Post processing rant

Having been on various photography forums for a few years, there has been one particular point of annoyance that I want to shed a little light on and that is when someone claims that they did absolutely no post processing to their picture as if somehow that makes them a better photographer. Just to be clear, I am at very big advocate of getting it right while taking the picture – having a good exposure, composing correctly, when possible getting rid of background clutter, etc. however, to say that there has not been any post processing done to the picture is rather ignorant because in the digital world all pictures are processed one way or another.

The same picture even when exposed perfectly can look and feel very different depending on how it’s processed. This is how it used to be in the old days when people chose certain films to get certain effects. In addition, how the film was developed also played a very big part on how the final image would come out. Ansell Adams for instance was famous for how he processed his prints to get exactly the look that he wanted and he’s a legend.

In the digital world, when a picture is taken, the sensor on the camera captures raw data from the image that the lens collects. At the time the pictures taken, this is just pure raw data and somehow this data needs to be built into an image. I choose to take the raw file and process of myself with the raw processor like Adobe Lightroom. The people who claim their picture was not processed and was “straight out of the camera” are partially correct. The picture was in fact straight out of the camera, but it was the camera that did that processing based on the Image settings selected –vivid setting would give you overly saturated colors and blacks, sharpening settings determine how much sharpening to be done, noise reduction, etc.

For everyday pictures, this may be more than good enough, but to me this is lazy photography. Instead of the camera choosing how an image is going to come out, I rather be the one who does the choosing and there is a great benefit to doing this after the fact. There have been many times where all I’ve had to do on the final image is to adjust the white balance just a little bit but had I chose to just save the picture in JPEG out of the camera, that chance would’ve been lost. That doesn’t make me a bad photographer for not picking the exact white balance at the time I took a picture, but I will take it perfect post process picture over a mediocre straight out of the camera picture any day.

The whole point to this rant is that there is no room for being macho in photography and the final image is what matters the most. I have seen many pictures that were straight out of the camera that were very low in contrast and had the original photographer not been lazy, could have easily fixed that in post so I don’t see why the photographer would get extra satisfaction at of not doing that.

My point is that you have to use every tool at your disposal to get a great image and not be overly concerned about following an arbitrary set of rules that someone else made for you. I shoot most things in manual mode, but if I see something happening in front of me and there is no time to check the settings on my camera, I put that sucker in Aperture Priority mode and make sure I get the picture even if the camera did the metering, rather than to miss the picture. I have also paid for an expensive camera system that has one of the best flash systems in the world – namely the Nikon CLS system so for most things I trust iTTL and don’t mind if it’s not as macho as going completely manual with the flash. Once you understand how things work behind the scenes, you can trust the tools at your disposal.

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