Photography Post processing
Updated: Jul 17, 2019
Photography - "photos" and "graphe" - Drawing with light in greek.
Photography is a visual content which has philosophical context of something between art and documentation.
Many photographers would agree that there is a thin line between art and documentary in photography and it is important to know, what is what. Especially in the time of photoshop and other photography editor programs. The trends in photography are changing the way of thinking and confusing photographers of what is right and what is wrong.
Post processing is important part of photography process. You will find photographers, who will say that true photography is capturing the light without editing and the only image that is valid is the one strait out of camera. I disagree. The history thought us that this doesn't work. Just look at the 1839 Paris photograph from Louis Dagueere. It is almost empty except one person, who appears to have his shoes polished. It wasn't empty. It was a long exposure. All people were moving and were not captured by the camera except the shoe person, who was the only one standing still. The camera wasn't able to get shorter exposure. Its actions were limited.
Post processing and manipulating? No. Pure physics.
So on this point, I disagree with the SOOC supporters. Post processing is mandatory. Why? Because the idea of photography is to draw with light the same thing that human eye see. And camera is not good enough (yet) to capture exactly as we see. And we also have the limits because of physics. Also, the SOOC supporters would find themselves in awkward situation using wide or zoom lenses and using long exposures or high ISO, because this is what human eye cannot see. That's why we also have post processing.
And of course (thank god for this) we have genres. Here we can draw the line between art and documentation. If you ask me, the landscape photography and it's varieties, falls into the art part of photography, where post processing and manipulation are allowed. On the other side, we have photojournalism, documentary photography and reportages, where post processing should be limited and manipulations not allowed, because they can change the story of the image.
So, when I was working on Nat Geo assignment, I did't even think about removing some parts of the image out. I could use a lower aperture to blur it, but never remove it. Just basic post processing - enhancing the contrast, colours, simple dodge and burn - realistic things that eye is capable to see and camera is not. Some photographers were deleting or adding some parts of images (the Steve McCurry scandals), some of them were staged (World Press Photo 2015 and HIPA 2018) and so on.
But when it comes to Landscape photography, it's a different story. It's a photography genre, that I would put directly into art section. Tons of landscape photographers call themselves "Fine Art" photographers and plenty of them (including myself) print their works out and sell them for interior or exterior design.
The trends of Landscape photography are changing all the time. And finding the way into it is difficult and it takes a lot of learning process, which costs time and often money. What I realised, is that on certain point, all the internet knowledge about photography post processing stops and the only way to improve the techniques is to pay for online classes or post processing videos of renowned landscape photographers.
But where is the limit? In which way it goes? What is not enough, what is perfect and what too much? I'm getting lost in the flux of creativity and manipulation, and for a long time, my focus was to impress the audience with the "perfect" post processing, but recently I realised, that maybe I did a mistake and should focus more to the light itself.
Current trend in Landscape photography is photographing mountains with dark stones (Dolomites for example) or arctic landscape such as Iceland, Faroe Islands, Patagonia and Lofoten in Norway. The trend is using a lot of darkness and desaturation (dark, dramatic mood) or vibrant contrast of blue and yellow, sometimes green and magenta. Often they color the sky with the red or orange tint, so it looks unique and add glow around the mountains. The final step will be adding noticeable glow and "Orton Effect" with selective vignetting. Read this one for consideration: Is the Orton effect taking over Landscape photography?
I'm getting confused where this all goes. Even though I mostly know the techniques that lead to this results, I'm not sure I want to use them in my work. I'm coming to the stage, where I will have to decide which style is working well for me and follow it, so most of my images would have the same effect. Having a signature line on my images. Two of my favourite photographers are totally opposite in their post-processing flow.
Enrico Fossati is using advanced post-processing techniques to create "art" images that even though that they capture impressive light and composition situations in the nature are still mostly fake. He makes the mountains taller, he adds the mist on the river, he adds the light or even sun to the images. But the images look great and are well accepted in the landscape photography community. They are eye catching. Some of the photographers are using even bolder techniques, but I like Enrico's style.
Chris Burkard is a total opposition. His capability of seeing the light and right moment is impressive and all his non-commercial images are mostly post processed with the basic techniques, which are achievable only with simple sliders, brush and graduated filter tools in Adobe Lightroom. No manipulation, just basic correction.
And here I stand, confused by all the internet influence on the post processing workflow. I lean towards Chris Burkard way, but I realised that work, that uses techniques like Fossati are getting more response from the audience.
Regarding the writing, I'm posting image of the Vestrahorn mountain range at the famous Stoksness peninsula, which is post processed in three different techniques. As I'm still confused, you are warmly welcome to leave a reply, which one would be your favourite image.