(originally posted 6/5/12)
Developing your images on the computer, commonly referred to as processing, is a whole topic in photography, above and beyond the creative and technical aspects of capturing an image in the camera. It’s something every photographer deals with and some love the process and some despise it. Myself, I love it and I hate it. I love it because it is also a creative endeavor, but I hate it because it can be so frustrating to achieve the results I’m looking for (or not knowing how to achieve the results I envisioned). Really good developing can take a good image and make it outstanding, but there is also the risk of “doing too much” and ruining the image by making it look fake or over-processed.
I spend almost equal amounts of time between being out in the field photographing and being at home learning and evolving my development techniques. All of the tools out there are incredibly powerful, providing a myriad of choices for how to develop images. The choices are almost overwhelming and can be intimidating too! Just like I am evolving my photographic vision in my images, I am also continually evolving my developing vision and toolset. For tools, I am currently using Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 4, Nik Software and Helicon Focus. To find my development vision, this takes many hours of learning, practicing on my images, and finally, providing an honest critique of my own work in order to improve and bring feeling and connectedness with the viewer.
Along with continually improving my skills and tools, my preferences and tastes continually evolve, which brings change to how I want to develop my images. It’s interesting (and a bit scary) to look back at past images to critique them. Self-reflection is an important part of my photography and one that I practice continually. It’s a constant strive to do better with each and every image.
Just like in the film days when developing the film was required, in todays digital world it’s still important that images are “developed”, not enhanced, just developed to what my recollection is of the scene. And just like any skill, developing has its own skillset that needs to be practiced and honed. The moral of this story is that for me, spending time and energy to improve my processing skills is just as important as devoting time to improving my photographic skills!