After The Session Is Over…

One of the things that most “non photographer” people don’t understand, is just how much work that still needs to be done AFTER the session is over.  Mainly this extra work falls into one category – post processing.  Post processing can be the difference between a ho-hum snapshot and a breathtaking photograph, and depending on what needs to be done, it can take anywhere from just a few minutes to over an hour – for ONE photo. Thankfully there are a few tools available that make this job as easy as possible.  Two of my favorites are Adobe® Photoshop, and Adobe® Lightroom.

Lightroom I use for organizing and cataloging every single shot that I take, as well as using it for performing normal post-processing tasks.  I use Photoshop for any super heavy duty post-processing that needs to be done, but even when I need Photoshop, I access Photoshop via Lightrooms interface.

Below is a good example of post-processing using nothing but Lightroom. (click on each image to see larger versions). The first image is straight out of the camera shot in camera RAW format.  Camera RAW format captures the image in its purest form. The camera doesn’t enhance the image at all, and doesn’t compress it, it’s just the “raw” image data as the camera sensor sees it.

The second image is the result of post-processing in Lightroom.  As you can see, the difference is quite dramatic.  The level of post-processing is purely a matter of taste.  Myself, I prefer an image that has a more dynamic range – almost like an HDR image, but not quite. So I boost the light in the shadow areas and if needed, pull back on the light in the highlight areas.  I also prefer colors that pop, so I increase the saturation and the vibrancy, as well as add a slight increase in clarity.  With photos of women or girls I almost always do a quick mask of just the flesh areas and then pull back on the clarity in just those areas – this tends to erase shallow wrinkles and small skin blemishes. (You need to be careful not to overdo this though, or the flesh will look flat like plastic!).  For more noticeable blemishes I use the Spot removal tool.  Finally, I almost always add a black vignette around the image – again, to help the subject of the photo to stand out.  Something like this took maybe 3 or 4 minutes – which isn’t bad, but if you’re talking about a session with a few hundred photos in it, you can see where this could become a very time consuming endeavor!