Taking photos is easy if you have a bit the eye and if you study long enough. These days it is so easy to find resources and learn how to take a photo (including how to edit photos). Still, from what I have noticed, high quality photography requires also some pretty good editing skills. And those are damn hard to shape since it is extremely time-consuming and they require some solid artistic knowledge and vision as well. If you take a look on the Internet, you will find great photography destroyed with over-processing.
These days it is so easy to do a lot, using just Lightroom. With most of the photos I have I don’t even bother opening Photoshop anymore. I have a day job so I cannot dedicate so much time to editing. Still, with a bit of Photoshop for sharpening and light corrections like removing hair, dust and maybe some skin texture adjustments for portraits, quality jumps a lot.
I do not have edits to be proud of. Bellow there are some examples from my “daily work”, not the best, not the worst. They just prove that much can be done with editing, but still, nothing can replace a photo properly composed, lighten and exposed. And sometimes, subtle edits make a much bigger difference.
Keep in mind that the RAW Before file that you see does not represent “reality”. It is just a a file that computer and/or the camera spit out. It is not even what camera saw. It is just one version of reality, the one decoded by the camera or the computer. The After is the Reality in the way I saw it and perceived it.
The perspective changes come from lens curvature/vignetting corrections that I sometimes apply.
This one is probably the most edited photo I ever did. Photoshop was used extensively
Modified with Lightroom and Photoshop
Modified with Lightroom and Photoshop. I need to get my hair treatment skills trained more.
Modified with Lightroom only. Sometimes a few subtle changes make all the difference.
This image was initially created from 3 others combined to create an HDR image. The Before is the already combined HDR file before processing.
I have used both Photoshop and Lightroom for this one since professional work has to be as flawless as you can deliver it. It also has to deliver a “reality” that is less personal and more generic
Same, a few subtle edits in Lightroom, including a graduated filter on top
Extensive edits done in Lightroom only. Sometimes it feels almost magical what a few sliders can do…
What I really need to point out, as a conclusion maybe, is that processing is necessary. There is no difference between the old darkroom and the current “digital darkroom”. What camera gives you is a digital negative, a very generic version of reality. Bypassing processing is like avoiding to express yourself. The camera rarely gives you the image you have in your head. You have to MAKE that image yourself. You have to show what YOU see.