My postprocessing ethics

” Do you postprocess your photos ? “

And I say ” Yes ” and I am sure I get one of these reactions .

” Don’t you feel like you are cheating the viewer ? ”

” aaaaahhh, you post processed it , so it is not natural”

” These are false colors , I do not PP my photos ”

” Too much colors, I don’t like it ”

” I have seen this place, it is nowhere close to this ”


” try to be natural, do not over process ”

” You should do HDR out of it ”


goes on.

But this not at all surprising to me . I had the similar questions in my mind three years before when I took up photography as medium to satisfy my inner artist . I asked few such questions  to my favorite photographers also. I got answers for those questions which make me read them again and again even today.

So if anybody asks me such questions I give answers promptly whenever time allows. Now it has been quite a long time giving such answers I compared  my answers given  in the beginning and most recent answers  . I was really surprised how my own view on post processing changed over time!

here is my recent opinion on post processing. It might change over time also !

If you look in to t he definition of photography  you realize that photography itself is not an art . It is a medium which has wide range of applications like art,  journalism , science, commercial, military  and many more .  It is exactly like what  water color painting means to art  or typewriter means to literature.

I practice only art and journalism so now I can simply say all my art photos are processed and my journalism photos are corrected  ( corrected  means the basic exposure, contrast etc ). A very good guidelines on treatment of photos given  in NatGeo’s reader images section here  which I follow 90% of the time.  Very rarely I remove elements but I don’t composite  images. Though I do HDRIs very rarely  I  prefer natural looking HDRIs and never done plastic looking HDRIs .

A good  example is if I want to  say ” Hey look at this place , you should visit this place ”  then I go with correcting the photograph and present it to the viewer . But if I want to say ” look at this place, you can make wonderful photographs here ” then automatically I get the freedom of post processing the photos and make it look more artistic.  It is that simple. For me it is more important what I am trying to show my inner viewer through my photographs , my artistic vision or the reality itself ?  This drives me deciding on what method and amount of post processing to choose.

Now there are debates all over the universe whether to use the postprocessing in reportage,  photojournalism, print medias. There are debates whether long exposure photographs are real  or not . Experts, geniuses, critics keep on argue on style and amount of post-processing. I say ” Do what you like  to do. Do not do it for others.”

So here are some images that I want to discusssoem of the details on the method of post processing .Please note that the ” before ” image is a RAW file as I always shoot RAW and the right image is lightroom processed/corrected image.

Look at the “before” photo. Apart from a beautiful moment it had nothing in it . Or at least it looked nothing in it until I brought out the highlights on the sand patterns which were glowing due to back light. And the little girl running makes more sense now on those patterns. All I did here is use a preset in lightroom . That is it! This is the perfect example of over processing to bring out the mood hidden in the  image.
A little improvement in the curves was enough to make this image attractive. This image belongs to my personal project on cattle fairs and clearly there was no need to over process and glorify the scene. I wanted to show the viewer what was there in the location. A typical case corrected photos.
Look at this image. I did hardly anything with this one !! The morning light was so beautiful and the lake was so calm I had leave the image almost as is!! And this is a perfect case of very good light , right time and right location. No processing required!
What a lovely girl and what a light !! Apart from basic correction this photo can be called as straight out of camera and I was so happy with the photo. Bottom line is if you get the light, moment and background correct you can forget about spending time on Photoshopping, dodging and burning , making eyes pop out , making HDR. And according to me that is how a portrait should be . Treat the portraits as if the photo of your loved ones. Not abusing it by over processing.
The best example for a fineart seascape photo or a HDRI of course (natural looking HDRI ). I shot this in Kumta beach of Karnataka. I corrected whitebalance , balanced the exposure, improved the saturation to get the one in the right ! Note that I am not showing this as location. In another words imagine this photo shown on the wikipedia page on Kumta while explaining about beaches of Kumta. Makes no sense right ? But this can definitely go an example for colorful sky, long exposure, good landscape etc .
A landscape photo when the light and the location was so beautiful no processing required at all apart from basic corrections! This is almost straight of camera with only curves, white balance and color corrections.

One last thing is please do not treat this as statement or rule . These are just my humble thoughts and workflow at this point of time.


8 thoughts on “My postprocessing ethics

  1. I totally agree. I prefer to keep photos looking natural most of the time, unless I want to make them into something else other than a pure photograph. But corrections are often the thing that turn an ordinary picture into something that can hold the eye, especially in the case of the seascape and the girl running on sand.
    Great photos, of course 😀

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