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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FAQ: Post Processing

I read recently about a scientific test that was performed on preschool children using marshmallows. They put the kids in a room, handed them a marshmallow and told them that they could eat it now, or they could wait. If they waited, they were told they'd receive another marshmallow upon the doctor's return. Then the doctor left the room and observed the children to see what they'd do.

Many of the kids ate their marshmallow right away. Some tried not to eat the marshmallow... they'd distract themselves or try to avoid contact with the marshmallow. A couple simply sat and stared at the marshmallow.... most of which eventually ate the marshmallow. But there were a few that waited until the doctor's return.

This test is all about delayed gratification.... some people want results immediately, even if they aren't the BEST... and others want the BEST regardless... even if they have to wait for it.

I think if I were put in that room, I'd lick the marshmallow. Maybe nibble a little from the bottom and hope they didn't see it. You see, I'm a two marshmallow kind of girl... but I have a HORRIBLE time being patient. Because of that, editing my images is my least favorite part of my job... but it's also my MOST favorite job. Why you ask? Because I have to wait for the marshmallow... but in the process I get a few good licks in :)

Many people ask me about the post processing on my images... what happens to them AFTER they're in my camera. This is one of the things that has been an ongoing challenge for me. I am completely self-taught... from reading everything I can, to shadowing and working with other photographers, to trial and error. I started using Photoshop pretty early on, but I didn't REALLY get the hang of it until recently. Now I've got a good rhythm, and I have really developed my "style" of photos. I am still learning SO MUCH... seriously, I feel like every time I do a shoot I learn something new. And I believe with everything you learn in photography, you have to make it your own. But I am going to share with you my post processing... and just as I have read other blogs and learned from other people, maybe you can take something away from me (or maybe you'll just enjoy my marshmallow story :) it's okay, tell your friends!)

First of all, I shoot in manual mode on my camera. I can't stress enough how much this has helped me. It has not only helped me to learn about my camera, but it has also helped me achieve the look I'm going for. I also spend a lot of time checking my histogram to make sure I have the light as close to correct as I can. Lighting can be tricky, but my goal is to nail it right out of the camera. Editing (when used correctly) isn't to fix a really bad image... but rather to enhance an already good image and make it even better. I didn't believe that at first, but I heard it over and over and over, and now that I understand that, it is making my life SO MUCH EASIER.

So after a shoot, I take my memory cards and download them onto my external hard drive. This is where I archive every image I ever take... the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Because you never know when you might need that horribly out of focus picture, right? Quite honestly, I don't know why I save them all... I think it's some kind of weird OCD thing that I just can't quite manage to hit delete and get rid of it forever... what if one day it becomes some famous piece of artwork? On a side note, I would encourage you to hit delete. If you can bring yourself to do it, go through and delete all of the out of focus, unusable images. Maybe I'll work on that this summer.

After that, I go through and choose my favorites. Those are the ones that I run through Photoshop. Depending on the session, it could be anywhere from 30-100 images. For weddings, it's more and I also use lightroom (but that's a whole different post.) Then I work through those images one by one. I use something called Photoshop Actions. You can buy them several places. The ones I use the most are Totally Rad Actions. They're amazing and have really shaped the style of my images.

Here's an example of before and after, and what actions I used:


Actions Run:
Clarify 76%
Burn out 38%
Grandma's tap shoes 28%
Sparta 67%
Slice Like a Ninja 100%

Edited Version:

I definitely recommend checking out Photoshop Actions... and being patient with your process... even though I know it's tempting to lick the marshmallow :)


Tira J said...

Great stuff Diandra! I have OCD about all of my RAW files and David just had to order another drive last night.

Jewelielyn said...

interesting! the first photo is nice, but the second one just looks cool! and i love those chubby little legs!!!

Bianca said...

I have no idea what you're talking about, but I really like your photos :)

Suany said...

I love the marshmallow story....=)

cassandra m said...

girl...that photo is so cool. I love what you said about Photoshop & not using it to fix bad images, but enhance good ones. I so agree with you on that. So wonderful of you to share your workflow. Hope you have been well. xoxo

Diandra Ann said...

Tira.. we're talking about having like 10 different drives! it's pretty crazy! and i cannot delete ANY!

B... I'm so glad you read it even though you dont know what im talking about :) i love that! sometimes i dont know what im talking about either ;)

suaney... my dad used that story in a sermon once... my mom and i were laughing so hard!

cassandra... SO good to see your comment :) xoxo