Do You Make These Embarassing Post Production Mistakes?

Last year we covered photography mistakes, but what about post processing blunders that can leave you forever embarrassed?  Here is a collection of common post production mistakes that can turn you rosy red and how to avoid them.

Shooting RAW when you shouldn't be.  For some reason digital photographers feel the need to always shoot in RAW because it provides the most flexibility and highest quality end product. I couldn't agree more!  But, it's not always the right choice, the need to shoot RAW needs to be determined before you start shooting.  Furthermore, a firm understanding of how to properly post produce an image is needed.  Most great photographers I know are just that – great photographers, but not amazing post production people!  There's a reason professionals utilize a team of digital artists to provide their end result – they'd rather be shooting, which is what they're good at.  JPG isn't always the answer, but neither is RAW, there must be a balance.

Color correcting on an uncalibrated monitor. I can't emphasize or bold this enough!  Regardless if you shoot RAW or JPG, you can't do any color correcting or adjustment with regards to highlight and shadow detail or hue and saturation without a properly calibrated monitor.  Utilizing a hardware puck and proper software is the only way to properly and accurately adjust any part of a digital photo, otherwise you might as well make corrections with your eyes closed. If you really cannot do that, you could try to calibrate your monitor manually, but it's not an ideal solution.

Photo by Matti Mattila

Converting to the wrong color space. If you are making prints, assume that you should always be in RGB or sRGB color space – this is after all what your camera shoots in.  Regardless of what you read on the Internet, CMYK format is rarely used in the photo printing industry unless you are working with a traditional print lab, not a photographic print company.  All that will happen is a either a phone call from your photo lab or a surcharge to you order to do a file conversion back into RGB so the printers can handle the files.

Photo by Marcos Dornbusch Lobo

Not saving your unedited originals.

Photo by TheTruthAbout...

When you're done editing and save your photos, don't save over the originals or toss them because you figure you've got it edited how you like.  Trends come and go and a few years from now your heavily vignetted, cross processed and Lomo'fied post processing might look tacky and unattractive.  Always give yourself a way to go back to the unedited, original file.

Show your best, KEEP your worst. Just because you can upload a near unlimited amount of photos to Flickr, Facebook and even your own site, not learning to properly edit down what you show the world can be the worst mistake you ever make.  Show only your best photos to friends, family and potential clients, keep the worst shots for photography message boards who offer honest critique and examine how you could better improve them.  Learning from your mistakes is a crucial part of the process to becoming a better photographer.  Deleting the worst photos doesn't help you in any other way then removing them from your site.

Post production is a needed and welcomed entry into the world of digital photography, provided you don't make these embarrassing mistakes.  Take the time while editing to think about what you were shooting and why, then utilize that thought process in how you edit your photos for the best results.


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About the author

Mike Panic

is a professional photographer. See his site at Mike Panic Photography.

  • Tim says:

    I can't make head or tail of the first point: the need to shoot RAW needs to be determined before you start shooting. Furthermore, a firm understanding of how to properly post produce an image is needed.

    If you're going to post-produce an image properly, why on earth would you not want to start from the most data available, ie RAW? In what circumstances would RAW ever be an inappropriate format to shoot in the first place? (Don't say burst-mode: that's normally poor photography, and if it's *that* important, it will influence your camera-purchasing decisions before you get to post-processing.)

  • Regarding the “Not saving your unedited originals” point above, this is just another beauty of shooting in RAW format: Adobe Camera RAW or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom will never allow you to overwrite over the original RAW file… The only way you can lose the changes you've made is if you accidentally (or purposely) delete the XMP sidecar file for that particular RAW file.

  • Ryan says:

    I have to ask, when do you recommend to NOT shoot in RAW?

  • Greg says:

    I like the idea for this article but it poses more questions than it answers. For example is RAW shooting really a post-production issue? Lightroom treats RAW files much the same as JPG so how is this a problem? And why would you not want to shoot RAW – to have less control of exposure and light balance?

  • Mike Panic says:

    Tim, You don't want to shoot in RAW if you aren't on a color calibrated monitor for example. Also, if you aren't familiar with how the color wheel works or how to sharpen for print or web, shooting in RAW will only result in images that are less then desirable. I personally don't shoot in RAW for say, photos of stuff I'm putting on eBay or Craigslist either. Two more examples, I just shot an event at a club last weekend, not one of the photos I shot will ever be printed, they ONLY went to the web and due to the crazy lighting in the club, no specific white balance would have worked, custom or preset. I shot JPG to cut down on the post production time of pushing RAW files through Lightroom. Next example would be most of the recent studio work I'm doing. I use a light meter to nail my exposures and custom white balance, so anything I'm doing above and beyond that is for creative purposes. RAW vs. JPG is like Ford vs. Chevy or Mac vs. Windows, each has a time and place.

  • Mike Panic says:

    Miguel – that's not the only way. What if your computer crashes or your external hard drive dies and you only have the RAW files or unedited JPGs on DVD somewhere? Or, you switch to Aperture and away from Lightroom and Photoshop, or worse, LR and PS change how they store the changes in the XMP directory?

    I always keep Unedited JPG / RAW files, post production files and web files. I also like to go back and re-edit from time to time photos with new techniques, filters, actions or presets.

  • Mike Panic says:

    Greg – this may be a good topic all by itself, but I've outlined a few ideas in an earlier response why JPG could be used, note I didn't say “should” be used.

    To specifically address your last question, when I can, I use a light meter and a custom white balance. I'm a photographer first, post production “artist” second, and that's only because in the digital world, we have to be. I'm a firm believer in nailing your shot to the best of your ability and the ability of the gear you use. Being a sloppy shooter and saying “Oh no worry, I shot in RAW, I can fix that in post” only takes time away from shooting and the final product is rarely as good as what you could have done in camera. Film had a much greater latitude in regards to exposure, that is to say you could over or under expose a bit more and still have a pleasing image; white balance wasn't a problem and you bought film based on the grain and saturation levels you wanted. Digital photographers have control over that, but far tighter restraints for over / under exposure control and for whatever reason, digital noise never developed the cult-like following that quality grain from film achieved (thank goodness!).

  • Tim says:

    I'm afraid that reads like a load of gibberish to me. None of those constitute reasons to present an inferior image to your viewers nor to reduce your scope to return and edit the image later. Arguably, in a mixed lighting setup, such as the club you mention, I would be running to check I have RAW *en*abled for safety when the camera's (auto)white-balance does something crazy.

    Given that one's equipment allows both, the time and place for RAW is while you're shooting, and for JPEG, when you're publishing. I fail to see why the potential “mistake” works two ways.

  • Tim says:

    I'm afraid that reads like a load of gibberish to me. None of those constitute reasons to present an inferior image to your viewers nor to reduce your scope to return and edit the image later. Arguably, in a mixed lighting setup, such as the club you mention, I would be running to check I have RAW *en*abled for safety when the camera's (auto)white-balance does something crazy.

    Given that one's equipment allows both, the time and place for RAW is while you're shooting, and for JPEG, when you're publishing. I fail to see why the potential “mistake” works two ways.

  • Tim says:

    Well, having an approach of “I can fix it later” is totally sloppy, of course.
    That doesn't mean you should ever choose to shoot in JPEG in the first place, though.
    If you're going to make any amendments at all (say, rotate+crop or similar) afterwards, then you might as well apply them to a RAW image as to anything else, and in the process, feed-back from the changes you've had to apply to time-of-shooting camera technique (that is a desirable learning-feedback loop).

    White-balance is totally a problem with film. Every brand has its own tonality, its own assumption of how daylight should look; just witness the huge array of colour-correction filters you can acquire from warm-up to cool to daylight-to-tungsten etc.

  • Mike Panic says:

    Tim,

    We can agree to disagree on JPG vs. RAW, especially for the vast majority of people out there who print less than 5% off all photos they take and do web only display. Both sides have valid points.

    White balance was / is a problem with film but it's no where near as sensitive as digital sensors are today in regards to color temps.

  • dijea says:

    Mike, I totally agree. There is a time and place for RAW & a time and place for JPG. Some people don't always see the big picture and get in a rut one option is always better. In a compositional form RAW is not always best either. I do many media projects that are for web only and no photo I take needs to be in RAW especially when the final product has a dpi of 72. Its a waste of space. That doesn't mean I don't take my best JPEG resolution and re-size, but RAW is a waste for that project.


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