chantal stone photography: the blog

October 31, 2007

Thoughts On Post-processing

Filed under: Photography,Process/Learning — chantal @ 10:01 am

Happy Halloween!


I carved that pumpkin last night….I’ll post a pic later today or this evening.

I wanted to get a head start on my blogging today, I have a busy day planned: I have about 798652314 photos to process, then a Halloween party at my daughter’s school, then carve one more pumpkin, make dinner, then trick or treating!

Today’s topic was easy for me to think of… I was asked a question in the previous post so I decided to answer here. Jen asked: “I’m very curious about the b/w horse one – was the light effects (and the arc) achieved in editing, or did you just luck out with natural lighting?” And on her blog she wrote: “Her photos are stunning. I’m going to have to spend some time figuring out how she got these shots. Photoshop or camera?” (thanks Jen!!)

In that particular horse photo, that lighting was achieved in Photoshop. The original image was a hot mess, but I loved the composition. Like a dummy, I forgot to change the white balance on my camera (I shot this jpeg) so this was the result:


I played with it a little, and tried to fix the color, but I wasn’t happy with the result. Color just wasn’t working for me, so I turned it b&w and added the vignette since the sky was so blah:


I liked that, but I wanted to play a little with some textures. There are some great things being done lately, using textures to create mood, particularly in wedding photography. Wedding photographer Jesh De Rox has been a big influence for a lot of people, and he has sets of actions that can be applied to create mood and feeling in photographs. But before I invest in anything like that I just wanted to play around a little, and see what I could come up with on my own. I like the textures, but it’s only something I would want to use in moderation. And the result was this:


It’s a little more processing that what I normally like to do, but I was still pleased with the result.

To answer the second part of Jen’s question–she basically just wanted to know how much PP I do. The answer is pretty simple: Aside from the occasional image like the horses, I don’t do much. I learned photography on film, I shot film for about a hundred years, and I only began started shooting digitally earlier this year, when I decided I wanted to go pro. When shooting film, you quickly learn to get it right in as few shots as possible, and you learn to create the image IN camera. Back in the day, unless you wanted to spend hours in the darkroom (I never had the attention span for that) you really had to know how you wanted your final print to look beforehand and take that into consideration before clicking the shutter. There are about 10 billion debates on film vs digital on the web, and I’m so not interested in getting into that here, but I really do believe that film is the best way to learn the fundamentals of photography.

Now that I shoot primarily digital, I still try to apply those same principles to my approach: consideration of the final print, trying to create IN camera. I love bright, punchy color, and I use different camera settings to achieve the look I want more consistently. When I post process, I usually only touch levels, a boost in contrast here and there, since I have the habit, albeit purposeful, to over-expose by a half stop or so. I will also sharpen a bit, then perhaps add the vignette. I don’t know why, I just love that. And that’s pretty much it. There are a number of great Photoshop Actions out there too. I haven’t used any yet, but I’ll definitely be purchasing some before the next wedding season begins.

Obviously, there are images that require a bit more, maybe a warming filter, a color adjustment or whatever, and I’ll do that when necessary. But as a wedding photographer, when I’m facing 1500-2000 images to process, I have quickly learned to come up with the most effective and efficient method of enhancing my images. And creating the best possible image IN camera has been the most effective way for me to minimize my time correcting or enhancing images on the computer.

I hope that answers your question, Jen!



  1. Very helpful! I can see I have some more practice to do — and probably should set aside some moolah for a decent editing program. Also, like you, I spent years with film camera, but the lack of access to a darkroom kept me from pursuing the post-process stage. I just bought a good digital camera and am relearning pretty much everything.

    Thank you for a quick response!

    Comment by Jen — October 31, 2007 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  2. Thoughts on post processing? I have none! 🙂 I just do whatever feels right. BTW, that’s a huge backlog! 😉 Also, I’m curious, as you work so hard to make sure that things are right the first time, and you take huge number of pictures, are you still shooting RAW for all of your weddings?

    Comment by Paul — October 31, 2007 @ 10:59 am | Reply

  3. I feel the same way you do. Sometimes I find myself trying all these photoshop tricks to make a photo look right. Then I drop because I realize a photograph that has to be banddaged that much is simply not a good photograph. I see a lot of wedding photographers who do so much photoshop. I wonder. I am sure there are many brides and grooms who want to look like themselves. They may not want to look too photoshopped.

    There are so many way you can go, so many actions and so many options in photoshop, that if you end up using to many then you photographs do not have any consistency. I imagine something like a flip book where as you are flipping through the images she are looking at the content, not the many different ways that each photograph is processed.


    Comment by shermancharles — October 31, 2007 @ 11:37 am | Reply

  4. Jen–relearning stuff via digital is so much fun…enjoy your new camera!

    Paul–I never really shot a lot of RAW. As I recall, a very wise photographer 😉 once gave me some advice on raw vs jpeg, and I’ve found what he said to be very applicable for me. RAW has its uses, but for the most part I shoot JPEG. I will sometimes switch to RAW when shooting in a lower light situation though, but I’m mostly a jpeg shooter.

    Sherman– I agree, and I tend to be conservative with my post-processing, although I must say that I am not against using photoshop to enhance a photo or to create mood. I love the idea of using artistic license to enhance or manipulate an image to make it look how I felt at a given moment. Of course, all things in moderation. There definitely can be too much of a good thing, but when it comes to art, who’s to say what’s too much?

    And really, that’s one of the things I love so much about contemporary wedding photography…there’s so much freedom to be as creative and artistic with our work as we want to be. And thankfully, more and more brides appreciate this and really see us artists, as much as we are photographers.

    Thanks so much for the comments!

    Comment by Chantal — October 31, 2007 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

  5. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

    Comment by Idetrorce — December 15, 2007 @ 7:52 am | Reply

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