to post-produce or not post-produce

I’ve avoided post production on all of my photos since forever.  All of my photographs I’ve shared have been taken with my old Canon Rebel t6s (Amelia – RIP), my current Canon 5D Mark IV (Eleanor), gopro equipment, or my iPhone.  And what I’ve shared has just been that image .RAW and thrown into the mix of photos on social media, or a featured image with a post here.

I strayed away from Photoshop and Lightroom, any type of small editing whathaveyou’s on my phone, and I do not use the Instagram filters.

In February I went to Canon HQ in New York and had an amazing 1:1 to talk about how to use my camera better.  I have a very expensive camera, and although I Google information, and bought a book about the settings, and nerd out with my users manual, sometimes it’s nice to have a conversation with someone about the technical aspects of photography.  Especially in conversation with the people who actually MAKE the camera.

The pictures I brought with me were from my January trip to Iceland and I got compliments.  I take good photos.  That’s super cool to hear from Canon.  My questions were about foreground versus background, light and dark.  I have this dark foreground (black sand beach) with a white background (huge ass snow-capped mountain) – how can I balance this better?  I want my end result to look like X, how do I get there?

Insert conversation about tools, settings, resources, graphs, blah blah blah blah blah, and post-production.

My immediate reaction was ‘I don’t post-produce.’ and I dead-ended the conversation on that.

I asked questions about taking panoramic shots a certain way.  I want my end result to look like X, how do I get there?

Insert conversation about holding the camera a certain way, best way to focus, lighting, tripod, blah blah blah blah blah, and post-production.

Again… I was like – WTF?

Because I’ve been so anti-post-production, I never dived in to it.  My younger sister is an amazing artist and photographer and she post-produces, but I guess that seemed natural to me.  She’s very creative and illustrative, and that seemed to fit the bill for her… of course she has a post-production process.  She sees things in a certain way, or sees the potential of something in a certain way, and has the whole process mentally prepped to go in a certain direction.

For months, my sister has helped entertain my ongoing debate about whether I should post-produce my photographs.  “Isn’t that lying or cheating?  I feel like I’m not being honest.” She’s encouraged it the whole time, and always says, “It’s the photographer, not the camera.”

Insert younger sister mic drop.

(Why are younger siblings wiser sometimes?)

Recently, I subscribed to Adobe and have been playing around with Photoshop and Lightroom.  (Lightroom more because it’s less intimidating than Photoshop.)

Through my conversations with Canon, myself, my sister, friends and lovers, Google, and the amazing travelers/photographers I follow, here’s where I’m at:

I don’t hate it.  There are a lot of good arguments for it, because science.

One of the biggest things – our eyes.  They are an amazing organ and muscle system.  The cells they are comprised of, and how they react to environment around us is something technology cannot keep up with.  They’re able to focus on light, color, background and foreground the way no camera can.  The clarity the eye can see is something lenses/cameras cannot reach.

What I see, what you see, any camera cannot capture it.  Not 100%.  Doesn’t matter the settings, tripod versus free hand, day or night.

Now, take what you’re looking at, and add your emotions and memories, and influence to it.  It starts to change.  Remembering something fondly/sadly may change the memory of the color versus the reality of the color.  Emotions are colors for some, or the clarity of everything, or the wide scope/narrow view.  It all starts to become more personal, intimate, private – me.

Now it starts to bleed into ‘Perception is reality’.

The first time I went to Iceland, I was driving back from Snæfellsnes to Reykjavik, and there was this beautiful sunset hanging off on my right.  I pulled over to take some photos, and I remember being disappointed when taking them.  The sunset was so warm and bright and happy.  My photos were coming out darker and blue.  Playing with the camera settings, I got a little closer to what I was seeing, but never 100%.  And even though it’s not a terrible photo, it’s not what I remember experiencing.  It was one of those sunsets where the whole sky was on fire.

Here’s one of the photos of what I captured:


Not terrible… but not what I remember.  I remember the oranges and yellows being way more robust.  So, this is one of the first images I played around with to get to know Lightroom and see what it can do.

Here’s the after:


This is what I remember.  Everything afuckingglow.

And so it’s hard to dislike post-production as much because it just helped recreate a memory.

So I kept playing around with older photos, newer photos, and now I have a portfolio of photographs I’ve played around with and am really proud of.

After I started editing, I’m on an ‘edit a photo a day’ challenge now and I send my sister these before and after’s every evening, and the conversation continues about post production.  It’s opened up some kind of creative something or another inside me.  I’m starting to look at color in a different way, and am looking at my camera settings in a different way.

There is still this hanging guilt like I’m doing something wrong.  As if I somehow can’t take good photographs.  I’m working through that complex.

I started thinking about film, as well.  And realizing, you can mess with the photo during the developing process.  And create your vision.

Just by adjusting the settings on my camera, I’m already altering the view of reality.  By zooming in or out, adding more light, I’m putting my spin on the world around me.

This post has been slightly cathartic to write out my thought process a bit, but I’m also curious if anyone else out there understands where I’m coming from.

Does editing feel like rose-colored glasses to anyone?

Sunset photos taken with Canon Rebel T6s in Iceland, 2016. 

Featured photo taken with Canon 5D Mark IV in Virginia, April 2018.  Edited with Adobe Lightroom.

Essay Picture Post

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