• Daniel Wretham

Post Processing - The 2nd Time Around

Updated: Jan 29, 2020


With the winter upon us once again and the limited free time to go out and take shots which seems to be blighted with rain, thoughts turn to a spot of post processing.

Its not unusual to have a good trawl through the archives and find some old gems that for whatever reason you never got round to processing and you decide to revive them and give them a go.

You're super pleased with the finished result, so why did you not do it before you wonder ?

Having spoken to a number of landscape photographers it seems this is quite a common thing and its made even more interesting when you revisit some images that you have already processed and redo them and they come out totally different to the first time and maybe even better ?

So why and how does this happen, well I'm glad you asked as I have a theory.

Now let's eliminate a few factors which will obviously see your work improve, You have learnt new techniques in photoshop/lightroom and your own style has developed, more to the point you have learned what NOT to do.

You weren't under any pressure to get the image finished in order to post it before anyone on social media etc so you took your time with it maybe ?

Well, there are a lot of factors to this so I thought id share a few thoughts on it which have worked well for me and will hopefully work well for you too.

We all know the excitement of being out on a shoot and getting some epic light and colour and what does everyone do ? rush home ultra keen to download their images and start work on them, often rushing the result and getting an image that frankly, could be better.

We're all guilty of it from time to time and I have found that if you leave the images till you have fresh eyes and time to really do a proper job then the image will be far better as a result.

I now give myself a rule that I don't process any images on the day I take them, instead waiting till I have fresh eyes and am not in any rush. I sometimes go up to two weeks after taking an image to processing mainly due to work commitments but it really does make a huge difference i've found.

I also used to process after getting back from a sunset shoot in a dark room or under tungsten lights, both of which caused me to make incorrect decisions on the colour balance of the image.

Instead now I make sure I process in as much natural daylight as possible or under white light (Philips hue bulbs) eliminating the yellow/orange influence tones of a regular household bulb.

It might sound like a daft thing but I promise you it makes a massive difference.

If you're in a dark room and looking at a very bright screen your eyes are fooled somewhat and errors can easily be made, I speak from experience so try to only process in a well lit room, preferably with natural light.

A really simple change to make is the background colour you have selected for photoshop or lightroom, as a default its either black or very dark grey and this can fool your eyes into thinking your image is actually brighter than it is. Instead I now process all my pictures using a white background as this gives a far better representation of how it will look when printed. To change the background on photoshop simply right click on the background and then when the menu appears select "select custom colour" and then click white. It might seem like a small and insignificant thing but it really does make a difference.

Colour casts in images is one of the biggest spoilers I see these days, some are unintentional and others are added for effect which generally look terrible.

We've all seen the sunset images that are impossibly orange and funnily enough so is everything else in the image, including the shadows *Rolls eyes.

Faking colour is never a good idea, it just doesn't ever look right on an image. Instead it gives it a dirty muddy feel and can be spotted a mile off.

Images with good colour correction look very clean and the tones all flow better and give the image a natural punch and pop.

One of the best methods for colour correction is to master the curves function and understand the grey point, white point and black point methods. This is something I will go into in much more depth on a future tutorial/blog.

Another factor which can be a real deal breaker on an image is processing in 16 bit rather than the standard 8 bit (most of you will already be in 16 bit mode)