When I started taking photos a few years back, the only tools at my disposal was my camera and my PC’s photoviewer. Today, along with better field techniques, I use a bunch of super awesome software tools to make my images. In my opinion, taking images and post-processing them are two sides of the same coin. So, depending on your stance on post-processing of images, the content on this page along with the overall general sense of this blog, might either (hopefully) seem appealing and helpful or seem like a showcase of manipulation.
Irrespective of post-processing, it is important to know what kind of images one likes from what one doesn’t. Such a thing paved the path for me in creating my own opinion on photography. It’s been an evolving process and I expect it to keep changing. So, what I found appealing a certain day, sometimes looked dull and boring a year on or what I disliked once became my trademark style later on.
Plain, Simple and Raw
I could never take even a little post-processing in my work a few years back when I started off. That was how I loved them – plain, simple and raw. Processing got into my workflow a few months after I began clicking. Most of my initial images were made with few adjustments using Picasa. About a year later, was a phase of time when I over-processed my images, but still loved them for they looked beautiful. Overdoing images is something I understood in hindsight, since back then I never felt my images had been overdone. Another phase saw me take the grungy-HDR route, a style I discarded about a year later. But again, I loved whatever I did with my images as they still looked beautiful. The lesson I learned over the years is to let go of myself completely and do whatever my eyes see as aesthetic at that point of time. No questions asked and no boundaries drawn. I do what makes me happy and in the process learn new skills and better techniques. Such a thing has reaped a joyful, satisfactory and motivating results so far.
What I Do Today ?
The most important aspects of making my images are the field techniques. Irrespective whether I am shooting landscape or outdoor portraiture or cityscape, I put in quite an effort scouting for a place, getting a good composition, calculating the number of exposures necessary and adjusting my focal points. I haven’t yet mastered most of these basics, no shame accepting whatsoever, so there still is a small amount of trial-and-error that goes on and a good amount of lessons learned every single time in the field. There are days when I don’t get a single good shot after hours of prep work, but that is compensated by days when my eyes think that I unexpectedly made an out-of-the-world spectacular image. So see, it’s a fair game.
I take almost all my images in RAW format. This implies I would be needing a RAW format reader, for which I use Adobe’s Lightroom. The only time I shoot in JPEG is during casual family/friends outings. I catalog my images with Lightroom and import my images here. After hundreds of shots, I have developed a certain workflow in Lightroom. This flow will be highlighted in my posts or I could do a video walk-through in the future if needed. What’s important is, for every image I choose to work on, I do the following initial adjustments in Lightroom
- White Balance
- Cropping (if necessary)
- Sharpening (minor adjustments)
The route I take from here depends on what type of image it is. For street images, I mostly stick with Lightroom. Same is the case for my black and white images. Images for which I have multiple exposures, primarily, landscape or seascape or cityscape, I export them to Photoshop.
Since late 2014, I have increasingly started editing images with Photoshop. Mostly, I find myself using it for healing spots, perspective corrections, selective brightness or contrast adjustments, etc. I have been trying my best to flawlessly combine multiple exposures using luminosity masks in Photoshop. It’s something I know will take ages before I get even. At this point of time, I still have no proper workflow developed for Photoshop. I will update this section as and when my editing with Photoshop matures.
Why I Do ‘What I Do Today’ ?
Most of us know that no amount of post-processing is going to fix a badly composed image or an out-of-focus image. Hence, I find the first step of taking a good image as the most crucial part for making an image. For a major portion of this on-going photographic journey, I couldn’t relate to the in-field thought process that professional photographers spoke about. There was not much to think during the initial days than to look through the view finder and click the camera shutter. But gradually, as I kept shooting, quite mysteriously, there was more thinking I did before clicking. Invariably, today I look to fix a lot of fine details before clicking. The better my field techniques are, the more I can extract during post-processing which results in a good final image.
Primary aspects that I look out for is a good composition, right focal point and optimum exposure. Easier said than done, we know that these basic aspects of photography involve a number of variables and constraints. It took me a long time to get consistent with some of my field techniques, and there still is a lot more I need to fix in my next shoot.
Off the field, if there’s one software that I would never part ways with, it would be Lightroom. I do all my image cataloging here which helps me to stay organized, for I often keep coming back to my library for re-editing. A large chunk of my image adjustments are done here which I mentioned in the previous section. On the other hand, Photoshop, without a doubt, took my images to the next level. I was able to do more with the same images that were previously edited using Lightroom. It is overwhelming for a beginner to work with so many tools and adjustments, but definitely this is something one should start using after getting comfortable with the basics like composition, focus, exposure control, histogram, etc. Getting thorough with Lightroom before moving to Photoshop is a popular formula advised my many peers, which having followed, I would recommend too.