Instead of playing with all those sliders, why not first sit and think what you want your hard-won image to look like?
Our resident expert explores the whys, rather than the hows, of processing
Processing (some call it editing, but see the sidebar on page 79 for why I use this word) has a special role in photography. It used to be simpler and cruder, but now there are so many different possibilities and such sophistication in the competing software that there are arguably too many choices. The result is confusion as to what images ought to look like. I see two kinds of bad processing regularly: one is a simple failure to bring the best out of an image; the other is over-processing, meaning exaggerated contrast, colour, local contrast and more. Here I want to promote a solution to all of this – the idea of processing with a well-defined purpose. It should neither be a boring duty nor a chance to play around. To be effective, your processing needs to follow your shooting and stick to the ideas you had at the time of shooting.
Moreover – and this may surprise you – it should never be a creative activity. If that sounds dogmatic and controversial, consider what your primary creative medium is. If you see yourself as a photographer, then your creativity is inevitably concentrated on the moment of shooting, the capture. It’s perfectly legitimate, of course, to broaden your ‘job description’, and if you see yourself as a creator of images by any means, then you are really a photo-illustrator. As a photo-illustrator, you can be as fanciful and imaginative as you like, and make full use of all the possibilities in Photoshop and other image-editing software, and yes, be creative during the processing.
But if you are first and foremost a photographer, the camera is where the creative action lies. It isn’t compatible to try to be creative in two places – shooting and processing. For photographers, processing is a craft. It’s a very important one, and one that can take years to perfect, but nevertheless it’s a craft, subordinate to the actual photography.
I knew I wanted a flared sun in this shot to animate it and add a sense of just coming across this street scene, so I anticipated that in processing I would need to retain the blown highlights, and recover details in the shade unprocessed
Our globetrotting Contributor at Large, renowned photographer and prolific author Michael Freeman, presents a monthly masterclass that’s exclusive to
N-Photo. Michael has published dozens of books on photography, including the bestselling PerfectExposure. processed