300

Jarret
Processed with Silver Efex Pro 2

Try not to get distracted by my choice in processing. What is evident is the detail and textures that were present in the image data and 2 minutes of work has produced this markedly different result.

Here’s another example, again from my Monochrom.

Maintenance - Unprocessed, as shot
These Underwater Photographers are constantly fiddling with their cameras!

Maintenance

Do get serious about processing your images. If you need pointers or assistance, let me know.
Michael

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8 responses to Get Serious About Post Processing Your Photography

  1. 

    Spot on, Michael.

    As one who comes from a background of years of darkroom work, I know just how much effort and skill goes into producing black and white images at the printing stage, let alone at exposure and developing. In its own way digital is no different.

    Constatntly I’m amazed at ‘bad’ images that photograhpers think ‘great’. Many look without seeing.

    Most pictures can be enhanced using the techniques you’ve described, and there are plenty of books and decent website to assist. There really isn’t any excuse.

    • 

      Thank you for commenting Brian. Are you now digital with your photography?
      Michael

      • 

        Yes, afraid so, Michael. My days of wet processing are over as it’s really too much of a faff for me.

        My principal camera is a M6 TTL (with my trusty 35 Summicron Asph), loaded with B&W, which I get professionally processed and scanned to CD. The rest I do at home with PS.

        My colour work (which isn’t a lot compared to B&W) is all digital.

        Examples can be seen on my website.

        I’m really looking forward to getting out and about in London next month when I will have a lot more free time… we seem to prefer the same haunts!

  2. 

    This all makes sense to me, Michael. Like most photographers, I strive to capture the best possible data in an image at trigger press, but I do not allow the camera to make any initial additional steps in processing. This is because I agree wholeheartedly with your point about exerting your own style on an image, which I think can vary from image to image, given that that the content and mood of images is so variable. I would be quite interested to know how you approach your particular style of processing. Perhaps if I can find time to engage you on the other subject that we talked about (coherent use of social media), you could show me something on the back of that? I’m still looking for a window of opportunity and a little busy right now, but I will be in touch with a more formal request in due course…all best, Paul

    • 

      I’m also looking forward to catching up with you Paul.

      And thanks for reading – I’ve seen your work, both before and after processing, and you have an obviously well thought out workflow, achieving super results.
      Michael

  3. 

    Hello Michael,

    I have been silently watching your posts with interest for quite some time now and enjoying your London street photography, something I have not tried yet……….but maybe when I get time, I will be in touch!

    Just to say that I am with you on the post processing and this post makes the hours spent in that department seem more worthwhile, especially knowing now that you also post process even with your super camera!

    Perhaps in future posts you may let us know a little more of your work flow.

    Crystal

  4. 

    Love this. I’m in the process now of learning both how to get the picture as right as possible in the camera and then processing it once I get it out. I couldn’t imagine not doing what little I do know.

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