Post Process: One Huge Mistake You Should Avoid

We have often said how proud we are of the mistakes we made; without them we would not be the photographers, and the persons, we are today. Today we will dig into a particular one about post process that last a couple of months, but that is still bothering me from time to time. It is about the colour and black and white post processing.
This is also a reminder that you should filter the information coming from a workshop with your own judgement. Many photographers do things differently, and the fact that they are successful does not necessarily mean that their way is the right one. In this case, we decided to follow some advices, which we did not totally buy into in the first place.
It can be post process, shooting or business: you should listen to yourself and filter the information you get. Always!

The Advice We would not Give

The advice we follow for our post process was simple: apply the Black and White presets before cleaning the skin in Photoshop.
The photographer’s advice at the time was based on the belief that the photographer is the artist and that the decision if to release an image in colour or black and white is the artist’s choice. Despite having some understandable grounds, I strongly oppose this view. As boudoir photographers, we serve our customers, especially if you, like us, place your customers’ satisfaction at the top of your scale of values. An image is the artist’s view, imbued with her style, what she sees through her eyes and that is capable of capturing through her camera.

Colour Or Black and White?

I love my Black and White images. I think they are timeless, and while every decade has its own preferences for colours, monochromatic images are here to stay. Forever.
That said, we give our customers the possibility to decide which version they want for themselves. As photographers, we should create the images our customers love. With rare exception, I would say that the style of an image is in its composition, in the moment captured, not just in the colour/black and white choice. If post process in colour or black and white is part of your style, then this post won’t apply to you, but to the remaining 99% of the readers.

Think about the future

When you shoot film, your options were limited. In the darkroom you had the possibility to change the outcome of your images, but had you shoot something in black and white, there would have been zero possibility to see that image in colours. In the digital world, we are lucky enough to have gained some flexibility: use it!
When post processing an image, the conversion to Black and White should be the last thing you do. Make sure you have a photo that is perfect in colours, then duplicate it and make it monochrome. If you don’t do it you will find yourself with images you won’t be able to recover. If you convert to black and white an image in the early stages of your post process, you will not be able to put the colours back, not without re-doing all the post process from scratch!
The best advice I can give you is simple: when dealing with your business, make it as future-proof as you can. If your post process generates images that won’t give you enough flexibility tomorrow, then you should consider changing it.

RAW is colour, Black and White is an option

We shoot in RAW. Storage is cheap and the more information you capture with the camera, the more options you have if you need to correct something. RAW is colour as it gives you all the options. Do you want to publish only black and white images? Shoot in colour, and convert it in monochrome in post process.
Give yourself space for errors.

Bottom line

There are many images in our portfolio that are black and white. For how much I love them, for certain applications I would have had the need to have them in colours, but I don’t have the post process version in colours. I applied the black and white before the skin retouch, and to get that image in colour I should go back to the RAW file and do the post processing once more. Luckily I haven’t done this for many customers as I like them to pick the colour or black and white version.
I have learned to keep things flexible, in my business as well as in my post production. I have learned not to narrow down my options, and I hope you will be able to avoid some headache by reading these words!


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