Post-Processing Pains

Over the last several years operating this site, I have been incredibly lucky to meet many talented photographers from all over the world. Some I met face to face (whether in my workshops or other gatherings / conferences), while others I met and interacted with online. One interesting pattern that I noticed in the majority of photographers, and I am talking about the ones that understand light, composition and proper technique, is that they often lack the key component of completing the image and making it successful – post-processing skills. It turns out that most of us spend our time learning our gear and how to take good pictures, but we fail to take that beautifully captured photograph to the next level and make it look amazing by enhancing it further in post-processing. Yes, camera technique, light and composition are all extremely important and those are certainly key ingredients that each of us needs to learn and eventually master, but we need to understand that a captured photograph is just the beginning of making the image. What happens to the photograph after it is taken, is as important as the process of capturing it. I have seen many photos that would have looked breathtaking, had the person put some extra effort into making it work. Even worse, I have seen so many examples of great photos that get slaughtered by very poor post-processing techniques and ugly presets.

Dead Horse Point Sunrise

SLT-A77V + DT 16-50mm F2.8 SSM @ 20mm, ISO 100, 1/1, f/8.0

How many times have you seen an overdone HDR, over-saturated, over-sharpened, over-contrasted, over-recovered, over-preset, over-insert-any-photoshop-term-here mess? Unfortunately, I have seen too many. The worst examples are what I call “forced photos”, where the photographer takes a terrible image and thinks that it can look better when post-processed. So much time and effort is spent on making a terrible photo look absolutely horrendous. How do I know? Because I have done it many times myself.

When conducting workshops, I always say “start with a well-captured photo and you are halfway there”. This immediately raises a lot of questions from participants, because they know how much time I spend explaining the importance of properly capturing images in-camera during my workshops and in various articles. The topic especially gets attention during the discussion of filters for landscape photography. I often get asked “Why do I need a filter? Can’t I do the same thing in Lightroom/Photoshop/Photomatix?”. I then have to explain in detail why capturing a photograph properly in-camera is important and that it gives far more options to make it look even better in post-processing later on. Start out with a great photograph and make it look magnificent! Don’t start out with a crappy photo that needs a boatload of Photoshop work to look good – that rarely ever works out. See an example of what a typical photo looks like before and after post-processing (move the mouse over):

Move mouse over to see before and after Post-Processing

With the advent of the computer and digital photography, the market got quickly over-saturated with a plethora of software offers and presets. These software companies are fooling new photographers into thinking that they do not need to learn anything and they can simply apply a preset or two and their photographs will look instantly good. What a load of nonsense. What makes you think that someone else’s presets are good for your photos? If your photos suck, they will suck even more with presets. I am not implying by any means that presets are bad; on the contrary, if you start out with a great photograph, a preset that slightly boosts colors, contrast and perhaps other variables could make the photo look better. But before you start exploring those presets, you must already possess the knowledge to make the photo look good. Once you do, the presets simply become time-savers for you – nothing more.

Yellowstone Lake Sunrise

NIKON D700 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm, ISO 200, 1/30, f/11.0

A good photograph to me represents a good balance of the subject(s), exposure, light, colors, framing / composition and post-processing. Disregarding any of these will never result in a solid photograph that represents you and your work. As I was browsing my Lightroom catalog for the past 5 years to build my Landscape Photography Gallery (which I invite you to check out and provide some feedback on), I saw many examples of forced photographs with extremely poor post-processing that I should have never captured or touched in the first place. And the scary thing is, back then, those images somehow looked good to my eyes! Don’t believe me? Take a look at this epic picture:

Blue on White

NIKON D700 @ 36mm, ISO 200, 1/500, f/8.0

I still wonder what this photo is about – selective colors at their best. I could probably win many photo contests with this one today :) And I have hundreds of images like this from the early days to make myself the subject of shame and lots of laughs. And please don’t ask me for some HDR samples! I slaughtered those the most back in the day.

I do not regret that I took those photos, because it was all a learning curve and it gives me an idea where I started and where I am heading to in the future. Doing such a review of prior work also gives an opportunity to see whether my work has improved over time, stayed stagnant or potentially got worse. In my case, I realized that I got very critical of my work during the past year, to the point where I am only happy with 2-3 images in my Gallery. I also realized that while I got better with my post-processing, I now need better vision, framing / composition and timing to execute better photographs. Yes, it is a vicious cycle, but that’s the beauty of learning – you start with something, then you improve, then you go back to your first steps and re-learn/enhance the process to get even better. I know that my main weakness is lack of vision and planned execution, instead of random picture taking that I have been practicing for years.

Roseate Spoonbills at Sunrise

NIKON D3S + 300mm f/4 @ 300mm, ISO 3200, 1/250, f/8.0

In the upcoming Fstoppers Workshops this May (which I invite you to join), I want to focus on two areas – workflow and post-processing. I discussed this with several prospective attendees and they indicated that they really need help in those areas. I want to stress on the importance of taking your work to the next level and properly processing them. I want to sit down with each participant, go over their work and highlight key problems and help work through the struggles. As part of the workshop, we will be taking photographs in their original RAW format and working together in Lightroom and Photoshop to try to make them look amazing. We will be utilizing different tools and potentially even explore HDR and Blending techniques. I have done this before in my Landscape Photography workshops and the feedback for such sessions was extremely positive.

Please note that the above-mentioned sessions are not part of the Fstoppers Workshops and they are free – I did not want to charge our readers extra, since they will be already attending other paid workshops. If you have interest in joining me in the Bahamas – just fill out the form on this page or shoot me an email. I want to limit our group to under 10 people, so I highly recommend to hurry up and reserve your spot.

Antelope Canyon

NIKON D700 + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 200, 5/1, f/10.0

Would love to hear from our readers regarding the above topic. Where do you see your biggest problem in your photographs? Please share!


  1. February 7, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Absolutely and totally agree with you, Nasim! I call them the stupid dog tricks of photography. Flickr is crawling with them.

  2. 2) Daniel Michael
    February 7, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Great article, Nasim!

    Much food for thought there. I sometimes wonder if going back to captures I took even 2 years ago, armed with my improved (yet still mediocre!) knowledge of Lightroom, could still bring them out more. It would still be a learning experience!

    One thing I have definitely learned though, is never put a capture straight to a preset, until it has been post-processed. Presets might, on the odd occasion, add some flavour or character, especially the older film-style presets, but using them on a non-post processed image for me is a no no.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the topic, and also nice to see it isn’t just us amateurs that have trouble trying to make bad photos look better! The picture gallery is superb by the way!


  3. February 7, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I recently went to a Scott Kelby Photo training show in Los Angeles and he recommended that if you want to know what the best photographers are doing, check out Pinterest. The photos all seem to have the same over done post processing that you are talking about. I spend a lot of time in nature and I have never seen most of the colors that are rendered in these photos. Remember Fuji Reala slide film. It also produced overly intense colors and became more popular than Kodachrome. It makes me want to go back to B&W only.

    • February 8, 2014 at 2:38 am

      Reala is print/negative/c-41 film. You’re referring to Velvia ;) Reala is still, and will always be, my favorite print film.

  4. 4) Tom Crossan
    February 7, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Great article.

    I do not agree with presets. If an image need processing then give it the time and effort it deserves.

    Yes, processing it is a bit like artists with their paintings.

    When do they stop painting?

    When is enough, enough?

    When is the picture actually finished or does the artist ever believe it is truly completed?

    But there again it comes back to what the artist and the photographer wanted their finished painting and photograph to be like.

    I take photographs and process them to please me. That is one reason of many reasons why I do not enter competitions.

    We can all offer advice on what we think a finished painting or photograph should be like, but how boring would that be if everyone used the same process and technique.

  5. 5) Jen
    February 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    As a beginner hobbyist, I’m still learning to get it right in camera and I spend a lot of time learning, practicing – but also on forums and photography sites too. And what frustrates me is that the general public seems to prefer the over saturated, overdone HDR – and yes, even selective color! – photographs. The photos sometimes make me cringe and when I see the written applause for the photo, it’s a little discouraging – and confusing. I definitely already went through the “actions” phase – now I’ve learned to tweak, not just randomly run a free action because I can, ;-) But it’s all a learning process – and I could never over-do a picture for what I think someone would like, I photograph, and edit, for what I like. But I do look back at my own and cringe – happily there is less and less of that…

  6. 6) craig
    February 7, 2014 at 7:11 pm

    I agree its a non-stop learning process. I still wonder if I do too much post or just enough. I know its part personal preference but there is a tipping point. If anyone wants to offer critique, please feel free to do so. I always welcome feedback. Wether I agree or not, it’s always good to hear others perspective.

  7. 7) Kurnia Lim
    February 7, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    You maybe right, also maybe wrong. Photography is like food, for you this food probably too salty, or spicy, or else, but for some people it maybe just normal or even not enough salt. I like very spicy food, but if someone don’t like spicy at all eat my food, they gonna say it junk food. Photography is market for the eye, while food for tongue. For someone who not making money with their photography, they gonna please their eyes not yours, but when they making money, they have to please their customer’s eyes and also not yours. I personally like a little bit over-saturated and litle bit bright picture (example I don’t like low key but I like high key). So, if I want to comment I always say “For my eyes, this is a bit over bla2”, not directly say “this is over bla2”. For me there’s no such thing as perfect saturation, perfect contrast, and else, that’s all depend on the viewer’s eyes. This is even happen to pro, I like Jerry Ghionis but you probably not, I like Zack Arias but you probably not. Photographers express their emotion with their pictures and they can do whatever they want, we can only give advice based on our eyes but can’t really judge that pictures, IMHO.

    I find it similar when lens reviewer review a f1.4 lens and say this lens has corner soft at wide opened. Well you want a sharp bokeh?

    Happy shooting, just 2 cents from a noob :D

    PS: sorry about my English, it’s my 3rd language so I have mess up grammar :-(

  8. 8) Thomas Stirr
    February 7, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Post processing, like everything else in photography, is an ongoing educational and creative experiment.

    While I think I’m getting better with my processing….I find my biggest challenge is maintaining a ‘hand in a velvet glove’ approach, rather than hammering down on an image. By that I mean using my software to incrementally shift an image slowly towards where I think it should be, rather than trying to ‘fix’ it with a few slider moves. When I first started I made the common mistake of ‘pushing’ every photo too far with every adjustment….ending up with a mess and then starting over.

    I also tried to do too much with one piece of software…like Photoshop…not understanding that using different types of software is like having more than one camera body or lens in your bag. Some software does certain things much better than others. Knowing what to use and when is like understanding the nuances of your cameras and lenses.

    Anticipation is another thing I learning more about every day…and still struggle with. For example, holding back on some of my Photoshop adjustments because I’m anticipating that some specific features in Nik will give me the effect I want….or doing a final run through DxOMark OpticsPro for some minor adjustments rather than trying to do everything too fast, too early.

    And, sometimes sheer bravery…or perhaps stupidity…can pay dividends. As photographers we need to remember that we are also artists. It’s true that we capture images and try to make them as spectacular as they were in nature…so much of what we do is grounded in a desire for ‘realism’.

    But….there is another creative side of our artistry…perhaps disturbing to some…where we can deliberately take an image and move it beyond being a photograph. For purists this may be akin to heresy. This approach can open our eyes to entirely new, surreal way of looking at the world around us. I love swimming in this creative pool as much as I love swimming in the pool of realism. One isn’t necessarily better than the other…just different and worth exploring for some….and of no interest to others.

    I suppose where this all leads is twofold…the first is to appreciate the work of others and try and learn from their unique creations….and there is much to appreciate and learn! The second is to realize that we are really only competing with our own best selves…and being willing to challenge our creativity to see where it may lead. One only has to look at samples of the life’s work of Picasso to see how an artist can evolve and change over time. At the end of the day we are the only ones who limit our creativity.

    • 8.1) Andy Schmitt
      February 8, 2014 at 6:36 am

      Well put, well put….

      • 8.1.1) Thomas Stirr
        February 8, 2014 at 8:19 am

        Thanks Andy….appreciate your comment.

    • 8.2) Stephen Davies
      February 8, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Good comment – especially appreciate the recognition that post-processed “created” images can be art also. Realism isn’t the only reality.
      I understand that some may not care for “post-art” but that doesn’t make it “not-art”. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.
      It’s interesting to me how similar this discussion is to the exact same dispute a century ago between the pictorialists and the realists.
      Then as now, there is room for both in the world.

      Beauty is Beauty – Art is Art – Critics are Critics.
      No one has the final say.

      • 8.2.1) Thomas Stirr
        February 8, 2014 at 12:37 pm

        Hi Stephen,

        At the end of the day it comes down to what a photographer is comfortable doing or not. It is all about personal choice/taste and personal interest…..from my perspective one isn’t ‘better’ than another….only different.

        For the work that I do I have found that sometimes certain subjects tend to lend themselves more towards ‘photo art’ rather than ‘realism’. Often they are photos with good background separation and where the subject itself is quite detailed….flowers for example. I also enjoy working with ‘man cave’ types of images….engines, transmission parts, close ups of car exteriors etc.

        I do use the odd landscape image for photo art work but not very often….I tend to skew towards realism with landscapes. The landscape images that do tend to work as photo art are very simple compositions. Depending on the scene some HDR can be effective as well.

        I also like to work with man-made exterior objects like doors, gates, walls, and exterior trim details on buildings to name a few. I especially like working with these kinds of subjects when they are old, broken, rusty, peeling etc…..anything that gives them a lot of character.

        I have found that some of the clients who buy my work really like my ‘photo art’. It’s actually kind of funny but some of them when they see the original photograph and they are asked say they would not buy the photo….yet they love the same image as a piece of photo art and are happy to pay for it. Many have said that what they really love is how many of my images look like photos from a distance then as they get closer to it physically the image transforms into something else….that transformation and ‘dual viewing’ experience seems to appeal to many people.

        I love the duality of what I do….the mix of real/surreal. I find that when I’m out with my camera my brain is in ‘dual scan’ mode….hunting for those unique real and surreal opportunities.

        Hmmmm….I just realized as I finished this posting that I have quite a few flower images as photo art on my web site….and none in my limited edition print section…..


  9. 9) Ian
    February 7, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Great article, Nasim. For me one of the most important parts of learning image processing is to be more aggressive . . . in using the DELETE key.

    Still not great at it, but I’m trying to get better.

  10. February 7, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I only do to a photograph what I wanted to do when I took it. If I took the time to make leaves red or yellow or whatever it is only because when I took it that’s what I wanted to see. They don’t always come out as I planned, but, at least I have the ability to make an attempt, which is more than I used to have years and years ago.

    To me, presets are silly and are for lazy people who want a fast food answer to all their photos. Presets are the result of one finished photo that doesn’t always work for anything else. Often I have seen instruction where you hit “Preset XYZ” and continue to process after that…. Why? Or hit “MY Preset ABC” and there you go!” Why? Why don’t you just go to what YOU want to see rather than put on someone else’s goggles? Maybe I don’t want to wear your goggles because I don’t share your vision! And if I don’t share your vision doesn’t mean either of us suck, it’s just that, well…we just don’t share the same vision, period.

    The only presets I have are the presets that came with NIK Software modules and I always start at the default setting anyway. I might sing a different tune if I shot the same type of photo over and over, i.e. weddings, family portraits, head shots etc. Plus it bothers my wife that I screw up some family picnic photo on purpose by changing her blond hair to purple.

    • 10.1) AP
      February 8, 2014 at 7:43 am

      So you think presets are silly, except when you use it. Yea right.

      • February 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

        Let me clarify. I think the tons of presets that people pass around are silly ( i.e. Joe Smith’s HDR Pre-set, Joe Smith’s Summer Day, Joe Smith’s Night on the Town). These are things you can, and should do yourself. Quite often the “preset” Joe Smith gives you is good for only one photo only, usually the photo he is featuring using that preset, so yeah, lame.

        If you use a process plug-in for Lightroom, like some of Google-Nik’s, you can’t help but use the default preset, which is pretty flat, after that it is easy to achieve the looks you want.

  11. 11) Pascal
    February 8, 2014 at 2:35 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Once again great article.
    I always wondered how to get feedback from someone like you on a selection of my own images. That would provide great and helpful information on how and what to improve on my photography. I understand that if everyone would start to ask you this you wouldn’t have time for anything else. But maybe it is an idea for some kind of workshop. You would accept x amount of “attendees” to provide feedback on their say 10 images. Such workshop can even be help with attendees from all over the world in an on-line session. The great thing about something like this is that the attendees can even learn from other attendees by seeing and hearing your feedback on their images. I for one would sign up for such workshop !

    • February 8, 2014 at 8:50 am

      Pascal, Nasim is planning something of the sort in Bahamas, so if you have a chance, you should register and attend. On the whole, you are right. Just a few hours ago I was thinking of such a workshop. Still, online workshops have quite a few negatives to them. Eye to eye is always better and we will organize something like that for sure. I’d very much like to have a chance like that to help some of our readers.

  12. February 8, 2014 at 4:21 am

    This is what I see the most (In descending order of occurrences found), even amongst established photographers:
    » Lack of contrast or lack of blacks;
    » Water reflections brighter than the sky or skies too dark compared to land luminosity;
    » Lack of luminosity (too dark images);
    » Wrong white balance;
    » Too much sharpness.


    • February 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Carlos, and I take the blame for many of these as well! In fact, just found a couple of images that I need to remove from the gallery – you can probably guess which ones :)

  13. 13) Michael Whittaker
    February 8, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Great article…Keep up the good work…I really enjoy your site.

  14. 14) eric laquerre
    February 8, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    What is a good and right picture is really subjective imo.

    It all depends on how you want to make it look like.

    what is right, no contrast blend colors?? I make the picture look the way I feel. What’s great about post processing is that there is millions different possibility .

    I know I have to improve all my skills but how a picture should look like is really subjective.

    • February 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Eric, totally agreed. However, don’t you agree that if you like your image and everyone else does not, that there is something wrong with it? I think a great picture speaks to the masses and not to a very small niche. Now I am not trying to say that the small niche should be disregarded or that we should aim at the masses – that’s certainly not the case. However, the image that is produced needs to look aesthetically pleasing and needs to communicate with the viewer. We get spammed by millions of images every day and making an image that stands out among these millions is what I personally aim for. So far I have not been successful, but I hope that it happens sometime in the future :)

      • 14.1.1) eric laquerre
        February 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        I didn’t want to sound like I know it all type of guy. I know I have lots to learn and I would be really happy to learn from you. I am doing this as a hobby,I guess that’s why I don’t care as much if anyone else like the way I render my picture the way I feel or see it. I get your point!

        I will join a photography club in a few weeks. It will be a nice place to exchange about technique and other things related to photo’s.

        Keep up the good work nasim, I did enjoy your landscape shots you showed a few days ago!

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          February 8, 2014 at 3:08 pm

          Eric, I totally understand. The point of this article is that it is sometimes go back to look at where you started and where you are at today to see if you can see improvement in your work. At the end of the day, photography is not all about pleasing others. I personally have never showcased my work anywhere (except for 500px) and I believe I only submitted to a photography contest once (it was National Geographic a few years ago). You are right about something – photography is not all about other people’s perceptions. At the end of the day, we don’t buy the camera to please others. I personally feel attached to the imagery I create and some images that I like are not liked by others. I have received very harsh criticisms of my work in the past and I know that I am far from being an artist. At the same time, there are plenty of those that like what I do – and that’s sometimes enough of motivation to continue doing what I do. And some work I never choose to showcase to anyone, but I have printed at home, because I like it! So I do understand where you are coming from.

          Interestingly, the above picture that I showcased as one of my bad photos was said to be not bad. One of the Facebook fans told me that I was being arrogant in this article and that the image looked fine to his eyes. That was certainly not what I was trying to do! I hope my message is not perceived wrongly by our readers…

  15. 15) Tom Crossan
    February 8, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Great article and comments.

    I have to agree with Eric, and we are always learning about photography.

    But think of past painters like Van Gogh and modern painters like Jackson Pollack whose work was laughed at and joked about by the “Masses” and the “Experts”, and has now become “loved” by the new “Masses” and the new “Experts”.

    These painters caused people to question their concept of what was art.

    These painters painted for themselves and what they “saw” and they did not care if the painting sold or not.

    Yes, I get the point you are trying to make, but I and many photographers photograph and process images to please ourselves.

    Yes, if I become a commercial or professional photographer then I would have photograph what the client wanted or what would I could sell to the masses, but until then I please myself.

    • February 8, 2014 at 3:12 pm

      Tom, I opened a whole can of worms with this post, didn’t I? :) Please see my response #27 to Eric above – I do agree with what you are saying. Photography is not all about being liked by the masses. At the end of the day, if what you do pleases you, then that’s great! I just felt that I have recently become very critical of my work and I like my work less and less – so I feel that I need to improve quite a bit…

      • 15.1.1) Tom Crossan
        February 9, 2014 at 2:08 pm

        Hi Nasim

        Thanks for your reply, and yes I agree with you.

        We are always improving – well we hope we are.

        We are our worst critic and I have gone back over my images many times and hit the delete button many, many times. If you don’t watch yourself you can become a hoarder and have hard drives full of really awful images. It is like those people who come back from holidays bragging about the thousands of photographs that they have taken, but will never get the time to look at them.

        In regard to photoshopping: A long time ago I worked in a newspaper darkroom, and I can assure you that there were very few images that were not worked on in some manner to get that finished image that went in the paper.

  16. 16) Johny Wong
    February 8, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Reading your comment, I think I also have the same ‘problem’ like you. Last year, I went to Korea on a tour. It wasn’t a photography tour, so I didn’t have much time for composing photo or searching for the best angle. I just made sure my composition was clean and tried to include leading lines, frame within frame, rule of third, and any other composition theory that I know. I took around 800 photos on that tour.

    I opened them on LR and only like five of them. After a few months, I checked those photos again to see if I could find any photos that I like. I couldn’t find it. I have tried this a few times and I still couldn’t find any ‘new’ photos that I like.

    I think I become the worst reviewer of my own photos. There is always something missing on my own photos, even if I don’t know what I miss. Sometimes, I think this problem comes from my habit of reading too much photography magazine. Fyi, I read 7 magazines a month and my favorite section is photo of the week/photo of the month.

    1. Do think this ‘problem’ is normal for a photographer ?
    2. Should I read less magazine ?

  17. 17) Organic man
    February 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Sadly, in photography world nowadays most of us learn to be a photoshop-er, not a photographer.

    • 17.1) Tom Crossan
      February 9, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Since there have been photographers, there has always been manipulation of photographs. Up to the digital age most of it was done in the darkroom or the local colour film development outlet.

      Now we as digital photographers have the power in our own computer to get the image we are happy with.

      • 17.1.1) Organic man
        February 10, 2014 at 11:46 am

        Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

        • Tom Crossan
          February 10, 2014 at 1:43 pm

          Really, I have no idea what you are on about.

          • Organic man
            February 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm

            I don’t know what in your mind. But for me, I am interested in photography b/c one day I walked in one studio and was stunned with amazing landscape photo. But I questioned why it looked dull when I looked it over and over. Later I found that b/c too good to be true nature . Power of digital world may ruin the charm of nature if we don’t know how to use it properly. That why I see more photoshop-ers than real photographer. Oh..I have to tell you …I am yet a real photographer.

    • 17.2) Nilesh
      February 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm

      I agree, with you ‘Organic Man’. I feel it should be 90% photography and 10% photoshoppy!!

  18. 18) Nilesh
    February 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    I am a regular fan of your posts and have been learning a lot from your tips. One question it runs in my mind specially related to post processing is, With so many advanced softwares available for doing the afterwork, are we not depending more on post processing instead on composition. Instead ,unlike the earlier film photographers who would have tried hard to capture their best shot. I myself try to give as much time while capturing photos, and it makes me feel loser if i have to go through lot of post processing.

  19. February 10, 2014 at 9:28 am

    ” I just felt that I have recently become very critical of my work and I like my work less and less – so I feel that I need to improve quite a bit…”

    This made me is so sad to read, to the point of tears running down my face. It think it is true of many artist and people in general. We do something for the love of it but over time seem to loose the joy through our own hyper criticizing thoughts.

    I have noticed for a while now that the actual act of taking the photo or drawing the design is more joyful than looking at the final image — The moment by moment doing is more pleasing than the outcome.

    For me I am now looking into trying to find meaning and joy through spirituality. It is rough going so far too. My mind seems to be my own worst enemy.

    Wishing you more joyful moments.

  20. 20) Thomas Stirr
    February 10, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Many of us (I for one) can be hyper-critical of our own work….whether we are photographers, painters, musicians, carpenters….the list goes on.

    I love a quote from George Burns, “I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

    The quality of the work that we each have produced in the past simply represents the best that was in us at that specific moment in the history that is our lives. As we grow and mature, our talents have the opportunity to grow with us if we allow that to happen.

    To dwell on past work is to become a prisoner of it.

    Perhaps there is a lesson for all of us who tend to be self-critical to re-orient our attitudes and perspectives. When we look back on our work we can simply accept it as the best that we could do at that time…. then smile… and refuse to judge it. Much the way that a mighty oak tree would not look back upon its days as a sapling and judge itself. To accept the past without judgment, releases us to pursue the future to its full potential.

    Best to all,

    • 20.1) Tom Crossan
      February 10, 2014 at 1:53 pm

      Well said Tom, and I find that looking back at older images that I can like you smile and think how far I have come as a photographer since I took that image, and my journey is not over. The future is where it is at, not the past.

      I also find that being ruthless and having a good clean-out of my images by hitting that Remove/Delete to be most liberating. Also more importantly I stop from becoming a hoarder and attached to the past.

      • 20.1.1) Thomas Stirr
        February 11, 2014 at 1:36 am

        Hi Tom,

        One of the things on my ‘to do list’ this month is to make time to use my delete key significantly more than I have in the past…if I’m not brutal with myself as soon as I come back in from shooting those darn pics have a way of staying on my hard drive…whether I like ’em or not!

        Thanks for serving as a reminder about the importance of ‘house cleaning’ images!


  21. 21) Bryan tam
    February 11, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Nasim, will you have more workshop in the future. Will you come to the east coast? I’d be interested in meeting and chat with you.

  22. 22) Rafael
    February 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Excellent article, Nasim!

    I agree a lot with it. “Baking” the picture in post-processing (I never use PS, only LR on my RAWs) is about getting it really done. :)

  23. 23) Clint
    February 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Well, this article and author only reinforce what real photographers have suspected over the past several years, and that is modern-day post-processing (e.g., Photoshop, Lightroom) is well-suited, if not designed for, wannabe photographers who take the utmost delight in taking bad photographs. Well done, Nasim!

    • 23.1) Tom Crossan
      February 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm

      Please explain who or what is a real photographer?

  24. February 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Nasim, thanks for your thoughtful articles. I always enjoy them.

    I’m a fan of presets… but I probably don’t use them the way most people do.

    I’m lucky to have learned photography the old fashion way… by using a manual exposure film camera and processing my own film and prints. Exposing manually forced me to envision what the final image would look like for a given exposure, and processing prints got me much closer to that image. But it took a lot of effort. It wasn’t unusual to spend two or three times as long in the darkroom as the time spent taking a group of pictures.

    When I switched to digital, it took years to re-learn photo processing to get to a similar level of proficiency. Now that I’m reasonably competent processing both color and black-and-white images, I find myself using presets more and more. For me, using presets isn’t about doing things quickly or achieving a noticeable visual effect, it’s about finding a solution that’s closer to what I first envisioned.

    I always post-process the same way: if I can achieve a desired image by making my own edits, I’ll do so. But if I’m stuck and can’t get what I’m looking for, I’ll go through my library of 100+ presets – one at a time – until something pops out. I’m looking for the one that gives me a positive emotional reaction, the one that gets me closer to an ideal look. If a preset works, I usually continue to work it until I get exactly what I’m looking for. My goal, always, is to not look overly processed.

    I see presets as another tool in my arsenal. If anything, it adds to the time I spend processing an image but at least it gives me comfort that I’ve done the most I can to get the right image.

  25. 25) Keith R. Starkey
    February 18, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I disagree; I like the shot of the cafe with the blue trim and red open sign. I would open the shadows a bit, but it’s a cool shot. I like it. So there! Neener neener!

  26. 26) Rex Decker
    December 9, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Today it seems like reality is not enough anymore. With modern CGI technology, modern digital camera technology, so many post-processing options, super AMOLED smartphone screens, UltraHD, 4K, and so many quick filter options for social network sharing it has become the norm that images will border on surreal or super natural. Sunsets are more vibrant than in reality, skin is more saturated, images are made to look “retro”, and video’s are edited to change the physically impossible into the possible. A kid today can capture 20 images a day on their phones, apply a filter, and their 1000 friends can view it. Then tomorrow is a new day and it can all be repeated. It is the times. You can either adapt to the times or not. One generational mindset does not rule supreme the others. Luckily there is room for all in photography.

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