Updated: Oct 17, 2020
There’s nothing to be ashamed about – even the very best photographers do some post-processing (aka ‘post-production’ or ‘editing’). Ansel Adams, for one, used to spend days on end in his darkroom perfecting his prints. Tonight’s online meeting was a chance to get advice on different aspects of editing and to find out more about the variety of software available. We had six live examples of editing/post production.
However good your camera, you sometimes find there’s a big disjunction between what the camera has ‘seen’ and what you saw when you took your photo. Post-processing can help you enhance the result from your camera, so that the image looks far more like how you remember your original subject.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of erasing dust spots and lens smears or straightening up the horizon, but most pictures benefit from some extra tweaking. Tonight, we saw five software programs demonstrated by our own members: Lightroom, Photoshop, Luminar 4, DXO PhotoLab and Aurora HDR.
I guess most people learn to use their preferred software by playing with it and a good dose of trial and error. Eventually, people tend to establish their own modus operandi. Brian C revealed his own standard workflow and the way he had reordered the options on the right-hand side of the screen in Lightroom to reflect this.
Editing each photo, for competitions or your own satisfaction, can absorb quite a lot of time. As Dave S remarked, these were only quick demos and normally he would take much more trouble to perfect his pictures. And, as Brian C showed, even when you’ve kept a record of the tweaks you have made, sometimes the edits are so subtle that it’s not possible to completely reproduce them over again.
There are dozens of different ways of achieving essentially the same thing, either by using different software or by using different tools within the same software. We discovered that some of our members swear by the use of ‘Layers’ in Photoshop; others swear at ‘Layers’! Some enjoy adjusting the ‘tone curve’, adding contrast, for example, by creating an ‘S’ shaped curve; others prefer to use sliders to arrive at a similar effect. The choice is up to you! One caveat - some software is more forgiving– Lightroom, for instance, is completely non-destructive of your original image. Whereas you have to be careful not to overwrite your original file in certain other software.
Some aspects of post-processing can be largely automated. Or, at least, automation can get you very close to how you want your picture to look and then you can take over and add some final refinement of your own. David A demonstrated how well Aurora HDR can extend the dynamic range of photos. Presets and LUTs can instantly give your photo a completely new look. LUTs change colour and tone to give a cinematic look, while Presets adjust a wider range of settings. Chris R took us through a series of LUT effects, to enhance his demo image, before settling on one called ‘Los Angeles’. He also demonstrated the ‘sky replacement’ tool in Luminar 4, though this needs to be used sparingly if it’s not to look unnatural! AI is creeping into most post-processing software now. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing – I guess it depends how you use it.
Of course, not everyone has the cash to splash out on expensive post-processing software, especially if you’re only just beginning to dip your toes in the water of photography. But it’s worth mentioning that there is also some very good free software out there. For instance, there’s Snapseed for smartphones, iPads and tablets (Android & iOS downloads). Or there’s FastStone image viewer & editor for PCs (free shareware, though it’s only fair to make a small donation). Either of these will enable you to do some reasonably sophisticated editing without buying into expensive software – and help your pictures turn out how you originally envisaged them!
Thank you, Brian, Dave S, Chris R & David A for your excellent demos and for, potentially, expanding our post-processing toolkits!