Rough to finished

“What finishing work do you do, Michael?”, I am often asked.

I try to keep it simple, as simple as I can. That way, there’s little work, and I feel like I am a photographer, not a Photoshop/Lightroom artist.

But I often use techniques like:

  • Adjust white balance if needed.
  • Adjust exposure a little if needed.
  • Adjust “blacks” and “whites” as well as “highlights” if I have to, e.g. when the shot’s background should be dark but is not quite dark enough.
  • Add brightness where I need it, if I need it.

Those are the “fixing mistakes” adjustments, and I keep them to an absolute minimum. In studio shots these should be zero.

Then there are the creative adjustments, and those I feel better about if I have to make them. I keep them to a minimum, but I will do them if needed.

  • Crop – to whatever aspect ratio I like (unless I know I am making a print, in which case I crop to that print’s aspect ratio).
  • Vignette a little – but keep it minor.
  • Adjust “Clarity” down a little if humans are involved (a minimum – perhaps -10 to -20).
  • Adjust sharpening.
  • Reduce noise if needed, e.g. in shots over 1600 ISO.
  • Add film grain if I feel like a film-type look.

I often shoot a little wide so I can crop to taste afterward.

Here’s a rough shot, as taken by me a couple of hours ago:

And here, adjusted and cropped:

In this example, I added a little more vignetting than I usually would, for clarity.

So my advice: keep “fixing” adjustments to a minimum by shooting properly, and keep creative adjustments to a minimum if like me you want to be a photographer rather than a photoshopper. Oh – and do it in Adobe Lightroom.


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