Why We “Process” Our Photos

After (L) and Before (R)

Often, a non-photographer will ask me if I “Photoshop” my photos. My answer is usually something like “I don’t use Photoshop, but I do process my photos.” The follow up is usually some version of “why.”

As we photographers know, cameras today give us lots of latitude for exposure adjustments, which is what I use the most, along with straightening horizons (a lot!), removing dust spots (almost as much!), cropping, contrast & saturation adjustment, and more. And while it is possible to get way beyond reality, I tend to try – as we all do – to improve upon reality just a bit.

After (L) and Before (R)

Ansel Adams is credited with the words β€œDodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” A bit modest, perhaps, but that pretty much summarizes – with a bit of humor – what we do and why.

After (L) and Before (R)

Here are 4 photos I made at the summit of Haleakala that show what I mean. The ideal time to get even lighting in the crater is when the sun is directly overhead. But that unfortunately is one of the hardest conditions to photograph anything else! So I did my best to counteract the highlights and shadows in order to bring everything back to what my eye was able to perceive.

After (L) and Before (R)

6 thoughts on “Why We “Process” Our Photos”

  1. And, you did a wonderful job, even without Photoshop. I am like you and Lightroom is my only processing tool. I do use Silver Efex Pro 2 for black and white conversion. I also true to keep things as close to natural as possible. When nature did not give me the blue enough sky I have been know to add a hint of blue.

    1. I should try Silver Efex for black & white, because I am seldom happy with my conversions in Lightroom. Mostly, I suppose, because I’ve never really “seen” in black & white and never really developed an eye for the aesthetic.

      Yes, sometimes the sky does need a little “help!” πŸ˜‰

  2. Great examples. Personally, I have never liked the term “process.” It reminds me too much of “processed cheese” or “processed chicken.” πŸ™‚ So I use *develop* instead.

    1. I’ve always associated the term “develop” exclusively with film and considered it somewhat pretentious when used in the digital realm. But they’re both better to me than the use of “edit,” which in my opinion is misused as a description of the act of image optimization, whatever you choose to call it!

      1. I’ve used ‘edit’ for a long time and in my defense I present Webster’s third definition of ‘edit’:

        c) to alter, adapt, or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard or to suit a particular purpose
        Now, I’d agree if falls pretty low on the definition level but I may be too in my ways to change πŸ™‚

        I do agree with how you feel about ‘develop’ and I have used ‘process’ but I think most often I fall into ‘edit’.

        1. I can’t remember an outside influence on my use of the word, but have just gotten in the habit of using “process” so it feels right to me. But whatever you want to call “doing stuff to your photos” works for me! πŸ˜‰

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