You come home from a photo walk with a cardful of images. You find some free time, and then you shut yourself away in a room, make sure nobody’s going to disturb you, fire up Lightroom, and start work.
Does that sound like you? It certainly sounds like me. But this makes photo processing something of a solitary occupation. And it means nobody’s going to challenge you about your decisions.
I realised this when I processed someone else’s photos recently. I wanted to be able to explain to them what I’d done during the processing, and this made me work on the photos with a completely different perspective.
As I worked, I tried to put into words — to speak aloud — this process that’s become somewhat unconscious over the years. Why was I doing this quick first pass over all the pictures? When I went back over them with the star marker, what made me mark a photo as two-star, rather than four-star? What made me press that “Reject” button as soon as I saw a picture?
Later, digging into each photo that had “made the cut”, why was I cropping it like that? What was I choosing as the subject of the photo? Why? Why was I pushing the “highlights” slider that way, and the “blacks” slider the other? Did I really need to add sharpening there? What was that radial filter for? Why was I using it rather than the graduated one? Why was I ignoring this whole section of Lightroom’s “Develop” module?
I found this enlightening1. And difficult. It made me think a lot more about my processing, and in particular the reasons I had for every action I was taking — and whether, in some cases, I actually had a reason at all, other than blind habit.
Have you become set in your processing ways? Try “commentary processing”. Even if there’s nobody around to hear, it can be a great exercise for your photography brain, and might lead you somewhere you weren’t expecting.
- It reminded me of the “commentary driving” section of the Advanced Driving Test. You can try that the next time you’re driving — speaking aloud everything driving-related that’s going through your mind, as if explaining your actions to an examiner sitting beside you. It really makes you think. Here’s an example from a police driver, commentary driving a 999 call out. [↩]