I'm so glad you found me! I'm a San Francisco photographer, and this blog charts my journey in the ever-evolving world of photography. One of the things I love about photography is that it's a journey, not a destination. I'm constantly learning and meeting wonderful people. Please peruse the blog to your heart's content, then check out my website and feel free to contact me! (I love hearing from you.)

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow." – Imogen Cunningham

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” – Edward Steichen

Day 138 (July 27) - Post Processing

Working backwards today, just for the hell of it.

Photography is a funny art form. Inherently, it lends itself to arguments about purism, since you can just take a picture and print it. Done. Only two steps: push the shutter button, and push the print button.

Some people would say that the two-step photography is the only real photography. I tend to disagree.

Ever since I started shooting raw images (because, and this is a certainly a post for another day, they capture so much more detail, and they're much more flexible in terms of being able to change them after capture) I have to process them. They are by their very nature, by their very definition, unfinished. They need my post-processing input to be complete.

I would argue that in no other kind of art would people view a piece as 'better' because it only took 1/100 of a second to complete. But in photography, post processing is often a dirty word.

"That image looks soooooooooo Photoshopped."

You've heard it. We all have. Hell, I've even said it myself. So I'd say there's a boundary, between enough PP and too much. Where is too much? That is so debatable I will not even touch it with a ten foot pole. However, I will point you to this article, which I feel has summed up a lot of the main points pretty well.

Anyway, the image above has had a significant amount of that devilish post processing applied to it. Do you want to see how I got there?

This is the image out of Lightroom, below. In the (gasp!) Photoshopped image above I added some more sharpening, darkened the background a little, and then added a curves layer to create some more contrast where I felt it was lacking.

In the image below, I took my raw file and decreased the saturation of the colors almost (but not quite) to zero. Then I played around with contrast and making the image a little darker, and darkened the blue of the shirt so it wouldn't pull the viewer's attention away from my beautiful subject's face.
The image below is what would normally come out of Lightroom. I took my raw file and just made it look a little better. I did no major edits, just adjusted exposure, brought up the color, and did a little sharpening. Nine point eight times out of ten, this is what I use Lightroom for. But today I thought it was a little boring and decided to see what else I could come up with.
And finally, this is my raw file, straight out of camera. You can see that it needs some processing to make it look good. Although, it's not bad.
So, which version do you like best?

Be brutally honest. Brutal honesty is the best kind.


  1. The first one looks like his arm is radioactive, and that he's looking fairly sickly.
    I think the second one is best - makes best use of the "subject"'s stubble. - definitely more dramatic than the raw version too.

  2. Who is looking sickly - the guy or the cat?

    I like the top picture - desaturated and bordering on B & W. Nicely done.


  3. I meant the guy. The cat looks healthy in all of them, tho I'm not a vet or anything

  4. I like the top one too - reducing the saturation really works, although there is a nice "Miami" feel to the bright sunny colorful shot. It works too, I just prefer the moodier look.

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