I'm a 'Typical Photographer' and This Is How Much I Post Process

I’m a ‘Typical Photographer’ and This Is How Much I Post Process


OK, I’m going to come right out and say it … there are a lot of lies in photography! It’s out there now and I suggest we all take some time to let it sink in before we do anything rash.

Of course we all know this but it’s not a subject that a lot of people openly talk about.  Before I say any more let me be completely straight.  I’m not saying that there are a whole load of photographers out there actively seeking to deceive you, more that most of us (me included) tell ‘little white lies’ about our images. Of all the subjects open for favorable interpretation is the amount photographers post process their pictures.

No Biggie?

I’m not saying for one minute that anyone is looking to be intentionally deceptive, most of the time all we are really talking about is the omission of a few minor finishing touches.  So what’s the big deal? Well there isn’t really any big problem as such, however I remember as a beginner how frustrating it was trying to work out how much of a great image was due to gear, processing or falling that the skill of the photographer.   Becoming a great photographer takes time, patience and practice and its understandable why more experienced photographers might want to protect their trade secrets.

Post Processing in Modern Photography

A common view is that post processing is a phenomenon that has only come about with the age of digital photography.  To a certain extent this is true however we need to be careful not to lump all forms of image manipulation into the same category.  In the age of film it was still possible to alter not only the basics such as aperture, shutter speed but also things like ISO, white balance and the overall aesthetic of the final image.   It’s true to say that these adjustments were less convenient than they are today (you had to physically swap out your film etc) but we shouldn’t confuse the convenience of modern technology with any form of deception.  It has always been necessary to ‘adjust’ the final image to achieve something more like reality and despite the capability of todays cameras and equipment this remains the case.  The reality is that even the best photographers make at least minor adjustments to their images.

So How Much?

So as a beginner what you really want to know is how much processing do most people and how do you know if you are doing too much?  When I started to get serious about photography this was a question that took up far too much of my time. To give you a sense of a typical photographers workflow here is a quick summary of my typical post processing routine and a few examples of how my images typically look before and after.

My Basic Workflow

My basic advice is this; only do as much post processing as necessary to achieve the look you want.  If your goal is to achieve an image that is realistic to real life then assuming you have a decent initial image you should be able to do this fairly quickly.  If however you want to achieve a more artistic result then you may need to take a bit longer.

The majority of my images are either travel or portraiture and therefore my basic post processing workflow is relatively simple.  Pretty much every image I take goes through the following five-step process, although for specific effects I will often do more.  Just so you know, I shoot all of my images in RAW with Lightroom being my editing software of choice.

  • Crop & Straighten – To clean up and correct any issues with composition.
  • White Balance – To correct any colour casts and ensure the image colour is as accurate as possible.
  • Exposure – To improve the overall tonality and dynamic range of the image.
  • Contrast & Clarity – To bring back any missing punch and bring out emphasis and detail.
  • Sharpening – Where necessary the last step is to apply selective sharpening to bring out any key details.

To give you an idea as to what this really looks like in the real world, here are a few examples of images I have taken and how they looked like before and after processing.

Example 1 – Travel Landscapes

Typical post processing for landscapes will include straightening and cropping to improve composition, followed by basic exposure and contrast adjustments. Finally I add some saturation and vibrance for impact.

Example 2 – Street Portrait

For travel portraits, its all about the white balance to ensure that the subject skin tones are spot on. After that I add contrast and boost detail with sharpening.

Example 3 – Studio Work

For studio portraits, white balance is again key followed by basic exposure and composition adjustments. In this case I may also spend more time working on more artistic effects and specialised image touch ups.

The Two Minute Rule

Obviously when you are starting out its important to spend time developing your processing skills, however as you start to get a handle on this its also very important to get efficient.  Not only will doing so stop you from wasting hours in front of your computer screen, but its also the best way limit the potential for over processing.  The ‘Two Minute Rule’ is the probably the best ‘pro tip’ I have ever heard and is something which has fundamentally changed my approach to photography.  The basic idea is to limit the time you spend processing any image to no more than two minutes.  Imagine that, just two minutes to do everything you need to get an image to look exactly as you want it to?  Basically you should be asking yourself if an images needs more than two minutes of work in post, is it worth the effort?  I’m not going to try and convince you that I follow this rule religiously but it is a really powerful way to focus your post processing efforts and I would certainly encourage you to consider building this into your own routine.  Limiting the time you spend in post will stop you from trying to rescue dud images and also give you a rough guide as to when you may have gone too far.

The ‘So What?’ for Beginners

If you are a beginner or someone getting started in post processing, what am I really telling you?  Simply it is this, most of this images you see will be post processed.  Whether this is to overcome the limitations of our equipment, correct mistakes or achieve a specific ‘look’ most photographers will process their photos. The important thing is not to worry about what others are doing, rather on if you are doing the right things to create the images you are looking for.  Focus on learning the techniques which will help deliver the photograph you want and use this as a way to hone your individual style and workflow to become an even better photographer.  If you get this right, then it won’t be long before you can start fibbing about your photographs too!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Russell Masters 'is a photographer, blogger and international man of meetings. Check out his work at eightfiftytwophotography.com and drop him a message via twitter @russmasters.

Some Older Comments

  • Russell January 27, 2013 08:40 pm

    Hello Everyone. My apologies for not responding earlier, its mainly due to a combination of the holiday season and my other work commitments. When I wrote this I never expected this article to generate so many comments and I'll start my short comment by saying all debate is good and I really welcome everyones thoughts on this subject. The other thing I'll go ahead and point out is that these are just my opinions, so don't confuse these as anything other than one voice in a wider debate.

    I have to say that I was surprised at the strength of reaction to the 'two minute rule' and I think its on this I want to just add a few more thoughts.

    So what was I trying to say? What I certainly didn't want to say was that all photographers should limit their processing time to two minutes, that would be a crazy idea! Clearly the amount of processing time will depend greatly on the type of photography and the photographers artistic vison for the image. I mainly take travel and casual family portraits and for me a few minutes per image is achievable however if you are into fine art photography or HDR then its highly likely that you will need to spend much more time in post. Hopefully with skill and a fair wind you will be starting from a decent base image and anything you will be doing in post will be additive as opposed to correcting issues. Certainly I am not suggesting that you should settle for a crappy shot just because the timer has run out. All this said, I stand by the need to think about how long you should spend in post and I truly believe its important to know when enough is enough.

    So what is the point I would like to leave you with? It is basically this, every photographer post processes their images to some extent however the great photographers do this in a really focussed and efficient way. If you are a beginner its important to be aware of this and not feel disheartened if your images dont look like the pros straight out of the camera.

    Thanks again for all the great comments and discussion, keep em coming!

  • Alexandra Jones January 15, 2013 03:06 pm

    I would agree that every photographer should be able to use PhotoShop. Depends how much money you want to put into it, how fast your computer is with graphics, and what your ultimate goal is...but Adobe is now offering month-by-month subscriptions for PS and the entire Adobe suite.

    I used nothing but PhotoShop for three years before I found out I preferred PicMonkey for quick edits like cropping and exposure adjustments, etc. I still use PhotoShop for select effects and tools but I don't enjoy it all that much, it feels like AutoCad for photography.

  • michael January 15, 2013 02:57 pm

    Dee, I'm sorry, I meant to say LIGHTROOM, not aperture. I am sure Aperture would be OK as well, but Lightroom does similar things and is MUCH more mainstream. Adobe is very good at what they do.


  • michael January 15, 2013 02:14 pm

    dee, I strongly suggest you don't waste time with no-professional softwares. Download Aperture, tune into some youtube tutorials and get started.

    Why? Because anytime you spend learning picasa and pic monkey will be lost when you decide it is time to get professional results. Spend your time wisely. Invest in the cumulation of knowledge.

    Good luck.

  • Alexandra Jones January 15, 2013 12:07 pm

    I was using the flickr editor Picnic and was devastated when they shut down. But it's been resurrected as Picmonkey--very easy to use with loads of features and far less cumbersome than PhotoShop. There's a premium "royale" version but you can try it out for free.

  • dee January 15, 2013 07:23 am

    As a beginner, I just want to try a couple of image processing softwares to get an understanding. what programs do you suggest? Am looking for a few free/ trial versions to see what I like best. I currently use picasa which is very basic.

  • michael January 11, 2013 02:28 am

    I get paid to be a photographer. I am not a "good enough" kind of guy. I shoot a LOT of corporate portraits. Men AND women. If I shoot a woman over the age of, say...35, her shot gets "adjusted". Eye-bags, wrinkles, excess bulges, skin blemishes, out-of-place hair.

    "I hate getting my picture taken." "I never look good in pictures." "Do you have a "skinny" lens?" "They didn't tell me I was getting my picture taken today. I hate how my hair looks." "I have a cold sore."

    I don't make a 50 year-old look 19, but maybe 46. Why? Because people want to look their best and photography is a recording in time. Maybe my subject is tired, or feels tired, or hasn't spent the last 6 months on a treadmill. I'm not lying to the audience or my client, I am making subtle changes to help my subject present themselves they way they know they could look if they took the time to get there (makeup, wardrobe, bit of fitness etc). MOST OF THE TIME, they are not aware I have changed anything, because it is subtle, and I don't show before-and-afters.

    Here's the thing folks. If, when I shoot a 50 year-old executive----male OR female---and when they look at my shot, they think, "Damn, I look good...this guy is a great photographer", guess what happens next. I get the NEXT job because people remember my shots of them looked great.

    Simple, right? I get paid to take pictures. If my shots look great, I get another job.

    Does it take more than 2 minutes? Absolutely. Am I creating some misleading, "photoshopped because I can't take a good picture" lie of a photograph. Um, absolutely not.

    See for yourself! http://500px.com/HopeShots/sets/corporate_portraits

  • Ruby January 9, 2013 02:59 am

    Good article and I agree a time-limit is a good goal to have, so long as you don't beat yourself up for breaking it. By the way, my comeback to people who say post-processing is cheating is that it has ALWAYS happened in photography, from day one. Back then the adjustments took place in the dark room, for example choosing how long to expose the paper, whether to shade certain areas, etc. And we've all seen examples of old b/w images that were coloured in by hand. Now it's on a computer and far more sophisticated, but to try and separate post-processing from the art of photography is artificial. It's all part of the same process.

  • Paul Meldrum January 5, 2013 06:23 pm

    Firstly, well done on broaching a thorny subject such post production and editing time. We have all seen examples where the photographer should have stopped editing way before he pressed Export!

    As for the Two Minute rule, like all things in photography, rules are there to be broken. Two minutes for me would not be enough as it does depend on what each image needs. That said, there is a diminishing rate of return in time invested the longer one spends editing. Maybe a good approach would be to set a timer for whatever length of time you feel is appropriate for your work, and that way you won't get lost in the fun/frustration of editing?

  • Jow January 3, 2013 08:19 am

    The two minute rule, definitely a mantra.

    Remembering to close f.lux would spare me helluva time though...

  • Deborah December 28, 2012 05:00 pm

    My interpretation of the 2-minute rule is that if within 2 minutes I can't get pull together an edit that I am mostly happy with, the photo is probably not worth bothering with. I admit that I will spend a lot of playing with tones, masking, etc. and trying to set a mood to my photographs, but I will only spend that time if I was already able to get a good basic edit quickly.

  • mike December 27, 2012 01:56 pm

    I take back what I said about the 3rd picture (studio set up) It looks good. On my phone it sucked. Those of you that talk about it being art...I think you take yourselves, and photography way to seriously. I do this for a living, and I know these are just pictures. I take pride in my work, but to call it art...? Not so much. In the last week and a half I have shot about 45-50 family portraits, Each session I would pick around 10 files to edit. they all turned out pretty darn good, and I did not need more than 2 minuets on each file. (except where people wanted some "special effects") And they sure were not art. I guess I could print it on canvas and call it art like!

  • Jim Woolsey December 27, 2012 08:31 am

    I try to live by the two minute rule! I have to make sure my computer is running at an optimal setting but editing each photo under 2 minutes has become a possibility for me!

  • Chris December 27, 2012 04:15 am

    Oh, and looking at your pictures, I can see why you didn't put more than two minutes on them. The model actually looked better BEFORE you retouched her. The landscape shot should have been deleted; it's still horrible. Please study lighting in regards to landscape photography. The second is OK. but it is creepy how there is a head coming out of her shoulder.

  • Audrey December 27, 2012 04:13 am

    You might want to have a friend or colleague review your blogs before publishing. I respect the jist of your blog, but there were times I had to re-read sentences multiple times to understand what you were actually saying due to spelling and grammatical errors.

  • Chris December 27, 2012 04:11 am

    Arthur Morris has a 15 minute process. Google it. To say that any more than two minutes on an image is too much is probably the worst advice I have ever heard.

  • Alexandra Jones December 26, 2012 09:34 pm

    excuse me, Adams'

  • Alexandra Jones December 26, 2012 09:34 pm

    Ansel Adam's process, before & after:


  • clfry December 26, 2012 01:28 pm

    I'm not one to preach relativism, but I really think it depends on who's "truth" you are trying to tell... the artists among us tend to see something in a scene or subject beyond what the sensor can record, and thus try to tell what we see. For the audience that wishes to see that version/vision, it's not a lie at all.

    That aside, it takes me 2 minutes just to fix things like hot pixels, CA, sensor dust, etc, before I even begin the lying process...

  • jack December 26, 2012 06:10 am

    Did you write this in two minutes too? How about proofreading your stuff if you intend on publishing it online? What a frustrating read!

  • John December 26, 2012 05:16 am

    Annette you nailed it. Burning, dodging, compositing, toning etc. It has all been done since the beginning. To suggest there are ANY rules in photography will only allow you to make pictures that look like everything else that has been done.

  • Jonathan Ross December 25, 2012 08:30 am

    I appreciate your efforts to share with the average photographer. As far as post goes it has been a part of photography from the onset. From manipulating negatives to dodging and burning this is just the tip of the ice berg as to what post meant back in the film days. If anything post has gotten easier and harder than ever in the Digital age. That said I really think it depends on what you are shooting. If you are shooting Stock Lifestyle you have to make sure all the teeth are clean the eyes are sparkling the blemishes are removed any stray hirs are cloned out. Also your location which needs to have any logos removed from it. That is just the basic stuff when it comes to true pst processing there is much more involved now more then the past if you want to go there. I have been shooting for 23 years commercially and I can say that great digital post is an amazing art. I am not talking about getting the color of the sky the right blue or removing dust spots I am speaking of the endless applications you can now add to a photograph that was never possible before. Have you studied CGI? That will take you to an entire new planet when it comes to your post work. I really think this post needs to be reconsidered. Just my two cents. Best, Jonathan

  • Mike December 25, 2012 02:56 am

    All you people saying you need way more than 2 minutes to work on a picture, or it's art art takes time. Read the article. It says that if you are trying for a certain look it will take longer. If you are just trying to get the pictures to look good, then 2 minutes should be more than enough. If you are spending 15-30 minutes on each picture you are crazy, and probably not a professional (when it comes to portraits) if you are a beginner, or just love photography, then you really don't have anything to add here. And to the person that said they consider the pictures they take the raw files, raw is the type of file, the purest form of a digital file, as opposed to jpeg which is compressed, and has built in "fixes" I will agree that the after shot for the 3rd picture doesn't look great on my screen.

  • Joseph December 25, 2012 01:12 am

    It depends on the image. On a commercial real estate shoot I've spent up to twelve hours on four photos and have gone as far as having to 'add' windows with lights on where there weren't any. Certainly for new construction there are always things that aren't finished, so I paint over a ton of holes where there aren't vent covers, etc :) Other pictures, such as a portrait, might require one minute. I tend to try to make people look their best. That might require some slight retouching to get a nice balance between reality and creativity. I did a photo shoot this fall with a kid that had a blacked out tooth from a recent bike fall. We didn't have the luxury of rescheduling. Those weren't 2 minute edits. Typically, I can deliver 100 photos with about three hours of work, sometimes four. I agree that when I load the photos onto the computer, they are half done. I try to be as efficient as I can and get as much in-camera as I am able. But sometimes you don't have the luxury of a beautiful sky. On a portrait shoot, I can make that work. On a real estate shoot, I don't have a choice. It has to be replaced. Which can, again, take two minutes or take two hours.

  • blufluff December 24, 2012 12:48 pm

    When I transfer my images from my memory card to computer I consider them "half done".
    Post processing is a MASSIVE part of my work as a photographer. That's what my clients are paying half their money for! I can take any ordinary photo straight out of my camera (as long as it's in focus) and turn it into something great - worthy to put on a wall. Again, that's why my clients hire me, because of my skill, ability and creativity! Obviously it helps to take the right shot in the first place - but post processing saves me all the time! 2 mins - no way!!! I spend roughly 15-30 mins per photo to get it perfect. Again, this is why my clients hire me.
    And I agree with Christiano007 - the last two images are post processed in a way that makes the original look better (to me).

  • Jim the Photographer December 24, 2012 10:18 am

    I used to believe that I could do everything in-camera. Having learned on film, I knew all about exposure, etc. A friend told me to do the auto correct in PS Elements. What a difference! It looked more like the scene! The camera does not catch all the colors, etc in a scene and post processing is required.

    I did a boudoir shoot recently. The client didn't want post-processing. When I showed the difference between the original (out of camera) product and the post-production image, well--she wanted me to post process everything!

  • Mario December 24, 2012 09:53 am

    @deb scally

    I think the opening shot is ment to show a before/after version of a picture do visualize the "how much i post process" part. But Russel, why did you put the (selective) focus on her mouth?

  • Deb Scally December 24, 2012 09:24 am

    My rule is no rule. It's totally by feel and instinct. I do enjoy the PP work as long as it's not trying to fix something unfixable--that is to say, I have certainly used it to save a precious family memory shot that was not shot correctly, but in general, it's best used as an enhancer and not to re-expose. Less is more, but it's also fun to experiment--it's part of the entire creative photographic process!

    As a side note, why is the subject in the first opening shot half halftone, and half color? Seems like a really odd choice for an article on best practices for PP? Did I miss something?

  • Ethan December 24, 2012 08:15 am

    A two minute rule? Some of the most famous painters in history spent weeks on their projects. Photography is no different. I think a better practice is to spend as much time as 'needed.' Edit because you're making a piece of art and you know what you want; don't edit just to edit. Be detailed, but be concise. Just like painting, writing, or music, the art is in the edit.

  • af December 24, 2012 04:02 am

    I was taught to correct exposure before dealing with white balance, since brightness adjustments can affect color tone. I think this is why the "after" travel portrait looks so harsh. You can also mitigate this by applying your curves adjustment to the luminance channel only. And I've yet to meet a (raw) digital image that did not need sharpening ("when necessary"). Finally, the lead image demonstrates that no amount of post processing will compensate for blown focus.

  • Jai Catalano December 24, 2012 12:16 am

    I use a 10 minute rule. I don't know if I could accomplish everything in 2 minutes. HOWEVER I am going to lower then number maybe 8 and save 2 minutes. In the end of the day it doesn't really bother me but I wouldn't mind accomplishing all of my post processing goals in 2 minutes.

  • willsands December 23, 2012 09:36 pm

    Thanks for the good advice, Russell. My interest in photography was recently rekindled by a need to create a hobby woodworking web site. Now I am trying to catch up with the digital age. Your advice and methods are very much inline with what I have recently learned. Lightroom helps me correct my camera mistakes while I strive to make fewer of them. I believe your advice to limit the amount of time spent on each image is very valid. When I fail to get the desired results in reasonable time, I move on to the next shot.
    I agree with the others who think your third image won't be "photograph of the year." For me, the before is too green and the after is too red. The pose doesn't appeal to me either.
    Thanks to all the knowledgeable people who publish their thoughts and ideas to help others, like me, learn.


  • Haylee December 23, 2012 06:35 pm

    I appreciate this post. I totally agree with you, I look at photography that over-edits and "fibs" constantly...it drives me nuts. I got a bit discouraged by it, because it seems as though over-editing is the norm now and that it doesn't necessarily matter how good the photo is because you can always fix it in post. Photography shouldn't depend on your computer skills. I try to keep editing to a bare minimum - doing anything more makes me feel uncomfortable. It starts to look fake after a while. Although, it depends on the look you are going for.

    I can attribute this to when I first started working in a dark room. I helped promote a local photography studio when it opened about this time last year, and the owner taught me how to develop and process my own photos. It's a whole other world, and it completely changed my perspective about photography. The amount of effort and focus that goes into creating a photograph is amazing. It helped me appreciate it so much more, and made me less focused on the digital post process.

  • Asia Croson December 23, 2012 04:49 pm

    Super helpful, thank you! It's so nice to have things nice SOOC and to not tell yourself "Oh I'll fix this in Photosho"! Great article, thanks :)

  • Øyvind Nordhagen December 23, 2012 01:04 pm

    Top tip for lazy post work: shoot manual as much as possible as this will at least make the adjustments you need to make fairly consistent over many images. Then try some adjustments on 2-3 images in the same batch, find what works best and paste the same adjustments to the rest of the series. Usually not all images made with equal settings in even the same controlled environment will demand the exact same corrections, but doing it this way will probably get you within 90% of the desired result for most of them.

    I have to do this before I even start selecting my hits and misses because I cannot stand judging images that don't look right.

  • Alexandra Jones December 23, 2012 11:49 am

    I don't know a thing about analog photography, I use nothing but phones and point-and-shoot cameras, and for me the original is the raw material. Sometimes not much is needed, other times I want a completely different result. Post-processing is how my stuff comes to life and I don't consider it lying because I don't care how close to reality it comes. I'm just aiming for intriguing images. But at this point I am not inspired to learn to do with a camera what I can so easily achieve with sliders. That's just the digital way. Most of the street photography I do would never have come to be if I had to adjust a camera's settings to capture it. The subject and the moment would have been long gone.

  • Annette December 23, 2012 10:26 am

    You have hit upon a subject of much debate. How far do we go in our 'digital darkroom'.
    Can I add my thoughts?
    Over the years digital camera technology has improved no end & the cameras themselves become cheaper... alongside this image processing technology has improved & the number of products available increased exponentially. I for one think we are very fortunate to have such an array of amazing products from which to choose.
    How many hours did photographers like Ansell Adams, Edward Weston, just to mention a couple, spend in their dark room? What would Adams have done with today's dark room?
    Most often than not a raw image straight from a digital camera needs some sort of post processing to give it depth ... if it's a jpg then the camera has applied enhancements set in that camera. Anyone who boasts their image has not been 'touched' is deceiving us.
    I have no experience in studio work so I cannot offer my thoughts there. However in landscape photography typically we look at a scene, take the shot, examine the raw image if not good we take it again, if possible. The image is download & we do a quick critique to decide which are worth spending time, often hours, editing ... looking at technical aspects such as composition, exposure, focus, subject interest. The raw image from the camera is generally quite flat so will need some enhancements & our editing software can fix basics like straighten, contrast & white balance very easily & quickly. If that is enough then stop. However if you are not happy then go further. This is where our software can excel ... if you know your software & have a vision of your image then there is no limit to your creative powers!
    If edits are handled with a 'gentle hand/brush' they can make so much difference in transforming a ordinary flat image to a wow image & in this process then I think we can be proud of our efforts & not deny the fact that our image has been enhanced. Working our way round some of these new programmes in itself is an accomplishment especially to those of us who do not have the background experience of techniques in the dark room.
    How far we go depends on how & where our image is to be displayed! In my mind there are almost no boundaries say in fine art work or to a certain extent landscape photography, however photo journalism, historical photos are another kettle of fish. Weddings & portraiture! It is all very subjective ... also to consider is the 'time' factor ... how much time are you prepared to spend in front of the computer to create a wow image? How much time do you have? Developing a basic workflow suitable for you takes time but can also save so much time in the end! Get to know your editing programme ... of course it goes without saying know your camera & it's settings!!
    I am not a pro by any means just someone who enjoys photography & working on an image I feel worthy of printing. I would not hesitate to tell anyone who asked what processes I have used. I have my own guidelines as to how far I go with edits such as removing objects & changing skies ... which I know pros do regularly!
    Getting just the right look to an image in the digital darkroom isn't as easy as some may suppose ... & quite often I find myself doing a double take ... looking back on any image a week or so later I think ok I went too far here or perhaps I can do more there or something different here! Sometimes a totally new look works for the same image ... Ahh the magic of the digital darkroom! If you work long enough with a programme you tend to develop 'an eye' & can see when you have gone too far ... I am working on refining that 'eye'! & yes sometimes two minutes just does the trick:)
    Just my thoughts. Don't be afraid to push the boundaries you may begin a new trend ...
    Happy creating:)

  • kasey December 23, 2012 08:39 am

    Fabulous post!
    "The important thing is not to worry about what others are doing, rather on if you are doing the right things to create the images you are looking for."
    Great message.

  • Tod December 23, 2012 07:53 am

    My weakness is that I loath doing post processing, if I don't like the look out of the camera then I tend to give up on the image totally. I need more patience

  • GradyPhilpott December 23, 2012 06:26 am

    I agree that the before picture in example 3 is better.

    Your post processing is pretty my personal routine, as well.

    I'm glad to know that there's a professional out there that does things my way. :D

  • Danny December 23, 2012 06:05 am

    In example 3 (Studio), for my own taste I think the before is much superior to the after.

  • Mario December 23, 2012 05:38 am

    I agree with Peter Spy. It is important to know which final image you want to achieve and what can and can't be done with e.g. Lightroom or photoshop. All the things mentioned in the article are basic things you need to do, especially if you're shooting RAW.
    And actually, I want to be deceived by photographs. I want photos to be creative and conveying emotions and this is very often not possible just with a snapshot of reality with 'technically correct' post processing.


    @cristiano007: did you have a look at the images on another monitor? WB and exposure-wise, they look very good to me (the last one could use a bit more contrast, IMO)!

  • cristiano007 December 23, 2012 04:37 am

    Good article and advice, text wise. My only concern are the last two example images The geisha shot looks overprocessed for me, highs bloated, I think the original is better. And you said "ensure skin tones are spot on"· and "white balance is key" and then you convert a blonde into a redhead. Kinda crazy, man. Maybe you need more tahn two minutes next time.

  • Kenny December 23, 2012 04:25 am

    I do about the same post processing in my work. Maybe use a tad bit of fill light is needed but usually is very minimal. Especially this time of year when family portraits are used for Christmas cards and presents. A quick turn around makes my customers come back. I usually have a pretty good idea how I would like the photo to look while taking the shot.

  • Joe Shelby December 23, 2012 04:25 am

    I do the two-minute rule for the initial processing to get the 'sharing for friends and family' album up.

    Along the way, I tag the ones with the most potential, then go back to them to polish when I can give a good 5 to 10 minutes to experiment, but I do so by staring at the first polish first for a few days to see if it is really calling out to me to work on.

    Sometimes it can take a while. It took me over a year before I finally figured out how to pull the color and detail out of this single-shot of the Painted Desert from the Grand Canyon.

    [eimg url='https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-wOXtMoyPsEA/TfVwqaoL09I/AAAAAAABWcw/nnGq0UFaTtI/s800/2010-04-20%2520Grand%2520Canyon%2520First%2520Sunset.jpg' title='2010-04-20%2520Grand%2520Canyon%2520First%2520Sunset.jpg']

  • Dewan Demmer December 23, 2012 04:21 am

    While in a nutshell I agree with the article however similar to Peter, the two minute rule is perhaps not a hard line rule. Two minutes is fine for basic adjustments and I do think with practice 2 minutes is very achievable however this discounts post production where "artistic" enhancement is brought in, this does not mean changing the image but rather cleaning up spots or removing a wrinkle in a dress, this will take longer.
    I have come to realise that while the general set of images need to have the 2 minute rule, there are a specific set of images that will do to be enhanced that little bit more, and time spent properly on these images helps to create a more presentable image.

    This all depends on what you feel the image deserves, and how much time and effort you feel the it is worth.

  • Peter Spy December 23, 2012 04:03 am

    Two minutes rule is a no go for me. Maybe for studio lightning, if you got exactly what you wanted. But in other cases things like cropping, adjusting proper brightness and contrast, using Adjustment brush to make certain elements stand out, adjusting saturation or seeing how things work, let's say with Split toning or in B&W - that's like 10-15 minutes to me. There's no room for thoughtful experiments in those two minutes, I'd have to assume that I always know exactly what I want, which is just not true.