How much do you process your images? – a dPS POLL


This week on dPS it’s all about things that are debatable and open for discussion. One thing that’s always a hot item is post-processing. Do you do it or not? If so how much? If you want to get in on that discussion head over to:  To Process or Not To Process? Let’s Discuss

How much do youprocess your images_

Then fill in this poll and tell us – how much do you process? Are you a minimalist or do you take your time and make art with each image?

How much time do you spend post-processing each of your images on average?

View Results

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of articles this week that are Open for Discussion. We want to get the conversation going, hear your voice and opinions, and talk about some possibly controversial topics in photography.

Give us your thoughts below, and watch for more discussion topics each day this week.

See all the recent discussion topics here:

Read more from our Post Production category

Darlene Hildebrandt is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to improve their skills through articles on her site Digital Photo Mentor, online photography classes, and travel tours to exotic places like Morocco and India. To help you at whatever level you're at she has two email mini-courses. Sign up for her free beginner OR portrait photography email mini-course here. Or get both, no charge!

  • UniPhoto

    The amount of time I spend processing an image depends on the image itself. If the exposure value is within the cameras’ ability to capture the scene, the histogram shows a well formed ‘mountain’ with very little clipping at either side of the spectrum, it will only take five minutes.
    However, if the lighting at the time is challenging, say, at a concert or shooting into the sun it will take longer.
    Sometimes I like to return to image i took several years ago and use the skills i have acquired plus an up dated version of Photoshop/Lightroom to eek a little extra from the picture.

  • AlexisZ

    I process as much as I need to get what I want. Sometimes I don’t have to do much other than clone out schmutz in the photo; sometimes I need to do a lot more. When I was working in the darkroom, it could take me much, much longer to get what I wanted – I could spend whole days to get a single print just the way I wanted. I’m not an anti-processing snob – Photoshop is a wonderful tool to play with, although I really do miss the darkroom, esp the color darkroom.

  • It depends on the photograph. I spend anywhere from 5 minutes (if that) on landscapes, wildlife etc but when it comes to portraits, headshots or fine art, I have spent up to 14 hours retouching a single image using high end retouching techniques or creative processes (D&B, frequency separation, textures, etc)

  • richie_pour

    I’m fairly new at post-processing and just take photos for the art of it. So my time spent spent per photo has been going down as I get better, but I also shoot now with processing in mind. Depends on how much I like my own photo as to whether I even want to spend any time on it. My favorites get a lot more time.

  • A loaded question. I think it comes down to the intent of the image. A mere couple minutes on some and possible hours on others. I have even started over seeing the image in a new way after processing. That is why I go with the intent of the image.

  • Pierre Cornay

    Time in Post-processing will vary a lot, depending on the photo, what you want to achieve, your experience with post-processing techniques, your photography skill level and…..

  • David

    I agree with Ray… depends on the shot. I took ~80 shots yesterday in burst to capture waves during a storm with 50 knot winds and pelting rain. Handheld only raising the lens only when a wave came to minimise the rain on the lens. Post processing meant selecting 5 shots after geo tagging all. Processing 1 for clarity, white balance, etc and syncing with others. Selecting the best 1 and then spending probably 3 minutes on it to touch up and cloning some spots. 5 minutes to write the story including some links before publishing on Flickr. For a competition, I will probably spend an hour on each shot!

  • Christopher

    It comes down to what is the intention for the final image. Some images just get the basics. Then the one for a art piece or competition print you can work on for an hour plus round tripping in and out of various software.

  • Jericho

    I’d love to see this repeated with additional options, like which software is used, type of photography, and possibly with multiple answer options.

  • Rik Thornton

    My workflow, such as it is, consists of minor adjustments to exposure/contrast/light/dark levels. I sometimes tweak the Clarity slider if it benefits, and apply noise reduction if needed (my 550 and 1d classic are quite noisy around ISO800+) but thats it. If the composition is not quite right, they’ll get a crop. This here is the net effect – more at

  • Rik Thornton

    Awesome shot mate. 🙂

  • Col

    I voted first and then came in to the discussion – sorry! I was asked:

    How much time do you spend post-processing each of your images on average?

    On average, I don’t do anything after I bring each image out of Adobe
    Camera RAW, except save a JPEG, so I voted “None: I don’t do any

    To me, ACR is the processing, and Photoshop is the post-processing. Reading this page, it is unclear whether RAW processing is considered processing or post-processing and
    the terms processing and post-processing seem to get swapped round so
    regularly that it’s difficult to know if everyone is singing from the
    same hymn sheet or not. I’ll wager the results of the poll contain many
    votes that could be reclassified depending on the exact definitions of
    processing and post-processing. I have no idea if I have voted accurately or not?

  • Mike Christelow

    I only crop where the original composition needs it, and/or adjust for exposure if necessary. I don’t apply any sophisticated image-enhancement since I want the image to reflect what I saw.

  • pingpaul

    Portraits take more time. I may spend a half-hour or so working on each of those.
    Less time is spent on other kinds of images. Journalism shots get the least processing of all.

  • pingpaul

    Do you visualize a shot before you take it?

  • WillyPs

    I have always taken the term ‘post processing’ to mean any adjustments after the the photo is taken. I don’t think it matters what software you use or what format the file is in when you do it, or even if you make edits in the camera.

    However, I don’t consider converting an image to jpg or png from raw processing at all, because the purpose is to keep the image as same as possible. It is processing though, in the sense that it is a process to compress the file size.

  • randy mcgee

    Time spent varies on type and purpose of photo. I generally try to get it right the first time in camera. Then I will crop it or or tweek the contrast and saturation or sharpness to enhance the image. I shoot outdoors mainly landscapes and not as much need for heavy editing as portraits.

  • Col

    Well, this is it precisely. If you don’t do any adjustments at all, all you have is just a load of: 011010101110101010101010101000001101011111101010101 stuff. You either program in your adjustments to the camera – white balance, contrast, sharpening, etc, and get it to do the processing and deliver you a JPEG, or you take all the 1s and 0s in RAW format and you do the processing.of the white balance, contrast, sharpening etc in your RAW processor (note the term: processor – not post-processor). The algorithms need applied either way, as part of the processing of the 0s and 1s. Camera or RAW converter? Choose your processor. All the layer work and cloning stuff out, applying filters, etc – that’s my idea of post-processing. But I reckon it’s a muddy area, and this page does nothing to make it less muddy.

  • TC Conner

    I selected 10-20 minutes on each photo. But that will change as I’m still new to DSLR photography (February) and developing and improving the efficiency of my workflow in Lightroom.

  • TC Conner

    Great shot!

  • Mr_Electability

    I post-process some photos, on which I tend to spend several minutes each (sometimes more), but leave others as is. To answer the question, then, I’d need to know what you mean by “average”: the average spent overall, including the photos I don’t post process? or just the average spent on the photos I do?

  • WillyPs

    In a technical sense I guess you are correct. And perhaps my explanation was not clear.

    What I am trying to say is that common usage of the term ‘post processing’ is processing done by the photographer, or perhaps others, after the camera saves the image in whatever format is chosen.

    I could be wrong, but I think most people who adjust white balance, contrast, etc., after the pic is taken, would consider that ‘post’. Certainly if you are cloning out, focus stacking, layering, or using filters.

    Adjustments that are made to the camera before the pic, processing done automatically by the camera or software, without user intervention, I don’t think most people even realize that that is processing. Of course, you can’t even get data off the sensor and onto a memory card without processing, but most people don’t really think about that at all.

  • Hal

    I always have to accomplish Post-Processing as all of my images are very light due to my use of the ETTR (Expose To The Right) Technique. I expose so I show a little clipping in the JPEG on the back of the camera. That way I get the maximum file size and the most data in the RAW Image. But I have Lightroom set up with a preset during import that does some of the corrections. I really love this technique and the detail in the image is fantastic. All this adds up to a lot more Post-Processing, but I really enjoy working on the computer to bring out all of the fine details.

  • Colin Barnett

    I do landscape photography. Typically, I will have only one or two images worth printing from a day of shooting. I can spend 20 minutes processing each one. I shoot RAW, and use Lightroom and Topaz as my primary post processing tools, and if I need layers, I go to ON1. For black and white, I use Nik Silver Effects

  • Col

    It’s not a case of ‘adjusting’ white balance, contrast, etc, though, is it? It has to be something first, before you can adjust it. RAW files are nothing before you choose what settings to give them. That is processing – same as the camera does, if you ask it for a JPEG. The minimum you can do is set up your RAW processor to apply your preferred defaults. Well, what are those defaults? You’ll need to set them all to a guess first (same as if you do in-camera), in order to have a default, and that’s going to be wrong at least as often as it’s right. That’s the same as what you do with a camera if you ask it to give you a finished JPEG. The RAW is processing, either guessed ahead of the shot and done in-camera, or chosen after the shot in the RAW processor. I guess you could apply the term ‘post-processing’ to refer to choosing the RAW settings after seeing the shot, rather than guessing the settings ahead of the shot? well, what’s the point of that? Don’t guess and get it wrong. Shoot RAW and get it right. If that is what it comes down to – that you have to guess all your settings, because applying them afterwards is cheating – then I’ll happily cheat on every single shot I take.

    As for the camera’s supposed austere take on processing – it’s a thing of the past. Today, we can set picture styles, do multiple exposures, set in-camera HDR, and loads more chicanery. It’s pointless worrying about the difference, unless you want to be arsy about it for some reason – like these agencies – in which case I say, good luck to you – let us know how that works out.

  • waynewerner

    I’d say *mostly* I don’t do any post. I’ll crop maybe. Or play with the colors if I think the photo can be rescued. But mostly I try to take the shot that I want to see.

  • Dave

    I guess that is why they are asking for an average.

  • Cindy

    It depends on what I am doing with the photo. I usually sharpen most of my photos and that’s all. But I manipulate my photographs to make artistic designs using various filters so that the original photograph isn’t even recognizable in many of the finished pieces, and that can take quite awhile to get the look I want, or even multiple pieces from one photograph. But for straight photography, usually I just need a little sharpening, maybe some straightening, and/or cropping.

  • Ruth Tolerton

    I do very little post processing. My pride in being a photographer is being able to capture “the” shot. That is especially true for portraits. At most I might remove a zit, crop or minor balance adjustments. That’s the difference between being a photographer or just someone with a camera

  • Vickie

    I agree. I think a photographer should be able to do the processing with their eyes and the elements around them.

  • Ridge Runner

    Old school. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, Photoshop. Not fair for the two to be in the same category. Not saying anything wrong with Photoshopping, just like there is nothing wrong with fiction compared to non-fiction. They are different is all, with different skill sets and different tools. Perhaps an interesting poll would ask how many shots do you take to get a keeper. Bet a significant difference would appear between the two groups if all were truthful.

  • Keith Zimmerman

    I post process each photo individually so the processed photo will fulfill my vision of the subject. This can take anywhere from a minute or two up to an hour or more in order to get it right.

  • Tara68958

    I basically profit approximately 6k-8k bucks monthly for freelance jobs i do at home. If you are prepared to do basic freelance work for several hours /day from your house and earn valuable paycheck while doing it… Then this job opportunity is for you…


  • Molon Labe!

    Seems you guys know little about the masters. They all believe in heavy retouching.. Ansel Adams would spend days on a single photo.

  • Same here. Depends on what I was looking for in the image. If it is blown out and the only image salvageable, then I’ll work with it a little longer and maybe replace the sky or something else to try to get it to work.If it is a great shot and I spent more time behind the camera getting that shot, I may spend only 5 minutes cataloging and tweaking it. I have noticed though that my wife, who insists she is a lousy photographer, takes images so spot on that I seldom have to do anything to them Maybe I should take lessons from her! lol

  • Lesli Winnette

    Not being a professional and not knowing all there is to know about my camera and photography specifically, the tendency is to just process enough to where I like it. When my eye hits the photo and “jumps for joy” I stop. Most processing is limited to dehazing, (getting rid of white “film”), clarity, contrast and sharpness. These processes enrich the color without the artificial look of saturation, and make the photo look more like the eye sees it at the time of the shoot. Sometimes I will use a detail brush in a program I have to draw out patterns in stone bridges or on the break between earth (or sea) and the sky on horizons. The processing can make a world of difference.

  • Ridge Runner

    Yes, and so can photography skills.

  • Lesli Winnette

    workin’ on it….. 😉

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