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Why Post-Processing Is A Photographer’s Weapon

I love clicking pictures.

And you just went “Yes, idiot you’re suppose to love clicking pictures if you call yourself a photographer, duh!”

Let me rephrase, for me clicking pictures is the best part of the entire process. And photography isn’t just one shot; it is a process.

So, while I do have a roll of stunning shots that I fall in love with, I also have a roll of shots patiently sitting in my folder waiting to go through the post-processing stage.

And I suck at it, really!

It’s overwhelming when you have so many amazing pictures waiting to be transformed but you either don’t have the time to work on it or are busy with other projects.

It happens to most of us. And especially if you’re a photography enthusiast who’s working a day job to pay the bills while trying to make a career in photography.

So how do you find the time for post-processing? But before that, does post-processing make photographers feel like a cheat?

A lot of photographers hear that nagging voice in the head when they digitally alter their clicks. “Hey buddy! This isn’t how it originally came out, your click was way blander. And did you just add a fake sunflare?”

Okay, okay some ‘experts’ overdo it. Like seriously, you birthed an entirely new person with all that heavy editing.

But for most, part post-processing is 50% of the job. Take Ansel Adams for instance, he spends hours in the dark room to create that perfect shot post clicking.

His pioneered system of dodge and burn is widely used by photographers today.

He maintains that his post-processing work coupled with the camaraderie with his camera is the reason behind some of his stunning landscape shots.

Why is post-processing important?

Track back to the time when you witnessed a beautiful sunset, maybe with your date or if you’re unlucky like us then with your dog. Did the sky not look like a canvas with a riot of ethereal colors sprawled across?

So you decided to take a great shot. And… what the hell is this big orange ball in the sky!

Before and After Photoshop Photo Editing

Image courtesy captainkimo

The problem is that even the best cameras in the world aren’t equipped to factor in the vast range of colors that our eyes see. Which in turn means that the picture you saw with your eyes and one that you hoped your camera would capture were nowhere close.

This is where post-processing comes in. It gives you the power to alter the image in a way that brings it closer to your vision of it.

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

– Elliott Erwitt

Photographers often let seep a part of themselves into a click. So what they see is important to how the image turns out finally.

And chances of their vision turning out exactly the same way are infinitesimal. Very rarely does a photographer actually gets a click he hundred percent likes pre-processing.

And then it’s working with lighting that can get problematic too. Expose to the Right is a term often thrown around in the photography circle. What it basically means is that a camera click always zeroes in on the highlighted part, so the shadows aren’t captured properly.

Plus there are also those little flaws that need to be removed, like the common red-eye. It’s post-processing too, isn’t it?

Professional photographers who actually earn a living through their works need to spend a lot of time on post-processing too, because their clients’ expectations are to be met.

And while, a pro might gauge and understand the nuances of a raw image, a client might only be looking for Instagram viral pictures or to get like-worthy shots for their (500+ pictures) wedding album.

Common Post-Processing Techniques

White Balance

Probably one of the most common and quickest post-processing steps is adjusting the white balance of an image.

Notice how sometimes your images come all yellow (warm) or too blue (cool) due to inappropriate lighting? The easiest way to fix it and dramatically change the look of your image is by adjusting the white balance.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

I already established that cameras might not be able to capture a wider range of colors, rendering your clicks a poor cousin of what you had envisioned.

“Photography helps people to see”
– Berenice Abott

What are you going to make people see when what you saw doesn’t transfer into what you click?

The HDR is the way to correct that. By providing a greater range of luminosity, choosing the right exposure value to bring the image closer to the retina-perceived range of lighting.

Working with HDR is almost imperative for sunrise and sunset clicks.

Altering images in Photoshop

Photoshop had earned itself a bad rep, like so much so that it’s definition itself has a negative connotation.

Merriam Webster defines Photoshop as “to alter (a digital image) with Photoshop software or other image-editing software especially in a way that distorts reality (as for deliberately deceptive purposes)”.

Tch tch! Not only does Photoshop helps to enhance an image by rectifying flaws, a lot of stunning shots are created through Photoshop. And it gives an individualistic style to an image, which a lot of photographers strive for. They alter the image in a way that becomes their identity.

Photoshop Actions

By far a lot of photographer’s favorite post-processing technique is using Photoshop Actions.

The number one reason why I like using Photoshop Actions is because it does not make me feel like a cheat. Seriously, slapping on a filter on an image is one thing, but Actions are an altogether different ball game.

Saves Time

Photoshop Actions are a series of pre-recorded steps that either you create or other pros do, which enhances your image. Say for instance, for every picture you take, you repeat the following steps:

  • Resize for social media
  • Increase Sharpness
  • Increase Contrast
  • Add Watermark

You can create an Action for these 4 steps, so when the next time you go to edit any image in Photoshop, all you need to do is put on this Action and automate the four steps in one click.

Learn from the experts

Another plus of using Photoshop Actions is to put your clicks in the league of the big boys by using actions created by pros. Wait, wait, wait! You’re saying I should copy someone’s steps and push those pictures as mine!

What I’m saying is that you grow by emulating. True, you have your individual style but if learning from experts was cheating, no school and no teacher would ever exist.

Professionally created Photoshop Actions not just give your images an expert processed look – think enhancing your images under a teacher’s guidance – plus there’s a lot to learn from it.

Photoshop Actions are nothing more than just a series of steps, we’ve already established that. But it is a goldmine of training material if you really look closer.

Say, you chanced upon this image by a photographer you admire and follow. You love how they’ve processed their work, and you love how the final click comes out. You too wish you could do something similar. Learn how to use photoshop actions.

And then you see they have a collection of Photoshop Actions that they’ve personally created which is on sale or available as a freebie.

With each Action, you can see the change in your images, and you also see the background work of all that change. How did this diffused glow come about, did you know tweaking a certain feature in Photoshop would yield such amazing results?

That’s what Photoshop Actions do. It plays the dual function of instantly changing the face of your images plus it’s a great learning experience. You can break each step to see the effects, and just to what extent it can go.

Cut down on the editing process

When you use Photoshop Actions to quickly and automatically put on a few steps, you save time and hasten the entire editing procedure.

Say you want to add some intensity to your click, maybe a Black and White feel to it or adjust the contrast before you jump right in to some heavy editing. Instead of going through the entire series of steps before you do the actual editing, you can just use an Action and quickly move on to whatever editing you want to do.

And speaking of adding intensity to your clicks, here’s a great deal on Photoshop Actions centered on it.

Photoshop Actions will do everything from subtle makeovers to going fall out. And personally, I feel it’s good to have that range of options available to choose from, so that depending on the type of post processing you think is required for an image, you can easily choose and transform your clicks.

Still think post-processing isn’t important. I’ll let this picture do the talking, as Elliott Erwitt beautifully puts it:

“The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.”

Post-Processing Action Effects

Image courtesy fototripper

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