View Full Version : When and Why to Post Process

30-08-2010, 12:37pm
A bit of a general discussion thing here.

I'm starting to post process a few of my images a bit more than what I have in the past. By that I mean doing things that are noticably changing the perception of the image (split tones, significantly altering curves etc) rather than just tidying up (fixing horizon, boosting under exposure etc).

I can see myself falling into a bit of a trap here though. A lot of images just look better (to me) post processed. Which is kinda the point. The only thing is, they also look quite unfaithful.

I used to stand by a rule where if i could really see what process I'd used I had over done it. I think that's a good rule really but it can also be quite restrictive.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I don't want to go on some rampage through my library massively boosting contrast, vignette and two toning it up. At the same time though I'd like to start experimenting.

Here are a couple of examples (links lead to proper size).



In this one I was genuinely trying to get a lomo type effect. That means bending the curves into a sharp S and upping the contrast significantly. Also boosting blacks. I reckon it can look ok on metal/shiny surfaces which the helicopter is. At the same time I think I overdid the contrast judging by the trees in the background. I added blue to the highlights from memory to make the paint stand out a bit more than it would otherwise. Added a (very strong!) vignette to lead the photo a bit.


Didn't change much here except for adding a two tone process. I gave the highlights a strong yellow and the darks a dark blue tinge. In this case this reflected the colours already present but exagerated them quite a bit. Added a vignette which I now think was a mistake. I also applied the lens correction data in LR3 and saw for the first time how much barrel distortion my lens has.


Another genuinely 'contrasty' image. All I've done here is experiment with the curves, contrast
but then also split toned the image again. Here I've used blue in the darks and green in the highlights, again trying to exentuate the contrast that's there already.


Most of the processing here is overdone (imo) as it's the first time I've experimented with the different techniques. Hopefully though I've given a decent indication of what I've tried to do and why.

At the same time I hope I've sort of pointed out a slippery slope I seem to have found myself on.

I could probably apply split toning to anything, likewise a vignette will always lead a viewer toward a subject near the centre...so why don't all images have big black vignettes? Is it right/wrong to exentuate everything that makes an image pleasing to begin with?

Anyway, just some ramblings while I experiment with LR/PS and hopefully get some good discussion happening in the meantime.

I might post the originals as well for reference.

30-08-2010, 2:50pm
If PP enhances the image go for it, esp if it emphasises the subject.

You can overdo things, I know a portrait shop who vignette everything and it is too much.

But experimenting can be fun as are effects like the art/painting effects etc.

There are no wrong answers.

30-08-2010, 3:38pm

There are no wrong answers.

I agree completely, with Kym's comments.

I seem to go through phases of 'how much to process' into an image, and it probably depends on how much processing I've been doing prior to that.
Sometimes I enjoy taking the time to process an image 'elaborately' and other times I just want it done straight out of camera, it depends heavily on how much image processing I've been doing prior to any change of heart.

I think the terms such as over processing/too much processing/heavily processed are relative terms, and they only have a specific meaning to each individual using them at the time of exposure :p
Some like heavily processed tone mapped HDR's, others prefer neutrally toned images.
So, not only are there no wrong answers, there are probably no right answers either, only what it is that you want to do with those images at the time of your editing mindset.
You may look back on any of those images and later decide that some have been over processed and other need more.
I've done that myself on a few of my early D70s images, processed in a very limited manner way back when software was much less intricate and convoluted, added a few more edit steps with a newer generation of software, and have kept some of those edits on a very few images, and in other instances reverted back to the original edited image as I felt they looked worse or inappropriate.

30-08-2010, 3:55pm
If YOU like the end result then DO IT.
If you don't like it then DON'T DO IT.
In the end it's all up to you really.

31-08-2010, 1:59am
it really depends on personal preference imo, as for me i like softer tones on photos especially cross processing method. sometimes it works, other times doesnt. but i think whatever it is there is always people out there who think your work is appealing :D

of course others might disagree but thats life :)

31-08-2010, 6:32am
I notice you (OP) said you "would like to start experimenting". Go for it. Experiment to your hearts content. If you don't like the result..DELETE.

Experimenting is a great way to learn how to post process and gain an insight into your PP software, how it works, what each function does. So what, if you stuff them up along the way, this is digital and you can delete and start again. But whilst your stuff-up this time may not have worked, next week you look at a photo and think..hmmm, that process I used the other day may actually work on this photo.

You are never to old to experiment and learn! I tend to refer to my experimentation time in Photoshop as "play time". It is fun and that makes it interesting and I learn along the way. I often see others post photos saying they were 'playing around with the photo'..so seems playing is a good analogous word for this experimentation.

Just do it..and enjoy playing!

31-08-2010, 6:37am
so agree with the responses.. I am doing more playing and experimenting and i do exactly what they say . if i like it i keep it. if i dont the delete button gets hit...

31-08-2010, 8:49am
Particularly helpful when experimenting is keeping several versions of the same image, either as the processing progresses, or alternatively with different styles applied. For me that helps more than just keeping a "before and after", especially if trying to determine exactly where I went over the edge and overdid it.

31-08-2010, 11:14am
The aim is to produce an image that is pleasing to you. Digital does tend to flatten images a bit so they do need some colour /contrast boosting usually, to get back to what it was really like. How much you do is up to you.

I don't like unrealistic either, although I go a bit further now than when I started out.

31-08-2010, 10:14pm
Pp is great fun... Especially when accentuating a subject. There is a time and place of course. You may not go to town on a portrait you took of a friend.

Looks like you are off to a good start though. Remember that layers are your friend.

01-09-2010, 8:40am
I guess it's about your own theme/goals. I want to achieve it mostly in camera, so only use DXO for all my stuff. I don't want people to like my pics due to PP skills.

but there are amazing pics by various famous togs who heavily PP, and I admire their work too. I just don't want to be them.

02-09-2010, 1:59pm
If i may put my two cents worth in...its in the eye of the beholder and only you know what you like ....and not everyone will like it....be bold and when its not too good go back and do it again.....remember the camera NEVER takes it how the eye sees it ..its up to you what you want it to look like after taking it out of the camera..as Mae West said once " you will never know what is too much until you have had too much"..this was of course in relation to photo manipulation i am sure as she did a lot of work in front of them...:)