Call me conservative, but I’ve always thought of post-processing as a way to augment a picture, not make one. What do I mean by that? Scroll through flickr’s many pages and you will see examples of images that are unimpressive apart from the remarkable amount of processing performed on those images.
One particular example is that of high dynamic range, or HDR imaging. These images typically use either multiple exposures or a high bit-depth file to create an image that has a higher dynamic range than is possible using a single exposure from the camera. Ever wondered why the photo of that beautiful cathedral with sun light shining in looks so drab and lifeless on the camera LCD? Well that’s because many of the details and colors are lost during the capture process (the camera needs to choose between bright and dark regions, and cannot do both). HDR exists to address this limitation. Now, many of these pictures look great, especially when tastefully done. However, all too often we find on flickr oversaturated images, with impossibly high dynamic range and color palette, that looks more like a crayon drawing than a photograph. As an example, sample Scott Graham’s work showcased on Steve Huff’s blog. No offence, Scott, but those pictures generated a response not because they were HDRs, but because they were over-processed.
The other type of post-processing comes in the familiar form of the smartphone camera app. Now many of these apps can apply art filters to the image, and can turn ordinary, mundane things into great works of lomo art. Here’s my take: you wanna do lomo, go grab an old Russian plastic camera. The experience is decidedly different, okay? Don’t cheap out. And stop flooding the flickr servers with re-hashed images, all looking remarkably unremarkable.
Lastly, there are those who use Lightroom to vignette every single photo, warm it up a little, and add a dash of blue and try to pass it off as art. No. No, no, no, no, no. It gets old real quick. Please stop depending on presets like this. Make an image with the camera, not the computer!!