Image Processing – The Other Half of the Coin

When working with today’s digital cameras, you can take the most technically accurate photograph and chances are that it will still need some help in post-processing to help it achieve its full potential. This was the thought that I had when I was talking to my buddy Mike one day about future books. Mike is the guy that planted the seed for my Exposure book and it was his comments that started me thinking about what other book I needed to write help budding photographers improve their craft.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that teaching a man how to fish isn’t enough. If he wants to eat, he has to learn how to clean it and cook it as well. That’s what post-processing is. It’s cooking your image until it’s light and flaky and ready to eat. Sorry, I kind of got caught up in the whole fishing thing. Anyway, I think you kind of get my meaning. That’s why I am working on a new book concept with my publisher, Peachpit Press, to create a Snapshots to Great Shots book that will help folks learn what to do after they push the button. I am frequently asked to share my workflow, and while I have done that over the years on this blog, it will be nice to put it all in one place.

That’s my original on the left and the processed version on the right

There are still some details that are yet to be worked out but I am very excited about this new project and wanted to at least tell you where I was going with the series. In the coming weeks I will share more about this project but in the mean time, if you have any post processing questions or issues, please let me know. I just might have room to put it in the book.


  1. Michael H. says:

    Interesting! Also, strangely depressing. I feel like I barely have time to sort through pictures I’ve taken to put them up on the web for family, much less spend time in post-processing. I’ve read enough articles & opinions to know that it’s not “cheating”, and your processed picture above is clearly far more interesting than the original on the left. But (he whines), why doesn’t it start out that way?

    More seriously, I’d ask, how long did it take you to do the processing that goes from left to right? (I’d multiply by a factor of 5-15x for myself, since this is not something I’m familiar with.) Also, how do you know when you’re done?

    • Sorry to be the source of your depression Michael but here’s something that might brighten your mood. You don’t have to spend hours upon hours processing your images. In fact, if you are just taking fun shouts to share with family and friends then you might just be satisfied with what comes out of the camera. I think the main thing is intent. I don’t spend an inodrinate time processing each image that comes out of my camera. Like you, I just don’t have time for it. Not only that but I probably delete a large portion of what I take just because they are El Stinko and don’t deserve the space on my hard drive. Every now and then though, there’s an image or two that I like and feel like they can be made even better if I apply some simple post processing to them. That can include things like cropping, minor color correction, contrast adjustments, maybe even a little dodging and burning (lightening and darkening) of certain areas. The image I displayed on this post probably took me all of about 4 or 5 minutes to process. Truthfully, a lot of that time is figuring out what I need to do to make it look better and doing a bit of experiment. It also has a lot to do with workflow or how I conduct my processing. Programs like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Apple Aperture have made it much easier to apply adjustments to large numbers of images very quickly, sometimes as they are being imported. So don’t dispair, just know that you don’t have to be satisfied with every image that comes out of your camera.

      And as for why it doesn’t start out that way, it is getting better. Digital cameras have come a long way in the past 20 years and the images that come out of them now are vastly improved over older models. The only problem is that the camera doesn’t always know what you want from it so it gives you its interpretation. It’s then your job to make it what you wanted.

  2. I will be first in line to buy this book! Whoo hoo!!! Can’t wait!

  3. Sounds like it’ll be a good book! Can you clue us in a little more about how it’ll be different from other post books out there?

  4. Mako2011 says:

    I would be very interested as your last was very helpful. With regard to post processing, please include a chapter on the difference in software. For instance ViewNX2 does well with Nikon ADL but has no noise reduction ability. Some programs even radically view the raw files differently from one another (same file but what you see on screen initially is different in terms of sharpness for example). It’s those differences that drive me crazy. Do I want light room or Adobe. Choosing the right program to use is so complicated and expensive if you make the wrong choice. Good Luck.

  5. ShellyM says:

    This is great news! I really need to learn and understand post-processing. I really don’t feel comfortable with this part of photography. I bought Photoshop Elements 9 recently and have been experimenting. I’ve been reading that a lot of pro photographers like yourself use Lightroom and now I think I might need this program instead of PSE. I use a laptop and also have read that monitors need to be calibrated!!! So much information is out there, I can’t wait for you to explain it all. 🙂

    You see, you helped me immensely when I purchased my Nikon D5000, cause I found your book From Snapshots to Great Shots for the D5000, bought it and loved it! I refer to it all the time, re-reading chapters whenever I want to try different shooting techniques.


  1. CS Bloggers says:

    Image Processing – The Other Half of the Coin –

  2. Worth a look: Image Processing – The Other Half of the Coin

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