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06-21-2015, 08:19 AM - 1 Like   #1
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A question about post production vs actual image captured.

I mean absolutely no disrespect with the following questions.

Having come from a film background I still shoot with the same plodding, careful, conservative rhythm that I developed behind a film camera. I take my time, make adjustments, and try to make every click of the shutter count. My objective is to capture exactly what is in front of the camera so that I can revisit a memory or share a moment of something that I thought was interesting enough to photograph.

I have never used a software program to change or improve my pictures because I've never thought it was necessary, but I realize that most photographers use Lightroom or some other post production software, which always makes me wonder; what was actually in front of the lens when the image was captured and what was added or improved upon later? How much of the abilities of the camera are demonstrated in a given image considering what can be accomplished in post? What am I actually looking at when I see an image that has been altered in post? Could I expect to see the same thing if I had been there when the image was taken?

Maybe I'm asking my question from an outdated philosophy regarding photography, I'm willing to concede that.

Last edited by ghostdog; 06-21-2015 at 08:31 AM.
06-21-2015, 08:33 AM - 2 Likes   #2

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Most people only do exposure and color edits in post, not the "oh I'll just add Obama here" aspect of "photoshopping". Actually, most usual edits were possible in the darkroom already.

Keep in mind that what you're seeing is just what the camera or software settings produced anyway. You can tweak those settings to your liking, you can set them up for later editing or you can shoot in a raw format that you'll have to edit/convert later.
06-21-2015, 08:36 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by ghostdog Quote
Maybe I'm asking my question from an outdated philosophy regarding photography. I'm willing to concede that.
I'm not picking on you, but, yes...yes, you are. When I came kicking and screaming into digital photography, I was one of those long-time slide shooters who believed that the image as captured in-camera was the ultimate. I actually enjoyed having to work within the boundaries of the dynamic range of whatever slide film I used and being forced to compose within the restrictions of the frame. However...I grudgingly came to accept the infinite possibilities afforded through digital PP. Our values were fine in the film age, but the rules have changed. It's as simple as that. Just know that, in the end, what makes a great photo hasn't really changed. And 99.9% of that is going to happen at the time of capture...same as it ever was.
06-21-2015, 08:41 AM   #4
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Did you ever dodge and burn a film image?

06-21-2015, 08:52 AM - 1 Like   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by JinDesu Quote
Did you ever dodge and burn a film image?

It depends upon what a film person shot. Slides? No...never. What you shot is what you got.

Edited to add: I think it is somewhat fitting that this conversation was started in the Ricoh GR bin because the GR is all about shooting within restrictions since it's a fixed-focal-length camera.
06-21-2015, 08:55 AM - 1 Like   #6

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There are a multitude of posts scattered throughout the forums addressing this topic... and lots of opinions. In short, there is a "software program" inside your camera that develops the image, and it is not designed to be perfectly true-to-life. And really, it is the same with film. Each film has its own color and contrast characteristics, and of course lens coatings also impact the color and contrast of your images.

I don't think post-production software "expands" the capabilities of your camera. Digital cameras are inherently a meld of hardware + software. If you shoot JPG, you are using the development sensibilities of a group of Ricoh engineers. If you shoot RAW, you are (mostly) using your own development sensibilities. Either way is fine, as long as it meets your requirements.
06-21-2015, 09:07 AM - 1 Like   #7
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As a former and, not a very good slide user, an even worse B/W film user, I bought my first SLR (Ricoh XR-P.) Then I joined a local camera club. A chap there who was a very keen B/W artist took me under his wing. The best thing he did was show me some prints from Ansel Adams. One look at these and any reservations about post processing vanished.

If it was good enough for Adams to post process then there is no argument. There are just different tools. Digital brings the possibilities within the range of mere mortals like me and I still have a long way to go..

That said. there is still much to the arts of composition, and exposure, that no amount of skill in post processing, digital or otherwise can compensate for.
06-21-2015, 09:22 AM - 1 Like   #8

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If you've ever printed in the darkroom, you wouldn't be thinking these thoughts because it is just a transfer of that process to the computer world, although certainly the possibilities for change are much greater and some things are total digital fabrications which only really matter in news/documentary photos where you are "telling the truth" with your photos, at least in terms of people, places, events, objects, etc. (But "the camera doesn't lie" is a lie -- it ALWAYS lies in some aspects.)

So there never has been "true to life" capture of what's in front of the camera and there never will be. Even with slides -- if the world really looked like Kodachrome, I mean wow. How about black & white? Isn't that unreal? If you want to get really esoteric, consider that the world doesn't exist "in color" at all, it is just our eyes being sensitive to a certain narrow set of wavelengths of a much greater electromagnetic spectrum. And lenses all have some distortion, etc etc.

Anyway, with digital there is "leave it to the camera/computer" to do it for me, or use your helping hand to guide it where you like. But there is always post-processing or there is no image to see...

06-21-2015, 09:45 AM - 1 Like   #9

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What film did you use? Black and white, what Iso, which color film did you like for its color rendering? What tricks were applied when processing to add contrast, bring out the colors, fix blown highlights, bring up the dark sections? Did you trim with scissors a large print?

It isn't that much different. Yes you can do much more, but essentially you get the equivalent to a chemical exposed to light and create an image from it. The digital camera gets an indication of light levels from a semiconductor, some indication of color from an ingenious series of small lenses, then software puts it all together into an image. It allows you to do things for far less cost, as well as take far more shots to capture the precise moment.

Your care in setting up the shot will give you results in digital, but many of your habits were forced upon you by the technology. Careful metering with a grey card and light meter? Why not take a sample shot and look at it, and adjust from there? You can do it instantly at almost no cost. You needed to carefully select the moment to shoot because you had a roll of film and maybe an extra one, which cost money to process. Now you have a 32gb card waiting to be filled, so take shots and select the best moment afterwards. You may be surprised at the unexpected looks or details you didn't see until looking at the shots afterwards.

This week I had an opportunity to watch a bird species that isn't very common around here. An hour drive up a mountain road. Over three visits to the location I took maybe 800 shots. A friend took about the same number. We captured then eating, passing food to a young, flying, posing for a portrait. I have a series where it has an insect in its beak, it tosses it's head back and swallows. That sequence would have been a roll of film on a body with motor drive.

The whole adventure would have required national geographic budgets during the film era. The action as typical in these situations was spotty. Nothing then lots of action. With film one of us would have been loading, the other shooting. And a third financing.

Almost everything you learned when shooting film applies to digital. The difference is the removal of so many limitations.

Interestingly, in researching this species two researchers are referenced. Both before digital, and in their papers they drew pictures of certain characteristics. Photos were expensive and very hard to produce at the time. Those same characteristics are clear in multiple photos that showed up in a Google image search.
06-21-2015, 09:49 AM - 1 Like   #10
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As with film photography, the "actual image" is the product of what you do with what the camera captures. In regards to film photography, Ansel Adams is widely quoted with an example drawn from the musician's perspective,

The negative is the score, the print the performance...
Is a "straight print" from a film negative or a transparency using box speed and standard development more "authentic" than an intentionally exposed and processed exposure transformed to a well-made enlargement by a master print maker? Is an in-camera JPEG more real or genuine than one generated by a person skilled with PP tools? Is a hybrid (film/digital) workflow tainted by the means used to generate a print?


Last edited by stevebrot; 06-21-2015 at 09:59 AM.
06-21-2015, 10:08 AM - 1 Like   #11
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What a great bunch of thoughtful answers. I really appreciate all of them. I appreciate the Ansel Adams reference, too. I've been to the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite. I've seen what you are referring to.

So, it sounds like a light hand can be used with post, but I have to imagine a heavy hand can be used as well. I have seen many images that ended up looking more like a painting or a fantasy. I guess it's about degree, intent and personal integrity.
06-21-2015, 10:13 AM   #12
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There are simply no great photographers from 1950 on, who didn't post process. Not one. It depends completely on what you're going for. DO you want an average image or a great image?
06-21-2015, 10:22 AM   #13

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QuoteOriginally posted by ghostdog Quote
So, it sounds like a light hand can be used with post, but I have to imagine a heavy hand can be used as well. I have seen many images that ended up looking more like a painting or a fantasy. I guess it's about degree, intent and personal integrity.
It is not about personal integrity unless you willfully misrepresent something important to the context of where/how the image is to be used and you present it as having been the "way it appears" (in those important aspects) in real life, i.e. news & documentary photos that are intended to be relied upon for "objective" historical information. But for anything else, if you want to use a heavy hand and make it look like fantasy, there is nothing wrong with that from a moral perspective. And from an aesthetic one, there is no accounting for taste...
06-21-2015, 01:02 PM   #14
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Post processing is not only about altering the look.
Using raw and when the scene dynamic range permits it, one often exposes more than needed and then adjusts. This results in significantly less noise (called expose to the right).
06-21-2015, 02:28 PM   #15
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I think the thing is that you can't really view RAW files by themselves. It is just the raw data that the camera sensor sees. It needs to be converted then to some sort of file that is viewable. You can do that with a variety of programs or, you can do it in the camera, but wherever it is done, it is "post processing." As you say, you can choose to do so with a heavy hand, or you can do it with relatively neutral settings. In a sense it is all about choices. Some people do get pretty extreme with their processing, doing pretty strong HDR photos and things like that.

My opinion has always been that if I have taken a good photo, then it is worth working on it a little bit after the fact.

This is an example of a waterfall photo I took not too long ago.

First is the shot processed with completely neutral settings from the DNG file in Lightroom:

The second is with some sharpening and highlight recovery (using a program called Color Efex Pro).

The change isn't super-impressive maybe, but it is enough that I do it. On normal shots, out of camera jpegs are probably fine. I find that out of camera jepgs give me trouble with scenes with really wide dynamic range or are really dark (there are a lot of programs that process noise better than the camera does).

This is straight of camera:


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