Post Processing Photos

April 12, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

Main image: Kiwi Macro...Taken yesterday in my studio--a three image HDR composition.

I recently read a thread on one of my favorite photo forums:  "Does anyone else dislike Post Processing for photos?"  

Great topic and conversation starter, really...

I think a lot of people are confused by just what defines "Photoshopping" a photograph. 

Some landscapes that one comes across, my own included, often provoke such exclamations as, "That is so beautiful, it can't be real!" 

I think the goal I always have in mind when I take any photograph is to take the right photo the first time. 

I never set out to take a picture thinking, "Now what I really want to do is spend a few good hours at my computer with this one!"

But the reality is, the digital camera/photography process itself adds some noise or "grain", both color and luminance to most photos, especially the dark areas. It doesn't look naturally "pretty", as film "noise" or grain does... In fact, if the noise is pronounced enough, it can look like squiggly little worms when you zoom in on it.  

Just plain ugly...

Post Processing Photos

Old Orchard Beach at sunrise in November.  My husband was taking pictures that looked like this with his iPhone!  It truly WAS this beautiful...

Both film and the digital process also don't seem to allow (at least in RAW format) for taking the contrasty, colorful images my eyes see. 

I have read multiple sources which suggest that such film greats as Ansel Adams spent a great deal of time in his own "Photoshop" (read: the darkroom) dodging, burning and otherwise contrasting up and tweaking his lovely photographs that hang in museums and private collections all over the world to this day. So "Post Processing" or "Photoshopping" has been around for a loooong time now. Even the artsy pictorialists spent a lot of time getting their delicate, soft-focus compositions to look the way they did after the fact...

Post Processing PhotosThis photo, taken at Portland's Downtown Showdown, had a lot of noise.  If I hadn't de-noised it, it would have been unusable.  After the fact, it is one of my favorite shots of the night. 

So, while I strive to take the right image in camera, and often come extremely close to the mark I set, I also have to de-noise my pictures and add a bit more contrast, saturation, and even brighten things up before they can be shown to anyone. And if I am turning an image into a monochrome/black & white, I obviously have to spend some time doing that... 

Post Processing PhotosBirches in new snowfall. Taken in color and converted to monochrome in Photoshop.

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