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What is Photography Post Processing and is it Cheating?

Mandy Post processing 13 Comments

Pressing the shutter and capturing that moment in time in a photograph, is only part of the process for creating an image.

For me personally, I think photography post processing is an extension of, and compliments what we do with a camera. And is part of the creative process of a photographer.

I definitely do not think it’s cheating!

It’s just photography tools evolving – just like cameras do.

What is Photography Post Processing?

Post processing is basically altering and enhancing your image after you have taken it in either a darkroom or digital darkroom. If you’re using a film camera then you’d use a physical darkroom to develop and enhance your images using enlargers and chemicals etc… If you have a Digital camera then you use post processing software that can also be referred to as the ‘digital darkroom’.

The list of tools and techniques at our disposal is nearly endless!

You can do anything from a simple technique like a crop, image resize and level adjustment. To more complex techniques like blending, masking and black and white conversions for more creative effects. Or you can do something completely different like HDR processing.

I think the trick is treating each image individually, then you can decide which processing technique is best, and will bring out the best in each

Chester Cathedral

Chester Cathedral


Just as an aside, I’d like to say I don’t like portrait retouching (as in models and advertising). I think we should celebrate our God-given uniqueness and not create unreal ideals to try to attain… And feel bad when we don’t – what are we trying to say to our children?

Is it cheating?

And at the end of the day the digital darkroom (post processing software) is a modern extension of the original darkroom, and even has some of the darkroom techniques (or digital versions of) like dodge and burn and unsharp mask included in it.

I think the digital darkroom is just the next evolution of the original darkroom.

Famous photographers like Ansel Adams are actually known for their post processing techniques. Ansel Adams is widely known for his use of the dodge and burn technique in the darkroom and even wrote a book on it.

So if it’s good enough for Mr Adams then it’s good enough for me!

Digital Darkroom – What can I use?

There is an array of software that can be used to post process an image. And I think they fall into 3 categories, free, mid range budget and budget busting!

1. Free stuff – The free software that you get with your camera (I know you get free software with Canon cameras) although basic is a great place to start developing your skills. If you’re looking for something more powerful but still free, then try Gimp which is free open source software.

2. Mid range budget stuff – I think this range has the most choice like Aperture, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements (much cheaper version of Photoshop but still very powerful) for instance. Not only are these programs good value for money and powerful tools to have, they’re also great for organising your albums and sharing.

3. Budget busting stuff – Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for Professional Photographers and Graphic Designers. It’s extremely powerful, and there’s a lot to learn if you really want to get full use out of it. But the biggest drawback has got to be the price!

So there’s something for every budget that can let you try the techniques out.


Photography Post processing is a lot of fun!

Whether your processing photos of the kids or whether your processing your latest and greatest piece of art. There’s a vast array of tools at your disposal. We’re all unique as photographers. And I think these tools give us even more of an opportunity to express this in our photographs.

And with so much available to us. It’s really about learning and developing our skills with post processing – which takes time!

There’s always something new to have a go at. Recently I have been trying out different ways to convert some images to black and white (I love B&W!). And also trying my hand at HDR photography. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes…

In the mean time what technique or software do you like to use? Share them in the comments below…


P.S. have added some affiliate links so you can add to your wishlist easily!


Comments 13

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  3. Admittedly I am a novice with a real love for capturing a moment. I have been using Picasa which is a free editing tool through Google. I’ve had nice results with it and it has a wide variety of choices when editing.. But as I said , I’m a novice. Has anyone else used Picasa ? And, what are your thoughts , negative or positive regarding it.

  4. Is someone keeping a score on what you did to a photo? I think that what is presented as the final image is what’s important.

  5. Most ridiculous blog post I have seen in years. Just because Ansel Adams did it must mean it is the right thing to do and acceptable. OH hogwash, so tired of people making excuses for their lack of photographic talent that they MUST rely on PP. Why not learn how to use your camera to the best of it’s ability and the best of your talent?
    P.S. Ansel Adams was not that great of a photographer as he was as a manipulator of his “photo’s” 🙂

  6. Using pro sports as an analogy ….
    adding an asterisk beside the name of players (who used human growth hormones) in the record books make their accomplishments valid? Hardly!
    Using Photoshop or Lightroom to manipulate shitty photos into masterpieces is like wildlife photographers using game farms. There is enough processing going on inside today’s cameras and in the printers used to produce prints. Once the photographer begins using anything further the photographer is no longer a photographer but a CAN (computer aided numb nut).

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