I was recently asked how much work I do on my photos after taking them before I post them… ie post production work.
This isn’t a particularly easy question to answer. If I shot my photos as Jpeg files, ie .jpg after the file name, then a lot of work would have already gone into making the photos look nice. In my case a nice chap at Canon would have decided what sharpness, contrast, colour saturation, white balance, clarity, etc makes a nice photo and he has programmed my camera to use all his neat algorithms on every photo. All I might need to do is crop and tweak a bit! If you are a photographer and shoot Jpeg photos then your camera will do the same except Mr Fuji, Sony, Nikon, Panasonic or whoever, will have done it instead!
However, I don’t shoot Jpegs. This is because Jpegs compress the photo into a nice small, neat file and a lot of the information that might otherwise be available to me is lost. Also, Mr Canon isn’t looking over my shoulder or in my brain when I press the shutter button so he doesn’t know exactly what result I am looking for. He makes a guess and, to be fair, he usually guesses pretty well even though Japan is miles and miles away from where I am taking my picture! I shoot in RAW which gives me an unprocessed image to play with and I decide what settings I want to apply to it. I individually tweak and massage each shot I publish to get the best from it and to try to replicate what was in my mind when I hit the shutter button.
There are lots of programmes out there which will allow a photographer to make their own RAW conversions and a lot of cameras come with some software that allows you to do just that. I, however, use Adobe Lightroom which acts as both a library and a photo conversion programme. When I download an image it appears in a basic form and I then set to work.
Here are a few examples of before and after.
The before shot needed a bit of cropping to get rid of some distractions left and right so I changed the format to a 4×5 and cropped in a bit. My subject looked a bit dark under his brolly so I lightened that area whilst toning down the areas around. I tweaked the saturation, clarity and tones of the image, give it a little vignetting and voila!
Another image that needed a little tweaking was this one.
Just about everything was there… the dark foreground with Elizabeth’s Tower nicely lit up behind. However, I had too much roof to the right and wanted to bring things in a bit tighter. In my eye the image suited a square crop which emphasised the framing effect that the roof ornamentations gave. Then I wanted to emphasise the brightness and colour of the clock tower compared with the dull, plain roof in front. Finally, I wanted to give the sky just a little detail so it wasn’t completely bland.
Since a lot of my work is done photographing dogs then I should perhaps include an example of one from my latest shoot at Savill Gardens.
This is a nice action shot of a Vizzy playing with its owner. I liked the hand to eye line as the dog concentrates on the chance of a pat or a treat perhaps. The shot needed tightening up, the white tent was a little distracting as was the bright blue of the jeans. I had no room to move upwards but there was plenty I could loose from the bottom and right sides. The day was dull so the contrast needed raising as did the colours (specifically the orange shades of the ginger ninja)!
Cropping to a 4×5 had the benefit of putting the subject closer to the ideal position in the frame. The toning down of the white tent helped, as did moving the jeans to the edge of the frame. Vignetting darkened the edges of the frame, highlighting the subject and now this was a good image to put into the gallery.
To apply this kind of detail to every image I put into my galleries takes time and effort. A lot of photographers might just post proofs and only work on images that their customers want to buy. For me it is a matter of pride that I don’t want an image to be seen if it isn’t my best work.