Photo Editing – How Much is ok?

Springbrook Natural Bridge, Natural Arch _ Before and After Processing

Springbrook Natural Bridge, Natural Arch _ Before and After Processing

In a previous post I wrote about “Photo Editing – why, and what I can start on?” .  When I say editing I also refer to processing. That term relates well to film photography which always needs to be processed/developed. Now that we have digital cameras we have both embraced and rejected processing at times because we already have a picture to view after we press the shutter. It is great to get many things right when we took the photo but some significant improvements can be achieved by applying specific edits using software.

How much can we edit/process them before we say “that was a bit overdone” and the common phrases come up “it looks Photoshopped” or “it looks unnatural” and I admit to that happening to me more than once? The answer often comes back as; “it depends what you are trying to achieve”, which I haven’t found very informative.

The photo on the left is my example of a landscape image that had limited uneven light available when I took it and the camera did not instantly show the beautiful colours I could see but responded ok to editing. Click on the image to see a before/after animation.
As an example we certainly should carry out very different editing for different types of photos such as the photo types listed below which require somewhat different types of editing if we hope to make them better:

  •  Landscapes
  •  People
  •  Black and White
  •  Fine Art works
  •  Architecture/buildings
  •  Action

Some things should always be considered though:

  1. Photos are for looking at and being enjoyed, provoke thought, emotion or inspiration, or to illustrate something. Whether it be of our amazing world or the warmth and commitment of a wedding.
  2. Photos should catch the viewers eye and not in a bad way. They should not leave the viewer totally confused for any length of time.
  3. Consider how the actual scene looked when the photo was taken.

If you know who is going to look at your photos and what you want them to get from the photo you can do a little research and learn about what amount and type of editing is usually the best.
I have provided a link below to a web page that might help you get a better feel for what is an accepted amounts of editing. There are different categories/types of photos listed on the left. Remember that opinions will vary. GuruShots Post Processing examples page

You might also look at the GuruShots Photo Competitions and see which photos are high scoring in individual categories Click the link above then “Challenges” in their main menu then click on one of the challenges. The words “Submit Photos” may come up but you don’t need to submit photos as you are able to just view the current entries. Scroll down to view different ranks of achievement. Remember that sites such as this has images that are presented as high resolution and published for world wide competition. Don’t be discouraged if the standard looks high, just observe, enjoy  and aim to apply what you have learned from them. This is very important. Virtually all of these images are processed.

In posts coming soon I will talk about applying the basic techniques to the types of photos listed above.
You can also look back at my post Photo Editing – why, and what I can start on?

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