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The Importance of Post-Production In Photography

  • Tutorials
  • 18/03/17

“Post-Production” are two words that bring with them big debate in the photography world. How much post production do you practise? Is the image fake if you use post production? Are you a better photographer if everything is done inside the camera?

Let’s face it, post production is an integrated part of the creative process. Many who are starting out in photography don’t realise it, but post-production has been used since the beginning of photography. The old masters spent many hours and days in the darkroom to achieve the fantastic results that they are now known for. The difference being that today we might use local adjustments of shadow and highlights, whereas those masters would have employed traditional darkroom techniques such as dodging and burning.

Look at this great example of the amazing Richard Avedon’s photo, Notes to his Printer, where he marks areas to be dodged and burned in the darkroom printing process.

So what are we using instead of the darkroom? Lightroom and Photoshop, both Adobe. There is other software out there, but honestly, you will get exactly what you want from these two and they work hand in hand. Lightroom can be used on your mobile too.

Naturally, we as photographers aim to do as much as possible in-camera. We use our manual settings to the best of our ability, but there are times that we just cannot achieve what exactly we want or we are photographing in RAW (this is an unprocessed file unlike a JPEG where in camera adjustments are made), and so must make adjustments in post-production, later.

Warning! We have all done this. Post-production is sometimes all too exciting and you can change so much that you might feel like you are simply working your way down the menu and adjusting everything! Aghhhh

That is just not necessary, you will find your style even within post production…. eventually. Time and practice. You are developing your eye and don’t be surprised if you look back to images you worked on a year ago in dismay!

Even with Lightroom & Photoshop, LESS IS MORE!

The key is to use post-production to enhance the idea behind the photograph and to understand it as a creative tool. For example, reduce the contrast for an intimate series of portraits or increase the contrast if you want to catch the viewers eye with a spectacular shot.

This is time-consuming, of course, and adds an extra amount of work to the process. If you are working for a client, this needs to be budgeted in to the price. Every image needs to be checked and if necessary adjusted for brightness, contrast, saturation and colour. No matter if you work in the darkroom or not, you can use Photoshop or Lightroom for this.

There is a big crossover between the programs. Lightroom allows viewing, organising and the retouching of a large number of digital images, and its edits are non-destructive, while Photoshop allows you to manipulate in layers with a selection of tools, adjustments and filters. They can work together or separately, and at the London Institute of Photography we offer fantastic Photoshop and Lightroom courses that will allow you to achieve a professional level.

If you are using the programs together and photographing in RAW, you would start in Lightroom, organise your images, and then open in Photoshop where you can edit then save them back in Lightroom if you want to make a slideshow or a book, or in Photoshop if you are sending them to print. Some photographers only use Lightroom, others only use Photoshop, other consistently use both. We’ll make sure you know what works best for you.

Want to find out more about photography courses in London? Contact the London Institute of Photography today!