Post Processing Thoughts

A model once said she liked my pictures because I don’t process them. I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or insulted by that. I spend a lot of time thinking about my post-processing and applying them. It could mean she couldn’t tell if I  processed my photos. Or it could mean I’m awesome because my photos look natural.

I’ve pondered at my post processing.  I noticed it goes through cycles from doing too little to too much to doing too little again. It depends on what new techniques I learn and what other photographers do with their photos.

When I first started getting into photography, I was an in-camera only guy. I thought using photoshop or lightroom was cheating. I had to get it perfect in camera. And I still believe that.

The photo below is one of my earlier shots. I just crushed the shadows and applied some split toning (and boy can you tell). That’s all. I didn’t even retouch her face nor touch any other sliders. Luckily she has good skin. People wondered how I posted my pics so fast. It’s because I just did split toning, synced all photos, and posted it it.

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Then I got into post processing heavily. I learned some retouching techniques (both good and bad techniques, but that’s a future post).  I loved using Lightroom and Photoshop. I believed post-processing was an essential part of the finished photo. And I still believe that.

I did a lot of stuff to my photos during this phase. Luckily, I never got into the horrible HDR phase.

Here is one of my more processed photos. Man, did it look overprocessed. It did give a distinct flavor to my photo. You know, the flavor of sunburnt skin. 

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Later on, I hated my post-processing on that photo. So I redid it. It looks smoother and more elegant. I made things subtler. The skin tone looks more natural. I even retouched her skin. Is this one better? To me it is.

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Then I went to this. I used the  radial filter heavily to get rid of the distracting elements in the background. Heck, I probably even used the brush tool to darken big areas as well. I was going to town on my Lightroom, using everything it has.

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It almost looked like I used a softbox  on camera left and hair light on a boom on top of her. In fact, this was all ambient light. She was sitting on a pool table with the lamp above her. That’s it. I also cleaned up her face using frequency separation.

I also went through a phase of trying to save bad photos using post. I won’t be trying that again. The image below is heavily cropped and processed. It’s an okay photo. Nothing can save a bad photo.

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Here is where I am now. I dodged and burned her skin to lighten up the bags under her eyes and to eliminate a few imperfections. I also messed with the curves, saturation, and contrast a bit. That’s about it.

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My Opinions On What Post Processing Should Be

So now I’m back at trying to get everything in camera again. But when I look back at my photos, they haven’t  changed much, no matter how much post-processing I used.

One reason is my philosophy of keeping things as subtle as possible. I try not to max out, or even go past 25, on my sliders.

Also, I believe the first thing you notice in photos CANNOT be the post processing. The processing should fit and become seamless with the photo. It has to match the mood, story, and feeling of the photo.

Later on, I’ll go over many different ways to retouch skin.

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Fuji X-T1 Image Leaks

Fujirumors just posted leaked pictures of the X-T1 and its probable price. Wow, what a sexy looking camera. I am a fan of the rangefinder design, but I must admit, the camera looks sweet. I love the ISO dial on the right, which I suggested in my previous blog post. I’m sure Fujifilms listened to me. 😉 Now, if the shutter dial is in 1/3 stops, this camera will be the best camera with traditional manual controls.

Of course, I won’t get the camera. There’s nothing wrong with it. It even has some of the features I would love to have in my X-E1: better EVF, better AF, better LCD, faster responsiveness, WiFi, and so on (I don’t care about the weather sealing). But it still won’t let me take better pictures.

The only reason I would need to buy a new camera is if my current camera breaks, or when I want a new vanity item. Besides, the $1800 price is pretty hefty.  But man, my G.A.S. is raging from looking at the photos.

Photographers, Why Do You Need So Much MegaPixels?

When fujirumors posted their rumor about the Fuji X-T1, people were complaining how it was “only” 16 megapixels. Why do these  photographers care about megapixels? I’m betting 90% of them only show their photos on the web. Heck, even if they print regularly, they don’t need that much megapixels. Do they have wall sized prints for all of their photos or something?

Most photographers need only about 8 megapixels. That would give them plenty of pixels to print, show off on their facebook, and still have enough room to crop the image if needed (okay, if you’re preparing for the 4k monitors, maybe you’ll need about 10-12 megapixels if you’re planning to view all of your photos at full screen).

There are a lot of benefits of lower megapixel cameras. One major advantage would be  smaller RAW files.  You wouldn’t need terabytes of space to keep your photos. With smaller files, the write times to cameras would be faster. The FPS would be faster as well. In fact, everything will be more responsive from loading your RAWs to Lightroom, writing to camera, transferring files back and forth, and so on.

Another advantage would be pixel density. Lower pixel density means better ISO and low light performance. Bigger pixels means better light gathering capability from the sensor.

So Fuji, if you’re listening, keep the X-T1 and your future mirrorless cameras at 16 megapixels. We don’t need anymore.  For future cameras, just keep improving the EVF so it will be clearer and brighter than any OVF can be. Keep improving ways we can manually focus with better focus peaking, split screen, faux prism screen, etc. Keep improving the AF, especially in low light. Give us real tethering capabilities in your cameras. And keep improving your sensors and make them even more awesome.

My Tumblr, Facebook Page, and Wordpress

I have a tumblr. I have a facebook page. And now, I have my wordpress. Why do I have three different sites?

My Tumblr

I used to do everything on my tumblr. I used to share my new photos, write my thoughts on photography related stuff, and so on. But I don’t feel tumblr gives me the engine I need to do a “real” blog. Tumblr feels more like a micro-blogging site. And it is. It doesn’t feel like a serious blogging  site.

Sure, many people use tumblr to write blogs. But the true use of tumblr is posting quick thoughts or images and having people share them. I don’t know if I can gain a good readership there. Most people who use tumblr don’t seem to have patience to read a long essay.

So I’ll use my tumblr to post my recent photos.

My Facebook Page

I have a facebook page too. I post my photos there as well. Why do I need two places to post photos? Because I can.

Seriously, I thought about why I need both. But I have established fans on my facebook page. They are not going to create a tumblr account for me. Besides, I get better interaction at facebok. So I post photos to both my tumblr and facebook. No big deal.

My Photography Website

I still haven’t created my website that showcases my portfolio. That will come later once I become better at taking pictures. I don’t think I can choose 10 good photos to show off right now.

My 6 Favorite Photos of 2013

I hate most of my pictures. I guess that’s normal for most photographers to be critical of their photos. But I buckled down and decided to choose 6 favorite pictures I took in 2013. Why 6 and not do a more traditional top 10? I couldn’t find 10 I liked, so I chose 6. Some of them might not be the best photos I’ve taken, but I have an emotional attachment to them. So here they are in random order.

1.

I hated this photoshoot. The lighting sucked, and I thought I was going to shoot adult ballerinas. But all we got were kids. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about shooting kids. I came out of this shoot feeling depressed. I seriously thought I got 0 good shots from this shoot. 

When I go back and look at them, I don’t think they’re bad at all. In fact, I think these are some of my better pictures. I just used on-camera flash on all of these. 

The picture above is one of my favorites. I like the composition and atmosphere of the picture. I was still in my “treat every photo as a design exercise” phase. 

Also, the on camera flash made that scene look like a stage and a spotlight hit her.

2. 

I think Victoria is a great model. She made this shot work. But I must admit, it wasn’t my idea. Some dude asked the guys in the motorcycle to rev their engine so the smoke would come out. And Victoria did her thing. I just hung back and stole some shots. 

I had a supposed professional fashion photographer critique this photo. His main critique was that this photo had no story. He didn’t understand why the guys were in the motorcycles in the back. I had no clue what he was talking about. I mean, to me, the story was the clearest part of this photo. What is there not to get? There are so many interpretations of the story in this photo. 

Maybe he was right. Maybe I’m too arrogant to think otherwise. Whatever. After that, I never took people’s critiques seriously unless I admired their work.

3.

My friend Christine wanted me to take her maternity photos. I resisted for a long time. I thought all maternity photos were cheesy. 

Well, after researching and thinking about it, I decided to do it. All I had to do was take a nice portrait of my friend who happened to be pregnant. That’s it. I didn’t have to do anything cheesy like making heart signs on their bellies or having the dad kiss the stomach.

Sure, the photo isn’t perfect. I could’ve photoshopped her fly away hairs. But I think I accomplished my goal.

4.

This was a fun shoot. I liked this picture because of the genuine emotion between two models. No posing, no emoting, no modeling. Just a good snapshot. 

5.

This was my first popular 500px photo. I strategically made sure this would get popular in 500px. I had it all planned out: flattering lighting, hot model showing skin, clean post processing, glamorous style, and a clean image. 

I accomplished my goal and got a 95.5 score and got to the popular section of 500px. I got my validation from the circlejerk that is 500px. I’m glad I don’t have to subject my eyes to their boring photos again. 

6.

I’m not a landscape photographer. But for some reason, I like this pic. It’s nothing special. But I like it. People liked my Joshua Tree pictures better. But again, I just like this picture better. 

Why do I like it? I don’t know why. There’s a lot of problems with this photo like the huge empty space on the top. But I still like it.

I guess it feels like a poor-man’s version of Ansel Adam’s Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico photograph to me.