What’s in a name?
The terminology of image adjustment is anything but consistent. We can all agree that it starts with converting a RAW image file into a viewable image that looks better than the original capture in some way, but there’s ample room for confusion in terms of what exactly goes on at what stage. For the reasons given below, I prefer to use ‘processing’ for what many call ‘editing’.
Processing: this involves converting a RAW file to a TIFF or JPEG, while at the same time adjusting its colour, tone and contrast (with a few other qualities) to your preference, using a RAW processing engine such as Adobe’s ACR. Processing stops short of manipulation of content.
Editing: can be widely used to mean exactly the same as processing, but is also often used professionally to mean something completely different – the process of choosing between images and making selections for use, which is what picture editors on magazines do.
Post-processing: a term borrowed from video, this can mean either the same as processing, or it could refer to the manipulation stages after processing using a RAW converter.
Post-production: a term borrowed from the motion picture industry, this is also open to interpretation. It can mean either processing plus the manipulation stages that follow this, or just the steps after processing.