The Before & After of a Photograph

Post-processing continues to be very a delicate topic because there’s the defense in how too much of it can potentially take away from the essence of a photograph.

Some say a photo is not “real” if it’s been post-processed and it’s lately being over used as a substitute for great technique. Is there really an acceptable limit to how much processing you should be doing and if so, who defines how much is acceptable?

Professional photographer Dave Hill has a distinct way for processing his photographs and it’s been the combination of his expertise and post technique that’s set him apart. Is it too much? You be the judge.

For me, the whole process from planning, to shooting, to post-processing are all integral parts of self-expression. What’s going to ultimately cause viewers to have a positive or negative reaction to your work is the photographs themselves.

What do I do to achieve a certain look and feel for a photograph is among the most common questions I receive. My straightforward answer is that I used Lightroom for managing and enhancing any photograph that may require it. Burning, dodging and tonal control were all a standard MO for professional photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston in the darkroom.

2 years ago, Preset Heaven had a contest where they made available a couple of presets from the folks at Wonderland and whomever made best use of it on one of their photos would win the entire collection of 176 presets valued at $39.99. I was among 3 top winners and those have been the ones I’ve been using since then.

The thing to remember about presets is that there’s never been a moment where I’ve applied one preset to an entire collection of photographs without having to tweak colors, white balance, brightness or contrast. Everything’s a matter of experimentation.

Before and after shots is a popular way of giving a glimpse of what a photo was like upon capture to how it was eventually shown to you. I wanted to take this time in applying this very concept with this photo I took in China Town of a woman shopping in the local market.

Market Shopping

In case you’re reading this via an RSS, I suggest visiting the actual site and click on the photo to see the before look. I’ve boosted the color and contrast to merely enhance what my eyes saw but camera failed to capture.