How I stopped worrying and learned to love Photoshop.
I never had any formal training in photography, everything I know I have picked up along the way, and there is much to be picked up, especially on the technical side of it all.
At the moment I would say I got a lot right about the subject and composition of the images, there's still room for improvement of course. The biggest space for improvement is in the technical area. Not just post shooting but also the technical aspects of manually determining the correct settings for a particular result I'm looking for.
If you'd start any photography course that's worth it's money, you'll spend an awful lot of time getting the mechanics right. That's things like: aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Let's call it the triangle for good exposure. That's even before you get to choose a good subject, the angle, the focal length, lightning conditions, white balance and composition!
All of these things are needed to get a desirable image. Of course modern cameras can do all of these things automatically, or you can opt to set one setting by hand and have the camera select the other settings for you.
After you have taken your photo, there is what is called 'post-processing', or in more popular terms 'Photoshopping' after the well know application by Adobe Systems, Photoshop.
Photoshopping somehow has a fairly negative connotation to it. It is associated with doctoring the photo, making the image untrue to the situation or plain and simple creating an image of a situation that never even happened. Sure you can process an image in any of these ways, and of course this is done a lot (even in news items you might find images of war victims who were never even in the war, let alone a victim).
Still Post-Processing is a necessity! About 5 years ago I was also against any post processing. An photo was the way it was taken, the way it would come out of the camera. Any 'messing' with it afterwards felt wrong.
Then I was reminded by a coworker who also likes to photograph that in 'the olden days' when we brought our films to the local photoshop or chemists to be developed and have the photos printed, there would be a lot of processing done. Choosing how to develop the film is already 'changing' the image compared to how the camera saw it, then when the photos were being printed, the printing machines would automatically 'colour correct' images and do some other post-processing.
We never thought of this as cheating or doctoring with the images as we weren't aware this was happening and it was all done automatically (and we didn't have a choice).
This coworker also reminded me that when you process film and print your own photos in a darkroom yourself, like I used to do in high school, you also manipulate the image compared to how the camera saw it.
With that I was cured of my fear/dislike of Post-Processing.
Post-Processing is a necessity because of the difference the human eye functions compared to any camera. And that's just the physical way of 'capturing' the image. The brain does a lot of Post-Processing after the image on the retina is converted into signals that go to the brain. The brain adjusts colours to the colour it knows things should be, it complete patterns (filling in gaps with things that weren't actually in the retinal image) and it adjusts the image to fit within your own frame of experiences. It would be interesting to see an retinal image and the 'final brain image' next to each other to see the differences.
So Post-Processing is used to adjust the image that came straight out of the camera to make it as much as it looked to your brain when you took it. And also to improve the image so it is more appealing or more instrumental for it's purpose (I think most of us have seen how images that go on the cover of beauty magazines are processed).
In my photography I try to convey an atmosphere so when I Post-Process an image it is to enhance it such that it conveys that atmosphere as good as possible.
The image on the left is the processed image. On the right the image how it came out of the camera. Most important changes were in white balance, exposure and composition of the image (using 'rule of third' to hopefully draw your eye more to the eyes of the boy). The image is brighter making the colour of the robe 'speak more', you might think that I increased the saturation of the colour a bit, but after the change in exposure I actually had to tone it down a bit. There was some sharpening done too and ever so little 'clearing' of the skin in the lower section of the face.
I hope you agree that the processed image is not a fabrication, but simply an image more pleasing to the eye and more true to how I experienced the moment. Click on the images for larger!