basics of photography part two: post-processing

Here is the long-awaited part two of my "photography" series. I mentioned in my composition post that post-processing is one thing that can completely make or break a photograph. There are so many different aspects of post-processing, I'm going to go over only the basics!


First things first, what is this "post-processing" that I speak of? Post-processing, a controversy in digital photography today, is the manipulation of a photo after it is taken. Some prefer the SOOC look and notion (straight out of the camera) and some think its fun to play around with tones and effects. Here are my personal rules for post-processing and a few examples:

 1. Try to see post-processing as something to add a little something extra to your photograph, not something to "save" it. Personally, I take lots of practice shots and adjust my settings accordingly to get the best photograph that I can without having to do much manipulation afterwards. It makes it easier for me and I like a natural look. I hate to do TOO much to a photograph. I will never try to "rescue" a bad photograph by processing the heck out of it because I just don't think that it looks good. Which of these two above photographs do you think is retouched? Trick question! Neither of them were.



2. Before you go crazy, play around with the curves. It happens to all of us, the photo never looks EXACTLY like we think it will once we put in on the computer. You may be looking at a photograph that looked nice and bright on your little SLR screen and it looks insanely dark on your computer screen. There's an easy fix for that! If you have Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements, or any photo-editing software, curves will be readily available for you. Play around with them. You'll be surprised! As you can tell with the two photographs above, you can also use curves to make an image pop more or appear more faded. (The 2nd photograph also has a slight gradient.)



3. Remember that post-processing can be FUN! Actions are so much fun! They're a preset chain of commands that you can download of make yourself. A lot of photographers may look at them as "cheating," but I look at them like a huge time-saver. There are a ton of actions out there. I love Paint the Moon's "Fresh" set but search some of your own or make some! (Oh, I also have a set that I made in my store, check it out!) Find out what you like and what your style is. Is it more like the top two, where the colors pop, or the last two, where the colors are more muted? A little bit of both? You can create your own signature style and have consistency if you'd like, or you could change it up often. The possibilities are endless!


4. Don't be afraid to try out a few different processes before you commit. Post-processing can be a lot of fun. I love trying out different things and then comparing them side-by-side to see which one I like better. For example, look at the above photos to see how much of a difference just switching an image to black and white can make! Which one do you like better?



5. If in doubt, shoot in RAW. You should be shooting in RAW anyway, but especially if you're unsure about what settings to use in a certain situation. If you shoot in RAW, you'll have much more control over things like exposure, color, fill light much more than if you're just editing the .jpegs.

xo, e.m.

23 comments

  1. Definitely pinning this for future reference. Thanks for the tips!

    Stephanie
    owlsinmyheart.blogspot.com

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  2. Nice one Erika!! And yay! A picture of meeee! ;-)

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