How many times you challenge your post processing style?

 In For Photographers

The post processing style is something that, together with your photography style, will define you as photographer. The post processing style is both about the use of colours as well as the way you work on your subject’s skin.
How many times do you challenge your post processing style? How much time you let a specific post processing style to settle, before you change it?
To us, a balanced and durable approach to post processing is the best option. Don’t let your post processing jump from one place to another, but neither stop questioning if you can do something differently. It is about challenging the look and feel of your images to adapt it to what you feel better represent your brand, without doing it too often, and by doing this having a portfolio without a style.
Let us guide you through how we do it!

The post processing style is a signature

In the same way your photography style is a signature, your post processing carries the same strength in defining you as photographer. Have you ever seen a portfolio of a photographer, seeing too many styles of black and white? Or what about the use of colours, in some image over-saturated, and in another under saturated?
The post processing style is as important as your photography, and you should try and develop it in the same way you develop your eye. This is why we don’t use ready-to-go presets: they are something which is not unique. They are simple, they are easy, but they are someone else’s.
The main question is about what you like. Do you like the vintage style of post processing, or are you rather a high-contrast person? The first step is to know who you are, what you do like.
Be yourself! Everyone else is already taken.

Plugins: the pro and the con

Starting out is challenging. You may not know where your heart lies, or maybe you do not know how to create what’s in your mind. These are two points in your post processing development where plugins may play a good role. You can have access to a wide range of possible styles, and you can learn how they work.
I have checked VSCO templates for Lightroom, and they actually do a good job for those who are starting, but you have to be careful at the drawbacks of using such plugins. (and by the way, no, we don’t use VSCO)
The first is that you have a lot of noise: amongst the hundreds of different options, which are you going to choose? The issue that arises often is that some photographers end up using too many of them. One photo more vintage, another one more saturated, one super contrasty and another one washed out. This is not a great option, as you will confuse your possible customers.
The second issue is that the risk for you is to become sloppy: using preset templates without understanding what they do and why won’t teach you anything. The real goal is to understand what you are doing. Be deliberate in what you do and lear how to do it. If you will move from Lightroom to the next big thing, you will still be able to apply your own post processing style.
Overall, I see them valuable if you want to learn how to build your own Lightroom preset, but you should always try and focus on what you want your post processing style to be.

How much/how little

For us, changing our post processing style is a continuous improvement process. Every time we feel that we can do better for our brand, we experiment. We look what images inspire us, which post processing styles looks more “us” than our own, and then we study how those images are made and if our photographs would fit that style. This is an important part of every post processing style “experiment“. Not necessarily something we like is compatible with our photographic style. Maybe a particular style works well with dark tones, that we don’t incorporate in our style, rendering that post processing style useless for us. Whenever we try something new, we also keep a copy of the images with our original style: there is nothing worse than going back to a failed experiment and realise that we can’t use those images because we don’t have our standard post processing style!
How long does it pass between one experiment and another? No less than a couple of months. We try something and we let it rest for a few weeks. We don’t change straight away our style, we limit it to one batch, like the photographs you can see in this blog post. After a few weeks we will review the images and we will check if the new post processing experiment is actually us or if it was only a temporary infatuation.

Colour correction and Skin Post Processing

Another important element in defining your post processing style is the way you treat your subjects’ skin. Our approach is simple: the natural the better! We want to see the pores in the skin, we want to see it as much natural as we can get. Of course we will cleanup imperfections and bra lines, but we are not “porcelain skin” or “plastic skin” lovers. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most complicated post processing styles you can have. Blurring the skin, making it “plastic fantastic” is easy and cheap. Select the skin in photoshop, apply a nice layer of “Gaussian Blur” and in few minutes you are done, but do you like to show your subjects like this? We do not.
The way you work on your subjects’ skin is a vital part of your post processing style. Either you learn how to do it, or you hire someone to do it for you. A good skin processing requires time and efforts, so when you decide how to approach it, you need to decide if you want to invest your time or your money into it. In the past few years we decided to go for the second, as we believe our time as photographers is more valuable.

Post Processing Style or Styles?

We have four different post processing styles for our images, and they are extremely simple:

  1. Colour post processing for light images
  2. Colour post processing for low-key images
  3. Black and White conversion
  4. Low contrast (vintage) black and white conversion

It is extremely simple for me to know which preset to use in every situation. All the images get one of the two colour post processing, then after the skin retouching, we will apply one of the two black and white post processing styles. Easy.
We have more than one post processing style; however, they are very similar one to the other, with the exception of when we test different things.
How many different templates do you use? Is your post processing style constant in your portfolio, or are you trying to do too much?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.

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