View Full Version : How much post-processing should you do?
Apologies if this has been asked/answered--kindly direct me if possible!
How much postprocessing/photoshopping do/should you do with your digitized positives?
It's kind of a philosophical question. The genesis of it I guess is my addiction (I'm trying to recover) to digital photography and the relative useability of most shots given the amount of photoshopping I can do, while there are by nature fewer "winners" with film and rangefinders. I suppose this is a reflection on my skill, as well, to some degree, but that's why I got back to film--to work on my exposure-skills.
I guess the thing is, I've been trying different b/w film, and a lot of the result has been unsatisfactory (highlights/shadows/sharpness/detail) a lot of the time--and while I can photoshop it pretty well, the question I am asking you (and myself) is, "Should I?"
It seems that if you have to do too much ps'ing, it kind of defeats the purpose and spirit of using film.
I mean isn't that the nature and the major draw of rangefinders and film--that you have to get the exposure and focusing right and the process of it all, etc.? Am I totally off base? Is it more of a reflection of my deficiencies, equipment, C-41 process/lab, or is it something you just have to come to terms with?
Just for the record, a lot of what I am referring to as unsatisfactory are the C-41 shots, which I've been using/trying because souping it at home isn't feasible right now--I have used some TriX and had it to a lab, but they left streaks, scratched negs, etc.
Kodak CN400 shot at ISO 320, Bessa R3A, 40mm F1.4, 1/60s (I think), unretouched (no idea what that vertical thing on the right side of the shot is--thought it was the refrigerator, but not sure).
(edited after the first comment to make sure I had the original file loaded above)
Almost looks like color with a interesting mix of b+w and sepia added.
"How much postprocessing/photoshopping do/should you do with your digitized positives?"
As much or as little as necessary. It is the same as if you are in the darkroom. You print, dodge, burn, manipulate , etc., an image until you get what you feel is as close to your creative vision as possible.
I don't think it's a question of "should". I don't do much post-processing, mainly because I'm not very good at it and generally make things worse rather than better, but I have no in-principle objections to people doing a lot more than I do, it's all about the result not the process. Mind you, I generally have to do more PP with film scans than I do with pictures from my digital cameras, mostly cloning out dust and dirt.
my routine is much the same for every scan.
i scan my b&w as a colour positive.
then i invert and desaturate
apply levels and a tiny bit of brightness/contrast
a touch of unsharp mask
As much as necessary and no more.
Same as with wet printing.
Ultimately my goal is to have a negative that requires very little work after the exposure. Not for any "artistic" reason but simply because the work is , well, work.
If I can make the right choices before I push the shutter, then I have much less to do afterwards to get the photograph I wanted. Since I don't always make those "right" decisions, I then need to spend time(now at the computer/before in the darkroom) doing what I can to get the photograph I saw.
What's "too much"? For me, if the manipulations are distracting from the photograph, then I've done too much. If the photograph still doesn't represent what I saw with out those manipulations, then it gets round filed.
I scan color negs as a tiff file. Apply manual white balance on a neutral part of the preview using vuescan, then do the full scan. save as a jpeg. I'm done!
Saint Ansel said something about the negative being the score and the print being the performance. To me, there is no philosophical difference between chemical darkroom manipulation (contrast masking, dodging, burning, pre-flash, not to mention lith printing or other alternative processes) and Photoshop. My recent work has centered on variations of a "digital lith" process that requires extensive manipulation after I scan the film. Here are a couple of galleries that show the results:
Lith Portals (Rolleiflex capture with color negative film) (http://www.westerickson.net/lithportals/)
Gladding, McBean 2005 Gallery (35mm capture with color negative film) (http://www.westerickson.net/gmb2005/)
Brickwork (Pentax DSLR capture) (http://www.westerickson.net/brickwork/)
To me, monochrome almost always includes dodging and burning at least. My digital lith process is more extreme, and is inspired by the chemistry of lith printing, which accentuates edges, grain, and adds a stippled look that is inherent to the lith process.
To me, the only photographic capture choice that requires 100% perfect "in camera" production is color transparency film. I believe that graduated neutral density filters, color enhancer filters, warming polarizers, etc., were all essentially invented to try to perfect in-camera capture.
Finally, these are my opinions only. Photography is very personal, so the choices you make for your creative workflow need to be right for you.
I mean isn't that the nature and the major draw of rangefinders and film--that you have to get the exposure and focusing right and the process of it all, etc.?
You kind of only hint at it here, but...if you get your entire process dialed in - exposure, and development for the "target" of your scanner - then you do very little photoshop work afterwards. Other than spotting, I spend maybe 5 minutes per scan. Seriously.
However, that's with b/w traditional. It's a different game with c41 b/w. However, even then, if you get exposure right (usually 200 for xp2, for instance), then it takes just a slight curve and your'e there.
You need not spend a lot of time in PS, but you have to get everything else figured out in order to get there.
But just because one can doesn't mean one should.
I visualize the print I want. Then process the file to get there. That's my usual workflow. Don't what care how much or little I do. Not that I get "there" very often.
I'd like to apply more postprocessing sometimes, but still bump into the limits of the quality of my raw scan. I'm happy if I can get postprocessing to produce a decent regular look, let alone a special look.
I'm not sure if my lack of quality is due to the negative or to the scanner... I'm starting to think that Rodinal (the only developer I used up till now) is not very suitable for scanning, because it's rather grainy and seems to deliver quite some contrast, Lately I've been developing at higher dilutions and with less agitation (or even stand development), and it doesn't seem to bring that much gain. Any suggestions on what may be a better developer for scanning?
But just because one can doesn't mean one should.
Just because one doesn't have to doesn't mean one shouldn't
(wow, three negatives in one sentence!)
Just make sure it improves the image when you do the postprocessing. Technically and aesthetically.
ANd then you should be fine.
Each image has its own road to tavel.
I use a standard workflow to get the contrast, and color balance,
Then I look at the image and deside if I need to dodge, burn, soften, desaturate areas, etc..Sometimes I apply a guassion blur on OOF areas that I want to have more precieved seperation with.
Just like when I had a Wet Darkroom (Many, many, many years ago :cool: )
I use my USM tool or high pass sharpen tool last or next to last., Then I crop if needed. done. Use SAVE AS. and rename the image.
I spend about 5-30 min. per image I consider keepers.
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