Processing with purpose
Every image deserves to be treated on its own merits and according to its particular needs, to bring out the best of its qualities and stay true to its original purpose
The main purpose of most processing is to do full justice to the RAW image file. This contains much more tonal information than can ever be reproduced in print or on a normal screen, which its why the RAW processing stage is so important, particularly for difficult images, such as those with a very high dynamic range. For most images, the default is simply to optimise it, which means preparing a TIFF from the RAW file in a such a way that it looks the way most viewers would expect it to.
A step up from that is applying more skill and more techniques to really make the most of the image, in ways that may seem small to the casual viewer, but which from a professional point of view can enhance or reduce different areas and/or subjects within the frame. This detailed, thoughtful adjustment almost inevitably means doing it locally, for which the radial filter in Lightroom and Photoshop, tweaked with a brush, is invaluable.
In The case for local change [see page 80], the image has had considerable local adjustment work done, yet it still appears ‘normal’. If you keep a purpose to your processing, it means always assessing the RAW image before you begin to adjust. When you assess, think first of what you had expected or wanted when you shot the image. How close does it look to this original idea? Next, look at it objectively, as if you were coming to it fresh, without preconceptions. Are its image qualities all as expected?
With this three-quarter backlit shot, local adjustment with radial filters maintained contrast in selected areas, while emphasising the tobacco smoke – the moment of the shot was timed to backlight the smoke against the shadows in the doorway