A black and white photo of a swan swimming in a lake.

Post processing…not for the purists

There are many photographers who believe that if the image has been post processed then somehow, it’s not real photography. I’m not in this camp. Post processing is inevitable to a certain extent; it always has been.

Back in the film days working on the print in the darkroom was par for the course; dodging and burning, selecting the paper grades, the chemicals used, the processing method and so on. Even the film we chose made a difference Tri-X was different in character to HP5, Kodachrome different to Ektachrome, Agfa different to Fuji.

In the digital age we have far more options of course and it’s very easy to overdo things – cartoon like HDR being a prime example.

Many cameras now have inbuilt filters – this in itself in post-processing.

My view on things is if you can pre-visualise the result you’re wanting when taking the picture then doing the necessary post processing to achieve that result is valid. Of course, news and documentary is a slightly different matter but even here dodging and burning and selective sharpening seems fine. So long as we don’t pass a news photo off as something different to reality then it’s fine by me.

If the post-processing takes too long, then to me either the picture was no good to start with or your post-processing needs some help.

The closer we can get in camera to an image that is suitable to post-process is what we should be aiming for.

As an example, the colour version of the picture below is dull and uninteresting, but I saw the possibilities of what could be achieved in a few minutes of Photoshop and exposed the picture accordingly.

Out of the camera and after a couple of minutes post processing in Photoshop.

If you feel this is might be the result of too much time and hard work in Photoshop then perhaps the training or mentoring might be a suitable option for you 🙂

6 thoughts on “Post processing…not for the purists”

    1. Missed this totally (or the security software hid it from me!) – I’ll try and do an addon piece 🙂

  1. Couldn’t agree w!with you more. I often see the black and white in the colour shot I am taking.

  2. John, I agree with your well-presented essay.
    1) Some viewers might not realize they can slide the dividing line (the one between the two images) to the left or to the right.
    2) For a more informative comparison, wouldn’t it make sense to show the “Before” and “After” of the same photo IN COLOR?

    1. Good points David, thanks for commenting.

      I’ll probably try and do a more complete piece on the post-processing which will have an intermediate colour steps. I just wanted to show the “out of camera” images compared to what I’d class as the end result.

  3. When I visited the Ansel Sd@ms Gallery in Yosemite, I was always told 5gat Ansel Sdams said the photograph started in the camera, the image carefully worked out and then the entire picture came together in the dark room where all photographers make their art.

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