The Greatest Post-Processing Tool

I often get asked if there is a certain way of achieving a particular look in a photo. How to make colors and people “pop”? How to properly color correct? How to make the skin blemish free? While there are lots of different ways to post-process photos using tools like Lightroom and Photoshop, the most powerful tool in any visual artist’s arsenal is typically forgotten – your eyes!


NIKON D3S + 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 200, 1/30, f/5.6

We perceive the world around us by looking and observing things, people, lines, etc. Ever wondered why diagonal lines, curves and specific object placement are pleasing to most people, even to those who are not involved in art? That’s because every brain comes pre-equipped with some tools that help us visualize what looks good and what doesn’t. These visual tools are already there, but they might not be fully “activated” by you. How would you do that? With lots of training, learning, patience and interest in your craft, it is just a matter of time. There is no shortcut, no magic bullet.

Once you fully unlock and activate all the visual tools, your brain can take your past experiences or “visual imprints”, along with your imagination, and effectively use these tools to develop a unique style. Your form of expression, your perception of the world.

The more I work on the creative front and the more I take photographs, I come back to this simple concept of finding something pleasing and unique to my eyes only, which rarely fits into the square box of set rules.


NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/320, f/1.4

I am not a big museum buff, you may not find me looking through old art books seeking inspiration. For each his/her own… I look for beauty, as I perceive it, around me, in my everyday life. I look at women, children, men while on a walk and think of concepts befitting them, seeing something that someone else may not see. At times my mind is just blank…


NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 220, 1/400, f/2.5

With whatever I have in my visual arsenal, I sit down and work on my photographs. Some of them rarely need post-processing, as I visualized and shot them just the way I wanted. Other times, I come back knowing that I may be tweaking certain things, by adding or removing some elements, which again, has to do with my own perception of things.

My dear friends, there is no perfect skin color correction method that will fit everyone out there. There is no best way to bring out colors and make something visually attractive. Trying to do everything by the book may be absolutely appalling to your personal vision. While hard work to master any skill is necessary, I genuinely ask you not to try too hard in developing your style right away. Give yourself some time and save yourself from burning out. Trust your instincts, be a child, learn the basics, give yourself and your visual perception recognition… These are the things I tell myself every day and I hope you will not mind a free thinking post today on Mansurovs.


NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/1600, f/2.8


  1. 1) Yvette
    May 22, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I sure appreciate this post, it speaks of the importance of listening to your instincts, which makes life much more easier for me. I was one getting frustrated with the fact of not having mastered the tools and techniques in PS, it is so overwhelming… I liked my post -production, but was not sure it was good enough, so what you have stated is so freeing! Nevertheless, I seek to learn and improve where it is necessary and helpful.

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:30 am

      Thank you, Yvette! You are absolutely right by looking for ways to improve your existing skills. I find that once your base is covered experimenting with new things is moving on to bigger things.

  2. 2) Ralph Carlo B. Villaver
    May 22, 2012 at 12:36 am

    For me, the most important tool in photography is our creative mind.

  3. 3) Ajay
    May 22, 2012 at 1:09 am

    You’ve hit the nail on the head there Lola!

    ‘Trust your instincts, be a child, learn the basics’ – that is a wonderful piece of advice. Many a times we get lost in the technicalities of things and end up over complicating. I’m sure many of us can produce much better images if we just keep this simple thought in our minds.

  4. 4) JPanda
    May 22, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Excellent post!

    I find that by looking at other’s work as much as I can does help me to improve my ‘eye’…albeit a little slow :)

    It’s a good thing that I like it though… otherwise ‘improving our craft’ would be a very long and mundane process :P

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:32 am

      Dear Jpanda,

      It not bad at looking at other’s work. Like I wrote in the article, to each his own way of learning. As long as it helps you bring out your inner peace and confidence, it is your way to go!

  5. 5) John Richardson
    May 22, 2012 at 1:35 am

    Exactly, Lola. Perfectly expressed.

  6. May 22, 2012 at 2:15 am

    Great post – I’m all for ‘visual tools’ and the more I use them, the more I see and the more I want to capture without post process! Thank you Francesca

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:33 am

      You are welcome, Francesca! I can’t wait too see all of our dear readers among the best photographers in the world, and very soon!

  7. May 22, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Great, Lola, thanks very much!

    I’ve found that over the last year or so I have really developed my personal ‘style’ in shooting and post-processing, neither of which came intentionally but both developed naturally just through practice and making things look how they looked best to me! I’m sure I still have a long way to go, but great to hear that others appreciate this method of development as well :)

    Not that I don’t still research techniques etc, but always nice to read something thought provoking rather than technical :)

  8. 8) R
    May 22, 2012 at 4:36 am

    This is great…please discuss the art rather than the science of making beautiful and meaningful work…thank you…

    • May 24, 2012 at 9:35 am

      Thank you, R! I think the philosophy of taking any picture is equally important as technicalities of any shoot.

  9. 9) George
    May 22, 2012 at 4:53 am

    Excellent! The post just clarifies the answers for my photography that I’m keeping searching. Thanks.

  10. 10) Boyd Symington
    May 22, 2012 at 5:21 am

    Great post but I have one problem, my mind has a lot of work to do as I am color blind so post process is extremely difficult.
    Any Ideas that may help?

    • 10.1) guari
      May 22, 2012 at 5:43 am

      Dear Lola, a great write up. It is indeed very important to look for inspiration within myself.

      As an amateur photographer, I tend to question myself a lot of times and think of the posibility that my photos are not good enough and that maybe will not be appreciated by others. But then I remember that I take pictures that I find interesting to me, and that helps towards building the craft and creating one’s style.

      Dear Boyd, most respectfully, why don’t you exploit to the max what others might see as a handicap? I have read that being color blind gives you an enhanced perception of tonality (or shades) than people that see color. Black and white photography is fundamentally a tonality craft.

      • 10.1.1) Boyd Symington
        May 22, 2012 at 6:09 am

        As you said some people see it as a handicap but its not just the tonality that i see……its when every looks at the forest they see all the different shades of green, I see all the leaves and the texture and the movement of the forest, I like shooting in black and white but some things are best in colour.

    • 10.2) R
      May 22, 2012 at 6:02 am

      I am red/green color blind, and have been described in print as a “great colorist”…we just perceive things differently…and I could not care less about getting skin tones right, but that’s me. I do lots of conversions to black and white in post processing and much prefer that to color anyway…it is not a handicap Boyd…hang in there and keep at it.

    • Profile photo of Lola Elise 10.3) Lola Elise
      May 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Dear Boyd, I absolutely agree with the gentlemen who posted earlier. This where your uniqueness lays. The way you see things is nothing like I see or someone else sees. You are by no means loosing anything. Push your craft forward.

  11. 11) Radovan
    May 22, 2012 at 5:27 am

    This is all true. If I take picture and don’t like it in first place so why work on it in some program for 20 min.? And if I lIke it than I don’t care who thinks what. That is why I shoot Jpeg and not Raw because I try to adjust my camera the way I like to pictures look like in first place. I don’t think Picaso was fixing his paints after some negative reviews. Most people dont like art pictures and vice versa. What most people think is pretty is not to much art. I hope you get what I was trying to say. My english is not so good. Love your posts and work. Thank you.

    • Profile photo of Lola Elise 11.1) Lola Elise
      May 24, 2012 at 9:40 am


      I guess it really depends. Ansel Adams was a post-processing guru and something to salvage an important capture you might need to work on it a little longer. But overall I agree with you.

  12. 12) daniel
    May 22, 2012 at 5:33 am

    Thank you for the great article. As a “newbie” photographer, I think I expect bigger results than what I get. I tend to read lots of books and experiment a lot, just to realize I do not know my equipment well enough to capture what I see. Especially when it comes to flash photography.

    • Profile photo of Lola Elise 12.1) Lola Elise
      May 24, 2012 at 9:41 am

      Dear Daniel,

      I love learning from books, but hopefully we can provide more video and written tutorials regarding the subjects you are referring so that you can learn faster and more confidently.

  13. 13) Heather
    May 22, 2012 at 7:03 am

    This is a great post to encourage anyone. There are times that I’ve found myself feeling burnt out with trying to perfect my process, getting caught up in the ‘net’ of continual comparison. I’ve finally come to a place within when I am comfortable with the process but still find my style to change depending upon the photo itself. It’s really difficult to label myself with any particular ‘style’ because I tend to be one who needs change. I get bored with the same old stuff. Not sure if that’s always a good thing when offering my skills to others, though ;)

    Great post!

    • Profile photo of Lola Elise 13.1) Lola Elise
      May 24, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Dear Heather,

      Experimenting is good. At least you will acquire lots of knowledge. At times though, I find myself forgetting some of the things I knew about 6 months ago, regardless of how helpful those tips might be! That’s gets me worried sometimes :)

      Do you mean offering your skills for free? I had that battle with me for sometime. Acquiring any skill is a hard process and giving it away for free seemed like a no, no to me. But with time I realized that I can’t take it to the grave with me and that I might as well make someone else’s experience of learning tad bit easier than mine. What do you think?

  14. 14) Casimir
    May 22, 2012 at 11:27 am

    The art of seeing is the main thing. Brake the rules and canons, be yourself.
    Of course you have to know the techniques but don’t dwell on it !

  15. 15) Robby
    May 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    Good stuff.

    Being a totally subjective creative artform sometimes the so called ‘best’ can beat the rest of us with whatever they deem correct. Once you’re past first base, let go of the dry technique and have fun, play and look at what you’ve produced. Why do you like it? What makes it move you? These are for you so forget the rest of us. You are unique.

    Unlike you though Lola I am a big museum buff. I’ve just seen an exhibition of late 18th and early 19th century paintings and the lighting and poses are so reminiscent of good present day photograpy.
    I’ve had so much good portrait education from those past masters.

    • Profile photo of Lola Elise 15.1) Lola Elise
      May 24, 2012 at 9:47 am

      Dear Robby,

      to tell you the truth, I deeply envy museum buffs. I always craved to see what they could see. Though I am drawn to certain artists and their visual work, I felt like I missing out on much more. So, I have a project in mind, which I hope I can reveal soon.

  16. 16) Jeff
    May 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Love your work lola!

  17. 17) Jonathan Tong
    May 22, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Totally agreed. That’s what i’m training myself day to day by practicing more, there is no short cut, and no hurry to have your own style.

  18. 18) David Thompson
    May 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Thanks for getting me off the search for a better technical approach to solve my problems of artistic expression and back to my own under-appreciated perceptive apparatus. This works for my music (my ears) as well as my photographic efforts (my eyes). Their relationship with my brain, when I am really listening and looking, make it possible to imagine the beauty that is there waiting for me.

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