Photography: Why Use Post Processing Software?

Although I had been interested in photography as far back as my teenage years, after my thirties and a number of life changes, photography took a back seat to my other interests and obligations of life.

I had used professional gear in my twenties and early thirties, but for many years after, I used a point-and-shoot digital camera with between 5 and 8 megapixels. (As a frame of reference, today’s standards would probably call for a minimum of 16 or 24 megapixels for professional use.) My Canon AS590 IS provided a no muss, no fuss regimen for me and I was comfortable just capturing ptographs as a matter of record.

Of course as time passed, post processing software improved and I became interested in revisiting some of my older photographs and trying to “process” them to bring out the colors and beauty that encouraged me to take the photographs in the first place.

When pondering the question, “Why use post processing software,” let me offer the following.

My wife and I enjoy hiking and exploring as readers of know. In 2012, we visited Monument Valley, UT. Sure enough, I had my Canon PowerShot AS590 with 8 megapixels. It took very nice jpeg photographs. Unfortunately, however, the settings and ability of the small sensor was limiting.

Look at this picture for example:

Original picture of the Yei Bi Chei Spires and the Totem Pole
Original picture of the Yei Bi Chei Spires and the Totem Pole

The above is a composition in which I was very interested, but the bright sky and haze did not enable the camera to represent the scene as I envisioned it. The camera did the best it could capturing the scene, but the equipment didn’t render the red rocks and sand as I saw it. The green and yellow grasses played well against the red rocks, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the photo above.

This shot remained dormant on my hard drive for years and then I began to learn about Adobe Lightroom. Once I understood the basics, I realized I could recapture some of the colors and nuances of the shot that inspired me to take the photograph in the first place.

Once processed, the scene is rendered more as I saw it that afternoon.

Processed picture of the Yei Bi Chei Spires and the Totem Pole
Processed picture of the Yei Bi Chei Spires and the Totem Pole

Keep in mind that this camera has a very small sensor and by today’s standard is probably equivalent to a smartphone or perhaps less than that. When looking at the picture, understand that the camera did capture information such as which areas are brown, red, green, blue, light, dark, etc. It took the software to help me bring out the colors and contrast nearer to as I recalled them when I stopped to press the shutter. Some of the detail is lost in the transition and the picture is more painterly than I would prefer, but it is certainly closer to my recollection than the original the camera recorded.

This is why post processing software and learning how to use it properly is so popular!



File Name: 8871_yei_bi_chei_spires_totempole.JPG
Capture time: Sept. 10, 2012
Exposure: 1/400 sec @ f/4.5
Focal Length: 16mm
ISO: 80
Camera: Canon PowerShot AS590 IS
Lens: 4.3-215mm

Edited in Lightroom


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Lightroom for JPEG (JPG) Images

A couple of things up front

  • I have only been using Lightroom (LR) for a few months.
  • Until ten months ago or so, the only camera I used was a Canon PowerShot A590 IS point-and-shoot with 4X optical zoom
  • I now use a Canon SX50 HS with 50X optical zoom
  • Between the age of 22-30, I was very interested in photography and experimented with it as a way of artistic expression
  • For more than thirty years after that, photography only served to capture my personal historic record.
  • I am now trying to become a better photographer and learn the “art” of photography.

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, I want to make an important point. Once I decided to try my hand at becoming a more serious student of photography, all of my readings convinced me that I should be shooting in the RAW format. There seemed to be way more advantages than disadvantages.

Since my only camera was the A590 with only 8 Megapixels to offer, I was stuck in the JPEG (JPG) zone. I wanted to experiment with the RAW format and a slightly more advanced camera and thus I purchased the 12.1 Canon SX50 HS which has served me well for the last ten months.

Having decided to shoot more in the RAW format, I then needed the appropriate software to read, catalog and process those images. Along came the Adobe subscription plan for Lightroom (LR), Photoshop (PS) and other associated software for a subscription fee of approximately $10 USD per month. My path was clear. I began to learn LR and to work with RAW images.

But wait…what about all those JPGs I shot with my A590? Could any of those pictures be improved with LR? I know JPGs don’t have as much embedded data to call on, but surely I could make some improvements. Well, I am here to show you a few results. I will be the first to admit that the differences in post processing JPGs will not be as dramatic as with RAW images, there are some significant gains to be had.

Three years ago, I took my trusty little shooter (not the best term in this day and age) to the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Conditions were far less than ideal. The artificial lights were blaring every color when lit and often the arena was dark. Not only that, but elephants, co-stars of the show, are kind of a drab gray. I love elephants, but I have to call it as I see it.

In any event, I took my camera and did the best I could. Everyone who has followed photography knows the adage: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” and thus I was using my best camera that evening.

Below are several pictures I took that evening followed by the same picture processed in LR. Now remember what I said above. I am no expert at photography or post processing. I was, in my opinion, able to improve upon the original images using LR. You can decide for yourself. Just one note. The revised/improved images have been cropped so the picture may appear larger, but it is only because the crop has enlarged the remainder of the picture so that all photos are the same general size for posting on the website (+/-).

Are you following along?

This picture (below) is of the main entrance into the arena. Notice how dark the image is with lack of much detail in the corners.

Main Side Entrance

Notice the colors in this revised pictures and how the details pop a bit more.

Main Side Entrance

This performer riding the elephant wasn’t too bad a shot under these conditions, but that spotlight just to the right of the elephant’s foot is distracting as are those shiny lights above. There is no snap to the colors either.

Female Performer Riding Elephant

Notice how the contrast is improved. The distracting elements have been edited and the picture is much more pleasing. Now remember, nobody is claiming these are wonderful pictures. These are from my “historical record” and I am just trying to improve them using LR even with the introduction of a bit more “noise” in the scene.

Female Performer Riding Elephant

One of the problems I had in the darkened arena was shutter lag. So I often mis-timed the pictures. This picture was not framed correctly; too many distractions such as the trainer on the left and the objects in the bottom right. The overall color is dingy.

Lion on Rotating Ball

This is much improved with the crops, more appropriate color balance, etc.

Lion on Rotating Ball

Okay so you get the idea by now. No more narration just two more sets of before and after pictures. If anyone has any questions, post a comment and I will do my best to answer.

Lion and Trainer

Lion and Trainer

Dragon and Fire

Dragon and Fire