NO PROCESSING – Why the latest “trend” in social media photography causes brain cancer.

Not really – I needed something catchy to get people to read my blog.

I’ve seen tons of “meh” to “good” photos on social media where the OP loudly proclaims “NO PROCESSING” as a title to their post.  Apparently, among the photographically disadvantaged crowd, this is a badge of honor.  “Look at me everyone, I shot this fantastic photo and didn’t have to photo edit it at all!”

To the naked eye, one would think that your e-friend has just taken their photography game to the next level – NO PROCESSING.  Well, I’ve spent a not-too-insignificant chunk of my life in the darkroom or lab, trying to make the perfect dodging or burning tool out of cardboard and coat hangers.  All in an effort to control light and create a better photographic print. AKA…Processing.

If the tools available to me today, were available to me as a kid learning photography, my life may have turned out far different.  But alas, they were not, so let’s take a look at “processing” versus “no processing”.

Let’s take a closer look:

CHEESE

Let’s talk about cheese for a minute.  Yes, cheese.  I love it and the doctor says I can’t have it.  I think I’ve found a slightly happy medium.  Anyhow, this is my local mega huge restaurant supply store.  I’ll buy things I don’t need in ridiculously large quantities.  Like an eight pound wheel of Parmesan cheese.  I think it took us 5 or 6 years to eat the whole thing.  Scrape the mold off and go!  And if you don’t own a Parmesan grinder, get one.

The original photo is fairly flat and lifeless. The lighting was indirect and mixed sources. The colors are also muted.

Cheese - No Proc

While this photo certainly isn’t going to win any awards or contests, a few tweaks can make it a photo with some interest.  Slight cropping gets rid of floor and distractions. Exposure/Brighten +10%; HDR/Structure +40% (brings out midtones and helps definition if high dynamic range (HDR) is used); Darken blacks -5%.

Cheese - Proc

 

PUG

This is my pug, there are many like it, but this one is mine.  Well, it’s my wife’s pug and her name is Lulu.  She will repeatedly be made an example of. There will be other dogs too.  FWIW, flat-faced dogs rank somewhere around root canals in my book.  This one does bad things, but she makes my wife happy. Happy wife, happy life, right?

Everyone loves dogs, especially pugs, but we see a million pics on social media which look like this. Cute dog, nothing remarkable.

Pug - No Proc

By cropping from a vertical orientation to a horizontal one, and tightening the shot, we get a more thoughtful and pensive pug.  Tweaking the exposure, brightness and HDR range by 10-15% brings out detail, contrast and highlights.  Despite all of this, it will still not prevent the pug from pooping in the front room.

Pug - Proc

MICHAEL’S

Few people detest having to follow my wife into the arts and crafts supply place as much as I do.  It’s not that I’m anti-crafts.  It’s just that I’d rather be pretty much anywhere besides the inside of that store.  Maybe they will listen to my pleas and install a couch group and a 70″ display for the husbands and/or uninterested spouses.  Anyhow, I figured I might as well make the best out of a crappy situation.

It’s pretty obvious this photo was shot in the store by the pieces of background peeking through. The colors and contrast are also on the dull side.  While these are dried and artificial flowers, there isn’t any reason why it still cannot be an interesting photo.

Dried Flowers - No Proc

As always, crop out the ugly.  Get rid of anything which detracts from the photo.  Bring life to the dull flowers by adding about 20% HDR/Structure and color saturation.

Dried Flowers - Proc

While I will be the first to agree that taking a good photo from the start is paramount, anyone who has shot more than 100 photos in their life will know this truism – perfect photos are as rare as hens’ teeth.  Processing allows the photographer to make a ho-hum photo usable and interesting.  Or it can make a good photo great.  As Ben Franklin said “everything in moderation”, unless photo processing excess is your goal.  Take it easy on the sliders!  As this blog develops, I will explain more about how to use individual image, exposure, gamma, hue and other lighting and color controls, instead of preset filters (which generally look awful).

CLASSROOM LECTURE

What is “processing”?  Processing, from a photography point of view, originally referred to the type of film processing used to develop a roll of film – Kodachrome slides, Ektachrome slides, color prints, etc. – E6, C41, K12 and Cibachrome are all “photographic processes” – referring to the amount and types of chemicals and handling conditions required to convert exposed film into light-stable negatives.  Since film is effectively obsolete when compared to digital photography, “processing” generally refers to what is generally called “photo-editing”.  (And don’t knock me – I very well may write about shooting film one of these days.)

Having supplanted film developing processes in definition, “processing” now refers to a wide variety of programs and applications (apps) which can be employed via desktop computer, mobile device, or tablet.  The original entrants to this category were Adobe’s Photoshop and Corel’s Photo-PAINT.  These programs have now morphed into new, powerful suites of tools which can do absolutely amazing “processing” tasks.  But these programs take time and skill to learn.  They are chock full of features, menus, and toolbars.  And they are difficult as hell to pick up and learn.  Personally, I like the programs (despite not being very good with them), for very difficult tasks – like removing blemishes, clipping out parts of an image, etc.  These are not programs which are easy to use on the go – vacations, events, travel, photojournalism, etc.

Which brings us to applications or app, for short.  An app may perform a single function (like digitally simulating depth of field) or it may be a lightened version of a photo editing suite – Adobe’s Photoshop (program) versus Photoshop Express (app).  It’s also 500.00 versus free.  And we all like free, right?

Your mobile platform (iOS or Android) will determine the selection available.  Since I use an iPhone for on-the-go processing, I will always tend towards those products.  Having said that, almost every worthwhile app out there is available for both operating systems.

I have used the following apps with good results: Enlight for all-around photo processing needs.  Big Lens is another interesting app which gives you the ability to manipulate depth of field or create a vignette focus.  Another very popular competitor to Enlight is Snapseed which offers a lot of the same control.  And there are others.  One day I may even do a real looksee if anyone is interested ; )

Believe it or not, more than a few people you know will say – “I don’t see a difference”.  Save yourself the heartache now, these folks can’t be saved.  They are “image impaired”.  Seriously though, some people flat out don’t see art in photography.

And, if I use terms you are more interested in, please let me know.

What do you think about the basics of photo processing?  Let’s hear your feedback. I say PROCESS AWAY! Processing can make a good pic great!