Over-processed, not.

Leica M2, Teaching point, Voigtländer 40mm f/1.4 Nokton

I always have to remind myself not to over-process my images.

It used to be the domain of poor HDR photography practitioners, but now I see “over-cooked” images everywhere.  What’s worse is that few people are objecting to it.

Don’t get me wrong, I shoot in raw format and process ALL of my images, sometimes using various software plug-ins – which I suspect are the most popular tools employed by the offending photo-chefs.

And, especially in my novice days, I have been guilty of over-processing too.  Moreover, I’m sure in a few years I’ll look back at my current digital output and label it as garish.

However, I’ve been shooting a lot with film lately.  I’m doing this mostly because my mood and creative juices are calling for it…. something to do with the darker, cooler season of autumn.

In doing so, I’m always reminded of how a photograph should look.

↑Leica M2 and Voigtländer Nokton 40mm @ f/1.4.

Nothing flashy.  Nothing exciting.  But real.

I know digital and film, in their native state, look different so I’m not trying to emulate one with the other.

I still go ahead and process the film images I’ve scanned into my computer, though – fortunately – it’s harder to screw around with them… but not impossible.   This limitation helps me understand what I should be striving for when processing digital images.

Keeping it real, so to speak.


10 thoughts on “Over-processed, not.

  1. “keeping it real, so to speak”
    touche. I am quite disappointed that overly processing just to make the image interesting has become a norm and acceptance. In the recent nikon contest held in my region, the winner is a photo that is processed so much i figure it was possible for animators to match it.

    1. Yes, the “animators” comment is appropriate. As long as people recognize the final result for what it is, then to each his own. I would never dream of telling somebody what to appreciate… I’m just stating what I prefer.

      By the way, I liked your write-up on the “Leica 1.4x Magnifier” on your site Marcus.


  2. Peter – a thought, that fits spot on to a large part of photography, consumed Today.
    There is an important part though in ones own development of taste, technique and honing visual senses, often seeing much more in a retouched image than people without technical knowledge about this.

    I too often have a glimpse into old work and feel negative about many photographic decisions, including the choice of developing (and I suppose, most photographers do).

    The more one is in a process of changes (any for that matter from personal changes to changes due to learning your first steps with a first camera), the more obvious are these “I don’t like, what I did last year. – feelings”.


    Dirk | menos

  3. I plead guilty to the charge of over processing, at least by purist standards. Any black and white image is by definition highly processed in relation to reality. A fast wide open lens with exagerrated DOF is an over processed image in the same sense. And those can be great photographs.

    I like to process for effect but not to alter.

  4. Hi Peter: I shoot commercially and still see a lot of that “maximum clarity look” on web sites of fairly well known shooters that are plenty busy. I have none of that on my site and when an art director called me on it (not having that “look”), I told him that he could do that himself with a couple of moves on a slider in Photoshop or Lightroom. It’s not am image style, it’s a technique to try to make your images look different. How about expression, composition, lighting and all of the other cool things that made a shooter unique, way back when? Very frustrating.

    1. Yes Chris, you raise a good point about “the look” being sought after. People also win photography contests with it. It’s a bit of a lazy way to achieve instantly “interesting” images. But it looks awful, to my eye.

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