Creative workflow #4 / 6 comments + post
online tutorials

In this series of tutorials we take the creative process as our primary focus; i.e. rather than just discussing ‘how’ an image was constructed, we will also be considering ‘why’ each change was made, and how each change contributes to the image as a whole. As with our other image-based tutorials, each will also include a thorough technical discussion of any tools or techniques that were employed, but the emphasis will be upon creative rather than technical outcomes – e.g. how each image was constructed to tell a particular story, what each image says about its subject, and so on.


oldest comments first
comment by Stephen Brewell at 06:33 AM on 2 April, 2010

David. Another excellent tutorial on the "why" rather than the "how". In my view, this is the hardest bit - the "art" rather than the "engineering" - probably because I've spent my life to date in engineering, with the frustrated artist trying to get out. I love the commentary "sloppy photography" and, for what it's worth, agree entirely - if the end result is what you envisaged and it is pleasing and rewarding to yourself and others then you have achieved the goal of the art that is photography. If we waited for the perfect conditions or until we got the perfect location to get out there and press the shutter, then we would be missing so many opportunities - post-processing makes these excuses redundant.

Thanks again for sharing your insights.

comment by Trevor Hughes at 09:14 AM on 2 April, 2010

The debate about 'when does a photograph cease to be a photograph' is as old as those on film vs digital and Canon vs Nikon. Surely, photography is an art form and as such, post processing is acceptable and good luck to those, like David, who have the skills to maximise PS's potential. I believe that. as long as the photographer/artist is honest about what they have done to create the end result, we can all decide for ourselves whether we like it.

We are not all professionals who can spend days in the field waiting for the right light. Sometimes, we have to make the best of the light we have at a given location. I enjoy my photography as a hobby and if I can create a pleasant scene using PS then I will.

Keep up the good work, David.

comment by Justin Photis at 10:53 AM on 15 April, 2010

Really good discussion David and I think you did a great job with this shot, the final toning of the image I think makes all the difference in giving it real impact and the processes are explained simply and easily.
And I think you argued your point brilliantly with regard to Ed's initial comments. When are the conditions all perfect at the same time for the perfect shot ? Very few times that's for sure, but you've shown us that by taking the best 'technically' available shot you can at the time, you've got the ability to try and reproduce what you envisioned at the time, even if the conditions weren't great.

comment by J Howe at 04:50 PM on 15 April, 2010

Excellent tutorial and great explanation of how using something like Photoshop is part of the entire 'development' process of going from image capture to final realization. Photographers for years have influenced the final look of their images, choosing a particular camera and lens, choosing a particular film and processing and finally affecting the printing through various darkroom techniques. The use of Photoshop in this process is no different, but arguably easier.

I recently went to an exhibit of early photographs taken in the mid to late 1800's. Even at that early stage of photography, photographers were altering their captured image to achieve a final result. I saw one example where the photographer simply painted on his negative to darken and remove portions of the image. Primitive, but conceptually no different than using Photoshop to accomplish similar tasks.

My view, at least for fine art photography, is that the purpose of the image capture is to get the raw materials to produce the final intended result. This means getting an exposure which will contain the dynamic range desired, having the correct composition of elements, etc. From there, it is time to develop (or even re-develop) the image to produce a final product which meets with the photographers vision.

comment by Jonas (americanvirus) at 06:49 AM on 16 May, 2010

This has been my favorite creative workflow tutorial so far. Mostly because of the opening discussion. It seems to be a topic that comes up a lot.

A couple months ago a friend of mine said he loved one of my photos and he was using it as the wallpaper for his telephone. It was this picture of an Emu I had taken while visiting New Zealand ( ). I said Thanks. I told him that I really love it when people use my pics for stuff like that. He then asked me, "Was it photoshopped?"

I said that I hardly ever post a photo without it going through Photoshop or Lightroom.

It was like all the admiration he had for me as a photographer had suddenly fallen away.

He said, "Photographers really should put a disclaimer on their photos to let us know when they've been photoshopped."

I've seen that reaction from people more often than not, especially among non photographers. It's funny. I notice if I say that I process all my pictures in a digital darkroom instead of saying Photoshop, I get no such negative reaction.

Anyway, he and I hopped onto his laptop and I navigated to that same Ansel Adams before and after example. I think you or someone else had just posted it to twitter. He was absolutely blown away by the difference between the contact print and the final image. I explained that I hadn't made a photo-montage. An Emu actually walked right up to me and I took a photograph of it. In fact, I hadn't really done much to the photo other than add contrast, saturation, and sharpening. In the end, I think he actually walked away from the conversation with much more admiration for photography and all that goes into making an image have impact. He got it that the initial capture is just the first step in a longer process.

That all being said, I just recently read in the New Yorker that Henri Cartier-Bresson hardly ever processed his work, and that for the most part he trusted whatever lab he dropped his film off to.

Thanks again for the post! I love that not only being a walk through your creative process, it also provided quite a bit of food for thought.

comment by Lombard Bruno at 01:44 PM on 28 June, 2011

This tutorial and especially the introduction are of major interest.

For mainly 2 reasons :

- Ed's statements are ones I regularly read or hear first hand and I definitely consider as useless to answer to these ; photography is not reality and will never be. It is only a tool to achieve a vision ; this leads to the second reason :

- You are able to see the potential of a photography and to do so, you have to gain a vision.
Exposing for the right, as you state it, implys the fact that you have the tuition of what will be done from this step.

When we shoot for producing a HDR image, whe have from 3 to 5 or 7 images. It is the combination of all the images and the different processings which are to occur which will make the final result.

If we look at the images side by side, one will be overexposed, one underexposed etc. and none will be the final image.


Bruno (paris, France)