Matt Kloskowski over at Lightroom Killer Tips raised a very good question: “So when is enough, really enough when it comes to post processing?”
It is a question I am constantly faced with. How much post processing work is required / necessary / permitted for a given photograph? I think I have to follow the question up with: “What is the photograph going to be used for?”
Currently, I shoot for a number of reasons:
- Personal keepsakes / memories
- This blog
And the amount of post processing I do varies from reason to reason. I rarely post process any personal images, purely for the reason that I want to record the memories as they are. No point cloning out a scrape on my son’s knee if it really happened. Exceptions to this are when I want a print of a particular photograph, then I’d do some cleanup. In general, photographs that are good enough for print are already 90-99% what I want anyway so the post processing is minimal.
When I’m practicing though, all limits are off… I try to go as far as I can with any image and let my imagination go wild. I take any photograph I feel has potential and I visualise my ideal and try to head there with Photoshop or Lightroom. The total opposite of that is contest photographs. Most contests have strict limits on what you can or can’t do. And in most cases, careful planning needs to be done even before you attempt to take a shot. Post processing in this instance is just minor tweaks in exposure, white balance, contrast or brightness.
Similarly, most of my work related images are just minor tweaks. Afterall, most of my clients want their images of the day itself, not an idealised version of what I think the day looked like. Unless of course we’re talking about portraits, in which case I typically do the usual such as blemish clean up, removing stray hairs, and so on.
I’m sure different photographers have different takes on how far they need to take their post processing. And as long as it is in the pursuit of art, I’m not too fussed about it. And it depends on what you’re trying to achieve for a particular project. One project may emphasise digital correction / manipulation while the other may place more importance in photographic technique. Let’s not forget that even in the analogue dark room, photographers could make alot of adjustments (where do you think terms like burning and dodging came about?). So it’s not as if photographers weren’t altering their images in some small way back then.
One area where I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see images altered beyond what they were when they hit the camera’s sensor is press photography. Many of the most thought provoking images we’ve seen since man started capturing photographs have been raw and mostly untouched. And that, is THE challenge of photography. Getting that one image that is perfect straight out of the camera… and not taking the easy way out with digital manipulation.