Why You Should Post Process Your Photographs
A good photograph is usually clicked in the mind’s eye even before the camera is picked up in your hands. The camera only materializes what was already conceived in the intangible. But has it truly reproduced what you set out to capture?
No one can tell how good a photographer you are by looking at the camera that hangs from the neck, but only by the final image you produced using it.
If your camera has not produced the output you expected, do not despair! Let post processing come to your rescue.
What is Post Processing and what does it cover?
While having a good camera, lens and other photography equipment maximizes the likelihood of getting good pictures, external factors like weather, topography of the shooting location, natural features of the subject, etc. could result in an output that is less than satisfactory.
Even if the photo by itself is good, it needs to fulfill the purpose for which it was composed. If it does not, then you need to tweak it using photo editing software like Photoshop, Lightroom, or a similar program.
Post processing covers the gamut of photo editing tasks like creating cutouts using clipping paths, photo retouching, color correction, color masking, adding/removing a background, working with shadows and reflections, mixing two or more photos to create effects, photo stitching, etc.
Which way you need to edit your photo will depend on what you want to achieve with it.
Reasons for post processing your photographs
Making product images marketable. In genres like product or jewelry photography, the object is usually photographed to be marketed without using props or aids. Unlike in fashion photos, where a model poses in an outfit to portray it, here the product or jewelry must stand on its own merit; ex. a sports bottle or a pair of shoes.
This means you need to get rid of other elements in the picture to draw attention exclusively to it and make the product look as attractive as you can.
Photo editing techniques like clipping path to create cutouts, adding reflections and controlling shadows, removing or changing the background and base on which the product rests, etc. can help you showcase the product in a favorable light.
For instance, if you want to show a range of t-shirts of different colors in a single image, all you need is a cutout of one t-shirt and then change its color to the desired colors. Then simply combine them in the desired pattern to form a composite image, ready for publishing on an e-commerce site.
Removing imperfections and enhancing the photo. In the case of fashion and portrait photography, the presence of one or more persons makes it necessary to review the photo for any blemishes, color aberrations or other imperfections that need to be removed.
Depending on your client’s preferences, a portrait photo can have natural imperfections like moles or strands of hair over the forehead to give a natural look, but may still need other work like skin tone adjustment, smoothing out of crumples in the clothing, removing dust particles in the hair, etc.
When it comes to fashion photos though, the parameters are pretty stringent. So if you are clicking pictures of a model, you need post processing to touch up their facial features and get rid of a weary look in their eyes, add sparkle to the pupil, remove or reduce freckles, erase unwanted strands of hair, correct the color of the skin and clothing to give the desired look, etc.
The model and the fashion attire they’re carrying are expected to look close to perfect. Even for jewelry photographs, you might need to enhance its color or sheen, besides performing other photo editing tasks.
Completing the photography process. In contrast to what we discussed above, certain types of photography preclude the need for post processing.
For instance, to create a panorama photo (ex. of a sightseeing spot), you need to stitch together multiple images, each aligned with the preceding and succeeding one to create a 360 degree panorama photograph. You might also need to enhance the image by applying color correction or adjusting the contrast and brightness.
Another example is when you have clicked a series of photos of an object (ex. earrings) with the focus on different parts of the object in each successive photo. In post processing, you will need to stitch together all these photos to make a composite so that it looks like the entire image was focused on to start with.
This method of photography is called the focus stacking technique. In both these cases, post processing is necessary in order to complete the photography process and produce even a basic version of the picture.
This, of course, just skims the surface of post processing. Due to the intricacies of photo editing techniques, professional photographers often prefer to leave the post processing job to digital artists skilled in Photoshop or other software programs.
But whether you’re looking to post-process your images yourself or hire a specialist, it pays to have at least a basic hands-on knowledge of photo editing. This will help you understand the different ways you can portray the subject using the same photograph.
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Sachin Ghodke is a publishing pro with a passion for photography. He works as Senior Vice President with Powerweave Studio, an offshore digital solutions provider. With nearly two decades of experience in concept, design, pre-press and production, and a discerning photographer’s eye, he finds time to ride his motorcycle across the country.
Image by Szczebrzeszynski [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons