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How Post-Processing Helped Me Become a Better Photographer

The following post is from author of the Photo Nuts DPS ebook series Neil Creek. The third book in the series Photo Nuts & Post – A Guide to Post-Processing launched on dPS this week! If you have any post-processing questions for Neil, he would be happy to answer them on Google+ or Twitter.

How Post-Processing Helped Me Become a Better Photographer

Post-processing your digital photos is a controversial topic for some. The idea that you change and manipulate a photo after it’s been taken is seen by some as changing reality; creating something that’s ‘fake’. I disagree strongly with that idea for many reasons, but the reason I’m going to talk about here is that post-processing made me a better photographer. Not just that I think it made my photos look better, but actually helped me to become better at taking photos.

Accelerated Learning

Getting your photos onto the computer and into an editing program gives you access to an instant feedback machine. You can learn a great deal about how to take photos by looking at those you have taken before:

  • Looking at each photo closely reveals problems. You may not notice some issues if you just resize and upload a photo.
  • Comparing the results with the settings used gives instant feedback. The EXIF data in a photo is invaluable for giving you clues about why a photo may not have worked.
  • Playing with photos in post is almost like touching them. Experimenting with sliders lets you ‘feel’ the potential in a photo.
  • The hard-to-define and harder-to-teach skill of learning to see is made so much easier by this process of shooting and feedback.

How Post-Processing Helped Me Become a Better Photographer

Lessons Learned

After you’ve been processing your photos for a little while, some lessons about how digital photography works – and the limitations and strengths it has – will become more apparent to you. You can then keep these in mind when shooting and change your settings or shooting technique to avoid running into any problems and make the most of the format:

  • You’ll get a better understanding of exposure and the capabilities of the RAW format (you ARE shooting in RAW, right?).
  • Learn the consequences of a poorly exposed photo, and how much latitude you actually have to correct such a photo.
  • Understand how much can be gained and lost at various noise settings so you know when you can push through low light and keep shooting, or when you need to consider alternative strategies.
  • Understand why it’s important to ‘get it right in camera’.
  • Conversely, understanding how much can be done in post and what’s best left to that stage.

How Post-Processing Helped Me Become a Better Photographer

Expands the Mind

Creating images from the shooting perspective only is a bit tunnel-visioned. Once you free yourself from the metaphorical shackles of preserving some idea of ‘reality’, then you will open your mind to the creative possibilities of processing your photos. Not only that, but you will understand that you are the one in control of how real the photo looks, or how unreal. Your confidence will grow, and that will be reflected in your future work.

  • Processing lets you see the hidden potential in a photo.
  • You will realise that most of those amazing photos you admire online started with something quite different out of camera.
  • You will also realise that your photos could be so much better.
  • You are in complete control of the final look of the photo. Whether you just tweak things to reflect your impression of being there, or you create something completely new that was never seen by the human eye, it’s completely within your control.
  • Your confidence will build by giving you the tools and knowledge to take your photos to the next level.

How Post-Processing Helped Me Become a Better Photographer

An Extra Opportunity

If you’ve been thinking that processing is an extra step you don’t have time for, you’re missing the point. It’s an extra opportunity to learn more, make better photos and become a better photographer. And to be quite honest, post-processing can be fun! Import your photo, sprinkle a bit of magic ‘post’ dust on a photo, and export something with much more life and impact.

Getting better photos is wonderful, but don’t underestimate the power that post-processing has to make you a better photographer.

Want to learn more about Post Production? Check out Neil’s new eBook – Photo Nuts & Post – A Guide to Post-Processing.

Read more from our Post Production category

Neil Creek

Neil Creek is a professional photographer from Melbourne, Australia. He has been shooting with a DSLR since 2004, and blogging about his experiences since 2006. Neil has authored five ebooks and a video training course, all designed to help others improve their photography. View Neil's folio at his home page. Learn about his publications here.

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