Thursday, January 14, 2016

Don't Spend Too Much Time Post-Processing Your Photos

Red Chairs - Cambria, California
This photograph took about one minute to post-process start to finish.
Don't spend too much time post-processing any one photograph. No photograph is perfect, so small imperfections are to be expected. In fact, in some photographs, the imperfections can be good (some photographers purposefully place imperfections within their images, it is a part of their style).

It's easy to think that your images need just a few more small tweaks. The fact is that almost everyone (if not everyone) who views your photograph will not notice any of those [many] little things you adjusted in Photoshop (or software of choice). I know that you notice and that you care, but you are the only one.

That may sound harsh, but it is a harsh reality: no one loves your photographs except for you. Very few, if any, will take the time to notice the smaller details. Most people won't look at a photograph for more than 10 seconds. Those tiny imperfections that drive you nuts will go completely unnoticed by others.

I don't want to say that you shouldn't care and that you shouldn't strive for perfection. What I am trying to get across is that you can spend a heck-of-a-lot of time in front of your computer editing pictures, and the more time you spend staring at a screen is less time that you could be doing other things (including capturing pictures). If you are spending more time editing than capturing, this is probably a sign that you are worrying too much about the tiny unnoticeable details in your photographs.
Evening At Tunnel View - Yosemite National Park, California
This photograph took just a handful of clicks to post-process.
In the most recent issue of National Geographic there is a photograph of Yosemite National Park from Tunnel View. The photographer spent literally weeks post-processing that one image. It was certainly beautiful and had a unique aspect. But, really, was it all that much different than the thousands of other photographs captured from this same spot each day? It took me a moment to even realize the unique aspect of it--at first glance, which is all that most people will give, I thought it was just another pretty picture from this iconic vista--I had to spend more time than usual to notice and appreciate the photograph.

You could do the same thing as that photographer. You could spend many days editing one photograph, just for the majority of viewers to completely miss the things you did in Photoshop. Most won't even notice until it is pointed out to them. Then they'll say "that's cool" and move on with their day, never giving another thought to this.

One way to avoid spending too much time post-processing your photographs is to take extra care to make sure that as much as possible is "right" in-camera in the field prior to opening the shutter. 10 extra seconds just double checking everything can save you several minutes of clone stamping (or whatever) in Photoshop. This is the photographic equivalent of the "measure twice cut once" adage.
Morning Window - San Simeon, California
This was a quick edit thanks to the software I use.
I recommend finding as many shortcuts as possible to speed up your post-processing workflow. For me, that means using Alien Skin Exposure software, because I'm able to get the look that I want quickly and accurately. This may or may not be the "right" software for you, but it has saved me probably days in front of the computer. If you can find ways to streamline your editing process, you'll find yourself looking at a monitor much less.

Finally, you need to recognize when "good enough" is good enough. Yes, you could adjust things just a bit more, but will it really make a difference? Call it good. Move on to the next photograph. There is a point where you could improve a photograph by small margins, but the changes won't be noticed by the viewers and nobody will care whatsoever that you made them. So you are just wasting your time.

Post-process less. Photograph more. The more time you take editing your photographs the less time you have to capture photographs, which is what you, as a photographer, should be doing.


  1. I was sitting down in front of my blog editor and had begun to write an article about how much time is wasted tweaking the tweaks and was putting the emphasis on what we have always known and that was getting it right in the camera and spending less time in front of the monitor fixing things that really do not need to be fixed. Then I came across your article which pretty much says it all so I stopped writing and decided to hit "press this" and publish your article on my site by linking to your article on your site. Thanks for saving me time.

    1. I'm glad you appreciated the article and found it useful. I'm always glad when one of my posts was helpful to someone. Thanks for sharing and take care!