Post Processing - When is an image complete. / by Christian Webb

Photo Webb-PS6-LR5-Christian Webb PhotoI've been meaning to do a post on editing/,  post processing and all using PS6 and LR5.   What I really want to focus on is not so much the software or any particular workflow or process of my own.  (My workflow needs help and my skills in BOTH applications is amateur at best!)  So,  what's this about? Well,  it's about the  idea of returning to an image to make adjustments to it long after it's thought to be finished.   I recently had a discussion with a friend who was telling me about an image he didn't complete until 3 years after he shot it!  After which,  it turned out to be one of his favorite photos and got a lot of attention.   So, after that talk and thinking about some of my own experiences,  I decided to write this post.    To quote filmmaker George Lucas: "A film is never finished , only abandoned."  Well,  it may not even be Lucas who came up with that quote. I believe it's been used to suggest the same for poetry as well.  But I digress.  With regard to photography and our images,  when do we decide that an image is actually....finished?  Is it determined by a deadline?  Obviously, if we're talking about a client's needs, well then it's really up to the client.  However,  as the photographer,  you may still find yourself wanting to tweak, mess with, perfect, try something new with images you have in your library.  It's perfectly normal and part of the artistic process.   Beyond the normal, sometimes necessary adjustments such as color correction, lens correction and small touch ups,  I'm talking about more artistic or style issues.  Or, perhaps you notice something you missed the first go around.   Case in point, the image above.   This is an image from a photo shoot I did for ATL rapper Sugar Tongue Slim aka STS.   The shoot was set up by his manager Riggs Morales who wanted some new promo material, specifically, a shot for NPR's website where they named STS's album Illustrious as one of the top 50 albums of 2011.   They ended up using a different image but this one in particular was one of my personal favorites.  Anyway,  a year or so later,  I was asked for a few more images from the shoot and ended up coming back to this one.  Right away I noticed the reflection and shadow formed by the eyeglasses. (image on left)  So, in addition to making some curves adjustments and tweaking the hdr black and white look,  I immediately went to work trying to fix the eyeglass issue.  As you can see from the copy on the right side,  I was able to clean it up a bit and overall I think it looks better now.  However,  I did screw up a bit with the edit.  Upon closer inspection, at full resolution, the cloning efforts and small tweaks I used to fix the image become obvious.  I could spend more time and get it right but for the most part,  it's not a big deal really because this image isn't being used for anything and isn't being printed.   I wanted to post this and talk about it quickly to point out that sometimes, an image is just never complete and it's okay to return to them and tweak them as you see fit.  I've gone through LR catalogs of photos and found images that I completely forgot about or neglected to pay attention to upon first review.   At times, it's a great thing to go back and have fresh perspective on a image.  Maybe you see something that can use fixing, a touch up or maybe you just see the image working in another way artistically.   In closing,   let me also say this;  It's possible to GO OVERBOARD.  Part of processing an image is knowing when to stop, even if you CAN continue and do more.  It's completely a subjective thing but you just have to know when you've gone overboard and too much is too much.   To bring it back to George Lucas,  his return to "unfinished" works actually ruined his...unfinished work.  With a ton of new technology at his fingertips,  Lucas went and messed with the Star Wars films and ended up  negatively affecting the films and their original beauty. (so say most fans.)   Again, I digress.   Just keep in mind, post processing shouldn't be a crutch for poorly shot images but more of a tool to achieve whatever visual impact you want from a particular photo.   More on this to come when I discuss post processing in general and the common, amateur understanding of the importance of Photoshop/Lightroom editing programs.