I actually starting shooting an SLR camera way back when you could only put film in the camera (that stuff that required a chemical bath to process), and that meant processing was something that was done by someone else. The complex techniques of dodging and burning were left to those elusive black and white photographers who mysteriously did their own chemical bath with a very dark room and very red light.
Of course today that is so far removed from the type of post processing that is done, but only in the physical method used. The techniques for processing an image actually remain very similar to what has been done for decades, if the image was overexposed you process the image to correct it. Today of course your skills as an editor and processor greatly depend on your computer skills and how well you can master Adobe’s Photoshop. I am not sure the actual programmers who wrote Photoshop for Adobe have even mastered the complexities of CS4 or CS5 but that’s what makes it so powerful in post processing (LR or LightRoom is another favorite among photographers), and that is what has made Adobe the choice among photographers. Creating great HDR (High Dynamic Range) images, extreme low light, and unheard of ISO speeds are becoming commonplace. Even Apple in their latest iOS 4.1 release will allow their iPhone to now shoot HDR images, can’t wait to try that out.
The images being produced today by amateur photographers using basic consumer equipment is just stunning, and it has as much to do with their abilities as a post processor as it does with having an eye for subjects, placing, framing, and exposure. If you are new to photography it can be totally overwhelming. Your photos shot using the “automatic” settings can sometimes look flat and dull, but get a good basic understanding of the rules of photography and the post-processing will follow.
By example I give you the image below. The same base image can have two totally different looks and present different ideas and feelings. The image below is much more harsh and full of contrast, some people like high contrast, some people like soft pastels like the image at the top. Either way it still took a photographer with a certain vision to shoot the original image, and that why it is called “post” processing. The veteran nature photographer John Shaw has two great eBooks out if you are looking for some instruction. He has a book on both “Lightroom 2 and CS4” and “Lightroom 3 and CS5”, both well worth the money.
Which edit do you like better?