I read an article (forwarded via mail) about how too much post processing is masking real talent and was thinking about it ever since. Recently, I am browsing through a lot of photo blogs (ofcourse, looking to learn and emulate) and saw that a lot of post-processing is indeed being done. Once I learned a few basic tricks, a lot of the pictures actually look 'too much sharpened' or 'too high contrast' or 'nothing much in it, other than post-processing'? Does, anybody out there get a similar feeling?
Ofcourse, there are lots of people who does very minimal post-processing and come up with astonishing results. Those are the people, I would like to emulate! As a rule of thumb, I dont think about post-processing until I see the pic in my comp (except may be when I am trying an HDR: see 'HDR image from Golden Temple, Bylakuppe' or a moon merge: see 'The Full Moon Glory' - a very old post). Once, I have the picture in the comp, I would play a little bit in GIMP: trying to improve sharpness, color, contrast and do some cropping to remove unwanted portions. Thats about it. Some of the pictures I posted here are almost untouched. But, I am sure that there will be some people who may still think that I do too much of GIMP. I am sure, my dear wife is one of them :) The fact is, everybody would have their own levels of 'too much'!
If u r wondering where this is going, I was just thinking aloud and there is no conclusion :) Infact, I am sharing a heavily post-processed picture today:
I have a fascination for rural scenes, involving a lot of colors and I grabbed the opportunity on seeing this lady on my way from K M Doddi to Mandya. I had good light and shot this picture with the Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L (macro) lens, handheld and set in Av mode, ISO-100, f/3.5 for 1/500s. But, the picture didnt turn out to be as smashing as I thought ... in spite of applying an Unsharp Mask, improving the constrast and turning up the color in GIMP!
Hence, I sat and played a lot more than usual with that image. I could have done more, like trying sepia toning instead of Black and White and coloring the entire foreground, but I was too lazy to sit and do that much :)
For those who may be interested in knowing the 'How-To' part, here is what I did:
- Open the picture in GIMP and open the Layers Dialogue (Ctrl-L).
- Create a new layer (lets name it the 'B W Layer') and select the background layer.
- Go back to the image, select all (Ctrl-A) and copy (Ctrl-C).
Open the Layers Dialogue (Ctrl-L) again, select the 'B W Layer', go back to the image and paste the copied layer back to the Image (Ctrl-V).
Go back to the Layers Dialogue (Ctrl-L), right click on the pasted layer and 'Anchor Layer'. The pasted layer should merge with the 'B W Layer'. Select the 'B W Layer' again.
Go back to the image, right click, go to Colors -> Hue-Saturation, move the 'Saturation' slide bar to its extreme left position and click on 'OK'. The 'B W Layer' should now turn black and white.
Now, select the 'Eraser' tool from the toolbar and erase the portions you want colored in the final image. Double clicking on the 'Eraser' tool will give you options to control the size and shape of the eraser.
Once, erasing is done, go back to the Layers Dialogue (Ctrl-L) again, right click on the 'B W Layer' and 'Merge Down'. You should now have a selectively colored image.
One has an option of converting the image to Sepia and using it instead of the 'B W Layer' for a sepia toned background. Ofcourse, the most tedious process is the erasing part and there are lot of different ways to do it, like 'Select by Color' / 'Select Contiguous Region' and delete (Ctrl-X). It might get tricky to properly erase some portions and increasing the size (Ctrl-+) will help. Infact, this is the reason why I got lazy and chose to color only the clothing, instead of completely coloring the lady and the bundle of grass :)
Update: I am setting myself a personal limit for post processing. Anything, I can do in-camera, I would try to do it in-camera. But, there are always limits to existing technology (say, in terms of dynamic range), equipment (lens not fast / sharp enough) or photographer (unsteady hands, improper focus, non-optimal frame requiring crop) and post-processing can help in some of these cases. Ofcourse, it should not be thought of as a fallback option while shooting, unless its used to overcome a technology limitation (read HDR, super imposing moon). The aim is to post the pictures as it is :)