advent of the digital age, the post processing of photographic digital
images has increased dramatically. The debate of photography
without post processing versus photography with post processing is alive
and kicking...........I suppose it matters just how much PP is applied
before it becomes an art form or simply a disaster?
I have to hold up my hand and admit that when I first started this article
back in 2010, I
was very cynical regarding digital post processing. I felt that images
should reflect the actual scene as captured by the photographer through
the camera and without any post processing...........any image that did
not come up to that standard, should be rejected and binned. After
spending some more time investigating various professional websites and
a great deal of forum discussion, I changed my opinion
(to some degree) deleted parts of the original writing and started
Taste is a funny old thing,
take Marmite, you like it or
loathe it but in a strange
way and with the passing of
time, Marmite can become
very tasty but then again
what you like, you might
Photographic images are more
complex than Marmite, the
image that you post
processed and finally
rendered appears perfect,
then a year later, you
revisit it and the desire to
change it is strong,
especially if you have spent
a great deal of time
learning how to use your
post processing software.
Your experience sways your
opinion and now that
perfection is no longer
perfect. To make matters
worse, you may be swayed by
examples of other
photographer's images that
you have viewed on the
and then unease with your
post processing skills sets
Sometimes, a photographer
will purchase new software
in an attempt to establish a
style, a rendering that can
be finally maintained and in
truth some photographers hit
sweet spot although this is
more down to perseverance
the software than actually
replacing it. Some
photographers abandon post
processing and return to a
more conventional method and
use a hardware colour filter
screwed or adapted onto the
front of their lens to
produce the effect they
desire, although it can
prove an expensive exercise
before you find the right
Unfortunately rendering and
colour are not everything
and whether it is
accomplished in post
processing or through a
hardware filter, the subject
material has a great deal of
bearing on the taste of the
final image. I love the
(watch the trailer)
with it's 'classic 1930s'
colour rendering with that
deep burnished look, the
and reduced dynamic range
in some scenes and the glow
in the lighting but if you
place modern day subjects
into the frame would that
look work? I suppose the
material for the scene has
to come first then the
choice of rendering, either
through the type of lens, a
hardware filter or perhaps
later in post processing a
'RAW' image file.
Recently, I sent an email to
asking them for advice on a
hardware filter that could
emulate that 'burnished
glow' seen in the Godfather
movie and they replied that
they were aware of a
resurgence in the 1930s
'classical colour look' and
expected to have perfected a
filter to emulate it by July
2014. At present their
existing filters were not
quite there and required
additional work in post
I am unable to emulate
(at present) the
'Godfather Look' in post
processing but here is a
Canon 5D MK I DSLR camera image with different
tints and vignetting applied
in post processing -
Colour Faithful +
Colour Faithful +
Colour Faithful +
Marine Green +
Reduced Colour +
Colour Standard -
Heavy Contrast and Vignetting
Weather changes fast in Scotland and this image of highland
cattle was shot using a Panasonic G6 compact system camera and a Lumix 20mm f1.7 ASPH
on a very wet and rainy day. To add to this I was standing on the verge
of the road with heavy lorries passing feet from me and throwing up even
more spray. The combo held up well
despite all this and I was able to grab this image before the
cattle moved off on seeing me.
The 'RAW' image file was post processed and converted to various
styles of jpeg for the web using Adobe Lightroom software
and I have softened the
(larger image) PA version.
Please click on the images to open up 1300 pixel variants -
My Photographic Style &
Post Processing Software
My favourite 'photographic style' is still to project plan the location/subject and
to use a tripod, camera and prime lens, shutter remote release and
Lee filters to achieve a good tonal
in the captured image. I apply these disciplines more for landscape
photography but when necessary, they are also applied for my other types
of photography. For those special 'RAW' images,
I always take 3 'bracketed' shots - the same frame but 3 different
exposures to capture the 'optimum' exposure of choice. Post processing
is a last resort to make very 'subtle changes' where required and this
is usually limited to dust cleaning, saturation, brightness, sharpening/softening, noise reduction, contrast and cropping modifications.
is now my post processing software of choice and I no longer use image
of serious amateur and professional photographers capture images which
are usually in 'RAW' or 'Jpeg' format and come straight out of the
camera. The RAW format is the digital equivalent of a 'film negative'
from film cameras.
Software on a computer is used to edit (post process)
the RAW and/or Jpeg files to achieve the 'look' of the then converted
jpeg image required.
This image of the cows on the field near the Black Mill in The East
Riding of York is an example of this type of converted jpeg file.
Professionals tend to process part of their work in RAW files and then
convert them to 16bit tiff files where they are then taken to a higher
level of post processing using even more powerful software.
'film' negative can now be scanned on a digital scanner to create a Tiff
and/or a Jpeg format digital file which can also be post processed using
software on a
computer. The Jpeg is a compressed file which has lost some of its
content with the scanning whilst the Tiff is a lossless file, which
retains the maximum content and is nearer to a RAW equivalent.
photographers will scan a film negative to a Tiff file format and from
there make any 'post processing' adjustments and convert to jpeg for
normal size prints and web images.
This 'film' image of the Waverley Station in Edinburgh and the taxi was
taken recently with a 40 year old Zenit-E Film 35mm SLR Camera using
Kodak Ektar 100 Colour Film. The negative was scanned to jpeg at a local
Jessop's Store and then edited by me using Canon's DPP Software. The
post processing was no more than trimming up around the scanned edges
and applying very slight saturation and sharpness. Film images are very
underrated in this digital age and the end results in the conversion
from a film negative to a digital tiff/jpeg file can be substantial and
photographers will produce RAW and Jpeg files from their cameras,
whereby they have the 'maximum flexibility' for their post processing.
Likewise they always scan film negatives to Tiff files, which also offer
the maximum in PP.
for Post Processing v Against
arguments for PP versus no PP, rage across the internet and at
photographic club meetings. Some almost regard it as 'Photographic
Heresy' to apply post processing to any image, never mind a digital one.
Usually the core of the arguments are centered around the 'great
photographers' of the earlier 20th Century who 'tweaked' their negatives
when they were being printed and this is the justification for 'digital'
photographic camera equipment of today is much more sophisticated and
should be capable of 'capturing the moment' and producing a clean image?
However, just like the photographers of old the modern day digital
photographer still has to get his digital sensor ISO (similar to film
speed) correct, along with the correct aperture setting in relation
to the shutter and still has to take into consideration the light
conditions and the ability of the camera sensor and electronics to apply
the correct dynamic range to the final image. To obtain the optimum
dynamic range across an image the photographer invariable has to use
different types of filters but the favourite, is the '2 stop graduated
gray' filter which allows dark foregrounds to become more visible
against the bright sky and avoids the sky being 'blown' whereby the sky
section is lost and unrecoverable in the camera. The earlier 'film'
photographers all had similar problems and addressed them in similar
ways, either by careful calibration of the camera and it's additional
filters or by recovering/tweaking images in the darkroom during
modern argument 'for and against' post processing really an argument
about 'lazy photography' versus the professional photographic approach?
The problem with software digital post processing is that it encourages
a lazy approach to photography. The professionals do not approach it in
this way, they have to get their images correct, it is their business
and a money making concern but for many others, when you realise that you can clean up
that blown sky or open up the foreground and the dynamic range or even
completely change the image using digital tools on a
computer..........well what is the point of carrying around filters and
having to fit them on the camera? Worse, were the old 'film'
photographers just as lazy in their approach...........human nature does
not skip generations.
Cameras & Dynamic Range
digital cameras that do have a problem with dynamic range and despite
all the best efforts the image eventually ends up in 'intensive care' post processing.
This 'blows away the myth' that a good photographer can capture a great
image no matter what camera he or she uses...........as long as they can
'PP the image' on a computer to get it right. I use a Nikon '35mm Film' SLR camera and it does produce images (even after scanning) straight
from the negative that clearly display a greater dynamic range than my
digital SLR cameras. As we move forward with digital photography, I am
sure that the problems associated with dynamic range will disappear,
even to the extent that a form of 'expanded dynamic range' will be
blended within the camera at the time of exposure and/or in the software
'RAW' post processing.
No matter how good the
photographer, the camera, the lens and the digital technology, there are
some scenes that just cannot be balanced..............where the foreground is
heavily shadowed and the skyline is excessively bright, the metering in
the camera just cannot deliver. With the best will in the world, even
using exposure adjustments the photographer will end up with an image
where the sky has lost part of its colour, is 'washed out' as he strives
to open up the shadows for some detail or the sky is correct but
the shadows are dark, without much detail and excessive noise has crept
in. Every digital camera suffers from this problem, even 'film' cameras.
Many photographers will take 3 'RAW' exposures (dark, normal, bright)
and blend them in HDR software to open up the dynamic range. Other
photographers will take their best shot and use Adobe Lightroom software
and attempt to recover the dark foreground or bring back the sky by
applying a 'software graduated filter' to the top of the image. Either
method can often produce an final image where the
viewer will immediately sense that there is a 'falseness' and this is usually
where the foreground appears unnatural to the eye. In the worse cases,
especially with HDR software, the entire image appears 'overcooked' and
it is obvious that it's structure has changed.
The 'best solution' is one that you can use, even if you are a
that is a 2 'stop' B+W
graduated filter screwed onto the front of your
lens. Now you can expose to the right, grab as much data in the image,
open up the foreground and retain the correct colour in the sky. I use
the following filter on the front of my 52mm Lumix 14-45mm zoom lens and
with a 46-52mm step up 'Tiffen' adapter on my Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens.
The B+W 52mm 0.6/4x (502) Graduated Neutral Density Filter has a
transition from clear to 2x neutral density. The neutral grey half of
this filter transmits 25% of the incoming light, so that it darkens the
respective portion of the subject by two f-stops without altering its
colours. For example; when the sky is too bright in relation to the
landscape, the filter ensures good detail rendition in the clouds and
prevents the sky from being 'washed out' by over-exposure. The 502
filter is supplied in a rotating mount, similar to that of a polariser,
so that the angle of transition can be altered to suit the subject.
I (mark) stick a small piece of white plastic tape to the outer rim of my
filter (at the very top of the dark section) and in this way, I can rotate the filter and bring the dark part of the filter to the desired
area of the scene.
Conclusions on Post Processing
Having given this area a great deal of thought, I have broken post
processing down to a logical train of events which encompass amateur and
professional photographers along with their photographic methodologies.
Location, subject and (most important of all) light are the key
ingredients that provide the material for a photographic opportunity.
The actual capture of the image involves patience in some cases, such as
'landscape photography' to achieve the optimum light conditions. The
photographers ability to use the camera is all important, not only to
set it correctly but how to apply the proper accessories (such as light
filters, flash, remote shutter activation devices, etc) and when to use
a tripod to hold the camera and lens firmly for a steady shot. Lens or
camera image stabilisation technology is important as it aids the
photographer to capture 'hand held' lower shutter speed images and
especially from moving platforms, such as boats. So the image is
captured and to all accounts should be correctly exposed with the key
points in the scene, for example the foreground and the sky providing a
good balance of dynamic range.
At Stage 1, many photographers will simply use the jpeg image file that
the camera produces and have some prints made from the SD/CF card to the
standard wallet or picture frame size and invariably at that size it is
very satisfying work. Some may take it a stage further and gently tweak
their jpeg images in a software post processing package to lighten,
darken, sharpen or add just a little bit of more colour saturation
before it goes to the printer. Some may even post them on a social
website for their family and friends to view over the Internet.
Moving up to Stage 2, there are photographers who prefer to shoot in
'RAW' file image format and to post process it in a software package.
This provides them with a much greater flexibility to modify the image
to their taste and in certain cases to recover a bad image and modify it
to make it acceptable for print and display. The 'RAW' file is converted
to create a jpeg file image which is then used like Stage 1 for standard
prints and website displays. It is also preferable to use 'RAW' file
conversions to 16bit tiff files for additional editing and making
Stage 3 is where the post processing starts to play a greater and more
important role in the development of 'RAW' file images. An experienced
photographer and particularly one who is a professional and making money
out of selling prints from a Gallery or on the Internet will use PP
software at some stage with their images.
most skilled of digital photographers will encounter a scene which is
extremely difficult to capture whereby the lighting of the image is
accurate. Sometimes on such occasions, 'bracketed exposure shots' are used and the
best exposure shot is selected. Sometimes even this is not enough as the
digital camera cannot resolve the dynamic range (even using filters) and
the photographer is faced with binning the work or saving it by
blending (in software) the bracketed exposures together to create a
single 'overall exposure' image. The final effect can be substantial,
acceptable and natural. However, I feel that it is important to
differentiate between the different type of photographers in this
category and I have laid it out in a logical upward post processing
Category A Photographer
A photographer who desires that his work is kept as natural as
possible will work very reservedly with post processing software.
The original 'RAW' image that is captured will already be to a very
high standard. The photographer can take it a stage higher by
working in 16bit tiff file conversions and very carefully post
processing certain areas of the image to 'enhance' them to draw the
viewers eye and sometimes to change the 'mood' of the image to
enhance the viewing feeling. Such an image will appear very natural,
not over colour saturated and kept within the boundaries where the
viewer will raise the question...........has it been post processed
or not? Make no mistake, if a photographer is selling their images
or prints, they have to commit to post processing at this level and
it has to be professional in its appliance.
Category B Photographer
photographer who is in a similar position to the one in Category A,
will take the entire process a stage further and process a 'full
blown' High Dynamic Range image. This is where several images of
different exposure are taken of a scene or in some cases converted
from a RAW file to several different exposure jpeg
versions.........in either case they are joined together to make a
single image in special HDR software. This opens up the dynamic
range of the final image but the post processing moves up to the next level
and the final image can appear natural or in the worse case, 'overcooked' and
unnatural..........although it has to be admitted that some can move
into the realms of 'Fine Art' and look great. Usually professional photographers who
prefer working in HDR will post process their images
to 'Fine Art' and sell their images or prints on the Internet or at
a Gallery............the viewer/purchaser is left in no doubt.
Category C Photographer Finally
we have a photographer who moves WITHIN Category A and into the
realms of artistic expression. The image is dramatically alteredby using
drawing tools such as tablets/pens whereby the digital image work is
instantly 'recognised as art' as opposed to a photograph.Many 'artists' take this a stage further
and they capture the
digital image with a camera, post process it to their desired level, print it onto canvas and then draw/paint
over it whereby it becomes a painting. Some go even further and
only use the photograph as 'a visual aid' to create a separate painting.
I aspire to move into the Category A section and
I would love to be in Category C but you have to be an artist first with
the imagination and skills to take a photograph and transform it into a
'professional' painting. I am slowly moving into a 'hybrid mode' with
parts of Category A and parts of Category C. I am trying my hand at
'photographic art' without the actual painting. Please visit my
Photographic Art article and my
Photo Art Section.
Lightroom is a
relatively easy software package to get to grips with or at least in my
case, learn the basics without a manual. Adobe have an extensive help
line on their website which is well worth visiting. For more
I always try to use the camera to achieve the 'correct exposure' before
I apply post processing in computer software. If the exposure is correct
across the frame, then what I see in the view finder or LCD is what I
usually get in 'RAW' file post processing. I prefer to use filters to
balance lighting in a scene rather than use the software to artificially
apply it.........a 2 stop graduated grey filter is my favourite method
of balancing a dark foreground with a bright skyline.
I shoot all my digital images in 'RAW' file format and I now use Adobe
and a camera profile as the base to process them to tiff, jpeg and to re-size and
copyright stamp jpegs for my website. I prefer Lightroom, for although
the software is extremely powerful, I tend to use it more for the
flexibility it offers in gathering up all my 'RAW' images, my
digitally scanned 35mm film negative 'Tiffs' and sometimes camera Jpegs to work on in a single
environment and to create 'HTML' webs for my website. Using LR, I have cut my raw-jpeg conversion to website time by two thirds.
I try as much as possible to 'limit my LR post processing'
dust cleaning, saturation, brightness, sharpening/softening, noise reduction, contrast and cropping modifications.
One area that I always concentrate on is the 'dynamic range' with the
correct relationship between dark subjects and light subjects. This can
prove very difficult as the image when you first look at it may seem
perfect but one small area which has bright sun glinting off it, might
be blown and the resolution and contrast may be non existent. Finding
the correct balance with this type of image can be extremely difficult
but I try as much as possible to produce an image from the camera or at
worst - later in post processing - that is correct to the actual scene.
The main key to using Lightroom is the camera calibration profile which
sets up the base parameters pertaining to the camera you are using. I select
the (camera type).dcp and then create my presets to suit different light
conditions - thereafter, once you select a development preset - it
automatically loads the .dcp camera calibration profile.
Once the camera calibration profiles have
been properly set-up along with the 'Development Presets, it becomes a breeze to use.
A typical development preset 'base' set-up -
I install a
(camera type).dcp camera calibration profile in the Lightroom
software directory on my Personal Computer (Adobe usually provides a
.dcp to suit a new camera, when they issue a revision update or
often I can get one on forums, from 3rd parties)
When the camera
image is loaded for development in Lightroom, I select the
appropriate .dcp file in the camera calibration section and the
image will assume the characteristics of the profile and the colours.
For example a Panasonic GF1 profile might be called GF1.dcp and very
often as in the case of a Canon camera, I might get variants of the
profile - Neutral, Standard, etc.
I create a
Lightroom Base PRE-SET to work with - which should have the minimum
settings adjusted, saturation, brightness, contrast, etc, to suit my
taste and most importantly, I zero all the noise and sharpness
settings - I could call the PRESET - GF1 Base for
a Panasonic GF1 camera. When making this Base Pre-set, I invariably
zoom the image to full size to examine more closely the relevant
settings and their effects. Especially the noise and sharpening
settings. I save my preset in a subdirectory rather than in beside
the Lightroom Development Presets (supplied in the software)
Once a Base
Pre-set has been created for a particular camera, I can then open up
the camera image and simply load it's Base Pre-set in Lightroom,
which loads all the base settings and the camera calibration .dcp
From there, I can
make more adjustments to suit prior to finally developing the image
into a jpeg and/or tiff format. I can also from any extended
adjustments, make more pre-sets, Landscape 1, Landscape 2, Portrait
1, Indoors Low Light, etc.
Once I have
created many types of pre-sets from the BASE master, I can pick one
to suit the image, I am working on, or if need be - use the nearest
and make further adjustments.
Adobe Lightroom - Web
I can create a main directory (e.g.
Istanbul) put my RAWs, scanned Tiffs and camera Jpegs into a sub directory (called Original Images) or
individually into separate directories each bearing a catalogue number, create a Lightroom 'Istanbul' Catalogue in the main Istanbul directory, import
the files for development into this catalogue in Lightroom, save my titles, captions and all other
metadata to the images, develop and convert/create jpegs, tiffs (rename
images if required) to sub directories off the main Istanbul directory. I also use Lightroom
for resolving images that are heavily distorted and for all my night
'RAW' image conversions.
I can also output different styles of Lightroom Webs into sub directories
off the main Istanbul directory and copy them for linking into my main
website. The web output is great because now I can
pre-set my web development to display title, caption, metadata settings
and any copyright pre-set under and on the images. A Lightroom web
directory consists of the stored re-sized jpeg image data and a main
index.html file that you link to to start the web, which in reality is a
sub web of the main website. I usually start a LR web in another window
so that the original page is left open for returning to.
'HTML' Web examples of GF1 images -
Istanbul Lightroom Web and
National Museum of Scotland Gallery.
I now create Lightroom HTML webs as they take up
much less data capacity and are easier to work with. I used to create
'flash' webs but they consumed far to much data space as they required 3
different sizes of files to work on all sizes of screens.
My Own Plate Web Galleries
I also create my own plates for my Main
'Plate' Gallery Webs and I can still use Lightroom to develop my RAW,
and Jpeg files to create web ready and resized jpeg images
stamped with metadata as well as permanently stamp a copyright
directly onto the image. The only provision is that the conversion must
be saved in sRGB format to display the correct colours on my internet
web. I have also found a quirk in that if I apply sharpening with any
other (non Adobe) software package to a Lightroom image, I have to
ensure that the new jpeg file is inserted into my web with the correct .jpg
or .JPG to match the original hyperlink as my website is CASE type
I have started to change my Stock image
webs to Lightroom 'HTML' Webs, especially all the webs that pertain to
work in the UK and to which images are added to on a regular basis. This
is reducing the data capacity on my internet web and freeing up more
space for more images.
Adobe Lightroom Software - Web
All my Lightroom HTML webs are created straight out of Lightroom with
'standard sharpness' applied and the images are not re-sharpened. As
well as creating a web from Lightroom you can also create a re-sized
single jpeg for using in an article to link to.............for those
single images that I display in my articles at 1,000 Pixel size, I very
often re-sharpen them for the web using Canon DPP Software but there is
no noise reduction applied.
Web images often lose their 'pop' when re-sized for the web and a good
software package can be used to 'sharpen' the re-sized image by viewing
it at web size and gently bringing 'back' the sharpness without bringing
up the noise. I tend to overdo the sharpening at times but people have
different tastes regarding sharpness and even noise.
Moving Lightroom Catalogues - Data - Webs
Using the above techniques, I can move the main Istanbul directory around my drive or other
drives and load the Lightroom Catalogue Name 'Istanbul' into Lightroom to
re-start at anytime.
In a scale of 1-10 for Lightroom expertise, I am probably at 5. It is an
extremely powerful software package but I understand the professionals
tend to take it a stage further and use Adobe CS software to take their
RAW to 16bit tiff converted files from Lightroom to CS for an even
higher level of post processing.
Adobe Lightroom - Image Recovery Test
Some time ago I did an experiment with Lightroom when I used one of my
REJECT raw files and tried to RECOVER it as best I could. You can use
this link to jump to the
Guilty of Lazy Photography
I can......at times......be guilty of 'lazy' photography but as I move forward, I
continually strive to take more time in my preparation and my appliance
in capturing the moment and to reduce my RAW conversion post processing
to the absolute minimum......... unfortunately, I do have the odd
Adobe Lightroom Software is available for
download - You require to sign in
or if you are new to Adobe you will have to register.
on Lightroom 'New
Features' from Adorama -