Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Post Processing - do you hate it ??

I do not. For a long time I wanted to write on it - why I do not. And today I just saw a post in INW by Vijay 'Is Post Processing a bad word? '

Well, many nature photographers have written their views on it there - just read the thread to get those. But as ever it is probably an endless debate. And as I got the chance to contribute my two cents, didn't miss it.

But originally it was due in this blog.... so publishing my thought here also :

I can't add anything new to this debate.... just want to write a few words and give an example :

In film medium also, there are three main steps towards picture making -
1. Composing the frame or seeing (visualizing) the frame
2. Capturing the frame using camera with proper settings and with proper attachments (filters etc)
3. Developing and Printing, with/without manipulation - to convert the picture to viewable format.

Now first two processes are more or less the same for digital also and the third has been named as 'Post Processing'. Whoever hate 'post processing' do they also hate the third step and so many manipulation methods in printing too?? Then they should not say that they hate 'Post Processing' rather they should say it's the 'image manipulation' that they hate. Using a GND filter or a Yellow filter in taking landscape shots should also be considered as manipulation of the natural view - just at a hardware level, though not by using any software. But then the question is whether one is against the manipulation or against the way used for manipulation?? I myself am not against the manipulation.... coz I believe in the quote already quoted by Sudhir, my photograph need not be the reality - but how I want to show it to the viewer. If we go to one step back - what is a natural view?? Then the answer would be what we see with our naked eye. So if one wants to show the natural view captured, he/she should always use the same focal length as of our eye lens (as we all know zooming is not equivalent to seeing the frame from a closer distance, the perspective changes when we zoom and when we approach nearer to the subject) and always use the same shutter speed as the time taken by our brain to see an image. Capturing a silky smooth water flow using slow shutter speed is also not a 'natural view'. So a bit of manipulation is already embedded in step 2 of the above list.

And finally I don’t see post processing as a tool to make a bad picture good - rather it is to help one to extract the picture what he/she wants to show to the viewer. For me, I like to show the beauty of nature through my photographs and I believe that nature is so beautiful that I can not make it any better even with all of my creativity skills poured into it. So I post-process my captured RAW image files to make it look more like the 'original' beauty in nature.

Here goes one example :

Few days back I shot a Hover Fly and for that I didn't have proper lighting equipment - any dedicated flash. Used the on body pop-up flash and so got a few reflections as highlight on its body. Those highlights affect the image a lot. I did some post-processing but could not extract out what I wanted to show - the beautiful Hover fly without those reflections and hot-spots. Later Sudhir gave me few tips on the post-processing and I got a better result - much closer to what I like to display. Finally I tried with some different settings and I feel I got exactly what I wanted from that shot. Attaching all three of them here.

1. The image without much post-processing or rather without proper post-processing

2. The image post-processed with Sudhir's tips

3. Finally what I got after a few more attempts

Probably the example explains well why I do support post processing and how it helps me to get the exact picture (from the RAW capture) I want to show to the viewers.

Note : (This part has been added on 15th June)

Today I felt the post was incomplete... so adding this up.

I didn't consider photoShop-ed and post-processed as synonyms in my writing. To be more clear, whatever we can do on an image in PhotoShop is NOT post-processing to me. Major rearrangements (addition/deletion) of elements in a photograph should always be termed as photo-morphing. But again photo-morphing was there in non-digital era too. Yesterday it was being done only in labs by professionals in some painstaking ways and today those could be performed in a computer knowing the software. And the biggest advantage in the latter is the 'ctrl+z' (undo), therefore everybody can give it a try without affecting the original one. That's the only reason it has become a more common practice today.

One needs to respect the borderlines between photography and painting. In photography you paint with light, not with colors and brush(tool). There is no place for your imagination - if that is not the reality. So if you are a master of painting in PhotoShop while post-processing your photograph, it would cross the border. It's an art no doubt - but we don't call it photography anymore. Shooting a bird in the city and then framing it on a jungle background using PhotoShop tools is beyond post-processing, it's a morphing. Have you been there in a professional manual printing photography lab, must have seen pallet and brush and people gives photo-finish on the large prints correcting the small defects and imperfections in the print, but hold on, they are not painter. They don't paint a flying bird on the blue sky to make the photograph look better aesthetically or don't add a moon in a night sky-scape. All those can be done in PhotoShop too, but that's not processing a photograph - rather an all together different art - the art of graphics creation.