Now of course you are thinking of that famous quote by Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play of the same name.  But this post is my version!

This question has been floating around in my head for awhile now.

Yesterday, I was having a one-on-one teaching session with someone on editing and he asked this question.

So I knew I needed to write about this. I’m not going to add my “stand” on this until the end!


A Foundation

I’ll start with a poll I found online.

Do you Edit or Post Process your Photos?

  • Yes – Regularly (70%, 4,258 Votes)
  • Yes – Occasionally (20%, 1,232 Votes)
  • No – Never (9%, 524 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,062

This really didn’t surprise me!  Does it surprise you?  Please comment below the post!

As I looked at both sides of the issue, I could see that it depends on how you define editing and how you define photographer vs a  “digital artist” for instance.  For our purposes, here are my definitions:

Editing:  Making basic changes in exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation, vibrance, clarity, and sharpening using one of several post-processing software on the market.  This might also include  some more advanced techniques like using adjustment layers:  curves, brightness, saturation/hue, etc.  All of this with the end result in mind of printing or posting the completed image on the web.

SOOC:  Straight out of the camera.

Photographer:  a person who is constantly learning how to improve his/her skills in using their camera so that they can capture the best image they can in-camera.

Digital Artist:  a person who goes beyond basic editing in their photo processing software to change/manipulate the photo to create an artistic piece of work.  This might include compositing photos together to create a scene, adding/manipulating/removing light sources, changing the mood, adding textures and backgrounds, etc.

DISCLAIMER:  PLEASE. HEAR. THIS.  I’m not saying that what a photographer creates with editing is no less a piece of art than what the digital artist creates.  They are both art and both can be proud of their final image.  I consider myself both a photographer and a digital artist!


Don’t Edit

Let’s take a closer look at that 9% who say no, I never edit.  On the site called “Deviant Art” someone else took a poll and here were the most common reasons for not editing:

  • A sense of accomplishment over shooting a photograph they do not feel needs editing;
  • No interest in editing;
  • A view that editing can go over the top, so it’s better not to edit at all;
  • A desire to keep a photograph in its original form;
  • I only edit because my camera shoots in RAW [more about this later] and it’s part of the process, but I do nothing beyond basic levels adjustment;
  • If a photograph does not turn out how you envisioned [visualized] from the camera, it was not meant to be; and
  • If I edit my photographs, I am not a photographer. I am a digital artist (the “cheating” viewpoint).

Would you answer the question about editing with any of the above reasons?  Please comment below the post.

Do Edit

On Quora, I found this:

“Yes…because of one simple reason…If you won’t edit the photos, the camera will!! Yes that’s how it works…editing is not optional it is compulsory – the real question is: do you trust the camera to carry it out for you or would you do it on your own?

Here are the details: The reason editing is a must is because a camera works a little differently from your eyes.

  1. Most cameras capture at more than 8bit resolution. DSLRs easily support 12 bit. Which means a transformation from higher to lower bit depth must happen. How you do it will decide how the overall contrast and color will appear.
  2. The camera must calibrate the colors by setting a white point. This can strongly affect the colors of the picture.
  3. Noise filtering, sharpening and other filters are applied automatically in your camera.
  4. Most importantly – you do not see with your eyes. You see with your brain – as the brain only constructs a model of what you are seeing, it is not really a high fidelity representation. So as a photographer it makes more sense to edit the photos to appear just like you “think” it appeared.”

Now, in the above information, the result is a JPEG (which is the most common form for a photo).  The result cannot be changed much in post-processing because a lot has already been done in camera as explained above.

I searched for more information on shooting in RAW and this is what I found:

“When you’re shooting JPGs, your camera captures all this wonderful information and then… throws it away. The JPG file format is limited to just 256 levels of light intensity and millions of colors. You’re getting rid of up to 90% of the information your camera is capturing. A maximum quality JPG from my camera is less than 4MB.”

However, if you shoot in RAW (in your DSLR) you will have the full information that the camera can capture.  Thus, you are able to edit more in your post-processing.

There is an advantage to shooting in RAW.

“Now you understand that JPGs are ditching most of the information your camera is capable of capturing, let’s look at what that actually means for your photos. RAW images contain a lot more light levels so you can underexpose or overexpose them without losing details. If a RAW file is a stop underexposed  it’s trivial to brighten it up in Lightroom and have a perfect final image. If a JPG is a stop underexposed, brightening it up will kill detail and introduce noise. If you capture a scene perfectly in-camera you’ll be okay with JPG, but if there’s any need for correction, you want the extra flexibility of a RAW file.”

Okay.  Have you made a decision on where you stand on this issue?


Here is my take!

I firmly believe you should always strive to get the best image possible with your camera. Editing is then a process of touching up parts of the photo so it will resemble what you’re visualizing in your mind. There may be times when pushing the saturation or contrast can really make a photo pop!  An example of this is a sunrise or sunset. The photo on the left (or first) is my unedited sunset photo taken in Colorado on the way home from vacation.  The photo on the right (or second) is my edited version where I tried to make the colors of the sunset pop more!

When I use my DSLR, I shoot in RAW.   Thus I have to do at least the basic edits on all my photos for the reasons mentioned above.  A RAW photo can look quite flat SOOC.  When I use my iPhone to take photos, I still usually do some editing in a mobile editing app like Snapseed.  There are also other mobile apps that I am in the process of learning that can push an iPhone photo even further into the realm of a digital artistry and I have no problem doing that.  The photo on the left (or first) is my RAW photo SOOC.  The photo on the right (or second) is my edited version.  Quite a nice difference, eh?

In other words, I am not a purist in the sense of no editing whatsoever, but neither am I one to make drastic edits.  But “rules” can always be broken and I have been known to, what some people would say, “over-edit” a photo because of the vision in my head that goes past what I actually saw when I took the photo.

Proper, effective post-processing takes as much skill as taking a great photo, and if done properly it should only be complementary to the picture, not supplementary. Being good at editing has nothing whatsoever to do with how good of a photographer you are.

Does my “stand” surprise you?  Where do you stand on this controversial issue?  Please comment below.  I would love to know what you are thinking.

Also, if you are interested in learning how to edit your photos, please comment below.  And tell me what software you would be interested in learning how to use.  I will be putting together a poll for this community in the next few days so keep your eye out for that.

Grandma and baby looking out a window

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