When I first started photography, I had this false idea that a good photograph is one that comes straight out of the camera, and anything done afterwards in post-processing is cheating.
I firmly believed that the greatest photography masters were “purists” and wanted to become like them. Little did I know how much time those masters spent in the darkroom, dodging and burning their images to get the final result—basically the same thing we do today in post-processing, only now it’s digital.
It was a limiting belief that prevented me from creating stunning images that would stand out and eventually become saleable.
In reality, the art of photography doesn’t stop when you press the shutter button… and post-processing is half the magic when it comes to creating stunning images.
I like to relate photography to painting on a canvas: taking the picture would be like sketching with a pencil on a blank canvas, while applying the colors would be the processing part.
This is the moment when the photographer, as an artist, applies a personal and artistic vision to a scene or subject and overcomes the limitations of the camera.
Whether it’s a slight adjustment of contrast and colors or a heavier adjustment of the overall mood, everything you see in magazines, websites, or hanging on a wall has been processed in some way or another.
Here’s an example of an image I took, thinking it was great straight from the camera:
… and here’s the edit I did later, once I shook off my limiting beliefs:
Fortunately, we don’t need to spend hours in a dark room breathing chemicals anymore. We have incredible software that was built specifically with digital photographers in mind: Adobe Lightroom. (And no, I don’t work for Adobe. I don’t get a commission if you buy from them. It’s a staple in the photography world. Nearly every photographer I know is using Adobe Lightroom.)
Ansel Adams, who was also known to heavily process his images, once said: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
Now head out there, learn how to master Lightroom, and make stunning images.