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  1. #1
    saddlemeat
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    Lens/Gear or Post Processing?

    We all have gear and work flow preferences that work for us. In the interest of discussion and learning though, what do you think has the most to contribute to a quality finished image for say up to 16" x 20" printed photographic media? I'm thinking in the general context of mtb or other outdoor recreation where choices are forced on us by nature of moving under our own power through perhaps challenging terrain requiring the use of additional gear and supplies.

    My own experience is that I seek the middle ground of weight and bulk vs image quality with my gear and exploit my knowledge of Photoshop and printing to the max to get a gallery quality print. But I have colleagues who use what I consider heavy bulky equipment and do minimal Lightroom post processing and order large prints from Costco. What is your experience?

    This image is an example of one that has worked well for me, it's a crop from a 3MP image that I print at 11x24...
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Lens/Gear or Post Processing?-threeredhorses-copy.jpg  

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  2. #2
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    I personally subscribe to the school of good quality gear and solid PP work. Hard to get a good image if you not shooting in raw and doing the raw process(aka digital developing) IMO. I have Canon G10 P&S camera that I can shoot in manual modes and raw format and a Canon 5D DSLR with fast glass. Now the P&S is technically a higher MP camera but no where near the IQ of the DSLR. For prints I use the labs threw Smugmug. Also a great host to do sales from makes life very simple.

    As far as bulk goes 9 times out of 10 I use one lens and a hand full of filters if I'm working say in a tighter environment. If you plan ahead for the concepts of the shots no need to bring a pile of gear with you. I've had a lot of luck with the Canon 28-105 lens seems to work great for a large amount of shots.

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  3. #3
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    its definitely a combination of the two in my opinion. I work hard to get it as close as possible in camera, but PP is required to make it as I see it.

    Im a prime lens kind of guy. I like the speed and the simplicity of them.
    In regards to bulk, when Im shooting cars all my lights are with me, out on my bike, none, just the body and 2 lenses. I think its very difficult for someone to create a photos using just one or the other style, and you'll hear alot of people hate on PP, usually they dont fully understand how to utilize it. I was once like that

  4. #4
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    I spend a good deal of time driving a mouse for work-related purposes.

    It follows that I don't want to spend any more time in front of the computer than I have to. I'm not necessarily averse to post processing, but I'd rather take the time "out there" to learn the skills that'll give good results without need for PP.

    Why? I guess I'm old fashioned--I like the idea that hard work, dedication, and quick, critical thinking can be all that you need to get a good shot.

    I don't print much (yet) so I haven't developed an eye for the subtleties there. I used to think that a modern digi P&S was all anyone needed, but that was before. I wish I could get back to that place--it'd be so much easier to plan rides/trips (as far as gear) because now I can't go anywhere without a DSLR and at least one really good lens. In the last three years I've bought and sold 3 new, nice P&S's and none of them stayed with me more than a few weeks. The results are tolerable for internet sharing but that's about it.

    Care to share some of the printing subtleties that you "exploit' to get your prints where you want them?

  5. #5
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    If you can get good results without PP, you could probably get great results if you spent some time in the digital darkroom with it. Post isn't something you do instead of taking good photos, it's something you can do AFTER you take a great photo. It is also a bit of an art in itself that requires learning. I'm not very good at it, but I try.

    Photography has never been an art-form that ends at the shutter release, no matter if digital or film.
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  6. #6
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    The negative is comparable to the composer's score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways. - Ansel Adams

    True today. PS in Post is an amazing tool, you can make already good images great, poor images better, and if you are not careful, amazing images trash.

    I work to get my digital file as close to my "pre-visualized image" as I can, this allows me to tweek in PP. I shoot a lot of architecture, interior and exterior, and have shot it for two decades, starting on film (4x5) and now with DSLR. Today you can get away with a lot less lighting (or none if you go either with HDR or multi layer techniques), but still, getting as close to your final image is the best way to go when shooting.

    Another quote that I think we can all understand? Just substitute computer / PS for darkroom.

    It was amazing to watch him [A. Adams] in the darkroom at an advanced age, still get excited when the results were pleasing. He still struggled like we all do in the darkroom and he struggled behind the camera, and when he had a success he was beaming. - John Sexton
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelebebbel View Post
    If you can get good results without PP, you could probably get great results if you spent some time in the digital darkroom with it. Post isn't something you do instead of taking good photos, it's something you can do AFTER you take a great photo. It is also a bit of an art in itself that requires learning. I'm not very good at it, but I try.

    Photography has never been an art-form that ends at the shutter release, no matter if digital or film.
    Love this by the way. You are 100% correct.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelebebbel View Post
    If you can get good results without PP, you could probably get great results if you spent some time in the digital darkroom with it. Post isn't something you do instead of taking good photos, it's something you can do AFTER you take a great photo. It is also a bit of an art in itself that requires learning. I'm not very good at it, but I try.

    Photography has never been an art-form that ends at the shutter release, no matter if digital or film.
    I don't have really have any disagreement with what you've written, even if I don't subscribe to that theorem.

    Light and composition are so varied, preferences so individual, "good" so subjective, that I find it difficult if not impossible to be critical of what others do (or don't do) with their work.

    But since I know what *I* like, what I consider "good", and it doesn't bother me to roundfile anything less, I treat photography with the same level of OCD that I apply to most other endeavors in my life. If I can clean a climb without dabbing or walking, then walking isn't allowed. Ever. Likewise with pics--take the time to make it as 'right' as possible on the spot, using every tool in my mental arsenal, so that no amount of PP can improve on that result.

    I ain't sayin' it happens frequently or even often--it's just the goal.





















  9. #9
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    Definitely, best lenses you can afford, as little post processing as possible. Unfortunately all my good glass are in need of serious service, so I'm stuck using a crappy variable aperture zoom right now and the quality just isn't even close to my prime lenses. Now sometimes the lighting range far exceeds what the camera can record or sorts and then shooting RAW or multiple exposures to capture hightlight and shadow areas and doing a bit of photoshop work to combine the exposures to create the image you saw is needed, along with a small bit of dodging and burning, but I usually don't go much farther than that with stuff unless it's commercial and needs to be perfect.
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  10. #10
    saddlemeat
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    Quote Originally Posted by lelebebbel View Post
    If you can get good results without PP, you could probably get great results if you spent some time in the digital darkroom with it. Post isn't something you do instead of taking good photos, it's something you can do AFTER you take a great photo. It is also a bit of an art in itself that requires learning. I'm not very good at it, but I try.

    Photography has never been an art-form that ends at the shutter release, no matter if digital or film.
    +1, although I believe printed photos are becoming less common. It used to be that going from a composed image in the viewfinder to an image that could be shared with others was a fairly involved process. With current digital cameras it can be reduced to a button push and an upload, pretty detached from the analog wet processing era where a lot of details had to be done well in a several step process.

    The old way you learn a lot about the details of the process, especially print making, and you learn how to manipulate details to produce striking images. (for example, unsharp mask is a wet darkroom technique) This all translates well to the digital darkroom, where even more details can be manipulated to produce a striking image. Inkjet photo printers have similarly enabled more control of the actual printing process.

    We may see a time when printmaking is obsolete because all image display is electronic in nature. Photography, with it's dependence on gear and technology, has always morphed to the technology of the time and it's going to keep doing that. Hopefully prints will retain some popularity as a fine art medium. Digital display is pretty tawdry compared to a print on paper but it will keep improving to the point where it is completely holographic, just as printers now produce 3d objects.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    I don't have really have any disagreement with what you've written, even if I don't subscribe to that theorem.

    Light and composition are so varied, preferences so individual, "good" so subjective, that I find it difficult if not impossible to be critical of what others do (or don't do) with their work.

    But since I know what *I* like, what I consider "good", and it doesn't bother me to roundfile anything less, I treat photography with the same level of OCD that I apply to most other endeavors in my life. If I can clean a climb without dabbing or walking, then walking isn't allowed. Ever. Likewise with pics--take the time to make it as 'right' as possible on the spot, using every tool in my mental arsenal, so that no amount of PP can improve on that result.

    I ain't sayin' it happens frequently or even often--it's just the goal.
    Interesting analogy, but how do you feel about the post processing that is already happening in the camera? The curves, saturation adjustment, sharpening, color/hue shifts that are pre-programmed into the image processor by an engineer back at the factory. Some of them are adjustable, and usually with a pretty wide range. Are you allowed to adjust them before taking a picture, or is that "dabbing"? Are you allowed to change them from the default values only once and for all, or can you have different picture pre-sets for different kinds of situations?

    You get my drift: I feel like limiting oneself to the in-camera post processing is drawing a very arbitrary line.
    I set my cameras to RAW with very neutral picture control settings to get an accurate histogram reading and capture the most amount of data. With these settings, even the most glorious sunrise will look a bit bland on the camera screen, but that is not the point - important is that I have captured a good "negative" that can now be digitally developed back to what I actually saw through the viewfinder. It can (and must) also be adjusted depending on where the photo will end up. Otherwise the same photo will look very different when viewed on a different computer, small, large, printed, printed somewhere else etc.

    To me, it is only "dabbing" when you change the contents of the photo, for example by cloning out a powerline or simulating colors/light that weren't really there. If the photo doesn't show what I saw, it is no longer a memory of a scene, which is what I usually want to accomplish. Although this type of photography certainly has its place, too.


    Whatever your method/philosophy - you have shown some great, inspiring photography on here, and I always enjoy your photo posts.
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  12. #12
    saddlemeat
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    I don't see it as cheating to do by hand what others let a machine do, don't get that. Like others I shoot for the most editable image I can capture. The machine didn't see what I saw, it needs the original eyeballs/brain to set the parameters for it's latent image. If all you did was click the shutter you only produced a composition, the camera produced the image. But of course you still had to set the parameters for the camera via eyeball/brain.
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  13. #13
    saddlemeat
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Care to share some of the printing subtleties that you "exploit' to get your prints where you want them?
    I would answer that it involves manipulating the variables in such a way that a pleasing image results. The details of that depend a little on your experience and familiarity with darkroom/photoshop processes and terminology so the first question is how much do you know about the editing printing process? Have you done wet darkroom printing? Inkjet printing? Color managed workflow? Do you calibrate your monitor? It's the first step, without it you have no basis for making adjustments. For printing you will also want to calibrate your printer so that it prints very close (WYSIWYG) to what you see on your monitor. Many dslrs let you select a color space, such as Adobe RGB or sRGB. Printers like the larger Adobe RGB color space, even though all but the best graphics monitors cannot display all it's colors. Web images will display better in sRGB, a smaller color space better suited for monitors. So the first step is to set up a system that will produce predictable results. The rest involves herding the variables (inkset, paper, profile) towards the focal point, including a few or many test prints depending how much of a perfectionist you are, and the protective coating you use or don't use. Photography has always been a very finessed process medium.
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  14. #14
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    Some good thoughts here.

    My (in)experience may be about to show itself, but how much in-camera processing is being done to RAW files?

    It took me a long time (waaaaay too long) to understand that a good deal of my 'good' results were due to shooting jpg and having a good 'technician' back in Japan that had programmed that processor to pump up the colors and bring detail outta the shadows.

    Once I realized that was happening, I felt a little silly, a lot humbled, and I started shooting RAW.

    I haven't shot jpg in a long time, although I'm certain I'll do it at some point again. I'm still at the point where I have to consciously think through each adjustment before firing off what will be the first of probably 4 test shots. When I've gotten to the point where each adjustment comes almost automatically, and I can achieve the desired result on the first or maaaaaaaybe second try, then I'll have achieved the objective I'm after. At that point it won't matter anymore (in my arbitrary little world) if I got there the easy (jpg) or hard (RAW) way--only that I know the difference.

    Going a bit further, I think you could say that I'm "dabbing" about 100 times every time I pull out the camera--Image Stabilization, Auto Focus, Servo, 7fps bursts, instant-access to the histogram, massive ISO range, and immediate feedback via the digital medium itself. I have no illusions that I'm doing anything other than teaching myself a few skills, to relearn all that I've forgotten from my full-manual film days.

    Thanks for the compliments and for continuing the rational discussion. Refreshing.

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  15. #15
    saddlemeat
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    If you are shooting RAW you are getting the sensor data prior to settings being applied. That's the effect anyhow. Even RAW images have had a lot of decisions made about the data, each manufacturer does it slightly differently and it gets pretty involved but suffice it to say the very first edit is the brand/model of camera you choose to interpret the scene you are trying to capture. Lenses involve some really radical editing, something you don't realize until you get some experience shooting without a lens, ie pinhole. Adding multiple elements to the lens also bends the light differently than the lens in your eye. So it's all very artificial right from the get go. The point is to be aware and tailor your available options to meet the goal of a useful image.
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  16. #16
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    If you care about maximizing your quality pictures / time spend, post is mandatory. It's a very powerful tool.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    My (in)experience may be about to show itself, but how much in-camera processing is being done to RAW files?
    With RAW files, the processing is done as soon as you open them with your RAW-processor on your computer. RAW files itself aren't "viewable", they have to be translated into an image file. The RAW processor does this, and applies adjustments just like the in-camera JPEG processor would. If you haven't changed them, you are processing the images with some default values that the programmer at Adobe (or whatever software you are using) has determined for your camera. The results will be different depending on the software you use.

    The difference to an in camera JPEG is that all the extra data isn't discarded, but is still available in the file, so you can go and re-process that same image in a different way.



    Screenshot from Apple Aperture with some RAW file adjustments
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  18. #18
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    heres whats awesome about RAW and PP.

    The image below was a long exposure that my batteries died in the middle of. It was too damn cold to worry about shooting as I know this thing isnt going anywhere and I'll be able to shoot it again, any ways, the second shot is my quick LR recovery

    Original


    Recovered in LR

    Army Truck by The McCusker, on Flickr

  19. #19
    mwv
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    I'm not a fan of post processing but I am relatively new to Photography. I've been taking Photography classes and the instructors are all pretty firmly against it except for situations where they have been paid for creating an acceptable product (weddings, etc). I suppose they have influence me, but the point they make that really sways me is that they would rather be out taking photos and trying to learn the most they can about light then sitting at a computer.

  20. #20
    saddlemeat
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    ^I guess the point at which that breaks down is when you do something with the images besides look at them on a monitor. (I suppose your instructor just shot film too and didn't process or print it?) How else would you know if you had learned anything about light?
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  21. #21
    mwv
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsieb View Post
    ^I guess the point at which that breaks down is when you do something with the images besides look at them on a monitor. (I suppose your instructor just shot film too and didn't process or print it?) How else would you know if you had learned anything about light?
    Huh?

    Post processing as in spending hours making a badly exposed image into something it's not is what I am referring to.

    My answer is that I'd prefer to focus on optics and learning about how a camera sees things and going out taking more photos. I have Lightroom but I personally don't like to do much more than cropping.

    That's just me, though.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by mwv View Post
    Huh?

    Post processing as in spending hours making a badly exposed image into something it's not is what I am referring to.

    My answer is that I'd prefer to focus on optics and learning about how a camera sees things and going out taking more photos. I have Lightroom but I personally don't like to do much more than cropping.

    That's just me, though.
    it doesn't take hours to pp a picture. Fixing exposure is like 10 seconds. You instructors don't pp unless it's a paid job = when results matter.

    Optics don't have as much to do with PP as the camera sensor. No camera sensor on the market comes close in quality of our eyes. That is how many use pp, to overcome the shortcomings of a all camera sensors to bring the picture closer to reality of how our eyes perceive. Others are artists with pp, using it to heavily influence the shot outside the realms of reality. Either way, no judgement, that is up to the photographer.

    No matter which you prefer, PP is mandatory for maximizing IQ/time spent.

    BTW, just shooting jpg, at least on my camera is pretty heavy handed in-camera pp. I can really tell with skin tones. RAW format gives me much more accurate skin + all it's imperfections and colorations while jpg clayfaces people. My personal taste in PP is very minimal, just usually fixing WB and exposure.

  23. #23
    saddlemeat
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob13bob View Post
    Optics don't have as much to do with PP as the camera sensor. No camera sensor on the market comes close in quality of our eyes. That is how many use pp, to overcome the shortcomings of a all camera sensors to bring the picture closer to reality of how our eyes perceive. Others are artists with pp, using it to heavily influence the shot outside the realms of reality. Either way, no judgement, that is up to the photographer.
    Well said b13b

    As one who heavily uses pp at times, it's tempting to get sensitive, but as you say it's all good and if it all looked the same it would be boring. I have made prints that have required literally days of PS processing of scans to produce a 24" x 240" museum display print. I have a few close friends who are photo journalists and they literally just capture images and turn them in, all the processing is done by others. They consider themselves elite because they only shoot on the "manual" setting and use heavy cameras and lenses. I know a successful artist who does a shoot with whatever gear he can get at a deep pro discount (then pawns it), sends his full flash cards to a secret photo finisher who sends him back contact prints and proofs (because he doesn't know how to use a computer) and spends most of his time going around selling his stock of prints of native america. There is a huge variety in the realm of photography, which is why I never tire of looking at photos, including the pics on this forum. Each is a fascinating look through another's eye and sensitivities.

    I tend to process only relatively few of the images I shoot so I prefer PS for all my post processing because it's tools are very familiar and convenient to use. For printing purposes PS is almost required to do the soft proofing, any required profile and colorspace conversions, color separations for alternative output processes, as well as printing directly to an inkjet printer with custom paper profiles. Most of the pro photogs I've worked with use Lightroom processing and leave the PS work to a graphic artist or custom printer.

    I agree that as a student your best approach is to carry your camera everywhere, capture a lot of images under a variety of light conditions, and concentrate on developing your eye.
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  24. #24
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    The comparison I posted above is about 2 and half minutes of LR usage. (as you can see there is a section where I paid no attention to quality as it was done simply to determine I could) I returned with a fully charged battery to get the shot again anyways)

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    post processing is required due to the way digital is recorded

    good lenses are required if you want good quality IQ images to start with

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