on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Saturation by Saturation

The skill of subtlety in good post-processing

Rafael Rojas

Following a career as an engineer, researcher and university lecturer he made a dramatic change of career as a nature and landscape photographer, his true passion and vocation. Today, he travels extensively in search of those fleeting moments when light and land combine to create something very special. His work has been awarded in many international photography competitions, including the prestigious Master Hasselblad Award, several First Prizes in the International Photography Awards (USA), Px3 Prix de la Photographie de Paris and Px3 People's Choice (France), Nature’s Best (USA), International Conservation Awards (USA),

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One of the most important and difficult skills in good post-processing is subtlety. As we start processing our images, we frequently over cook them. Frequently spurred by impact, we think all post-processing should be led by a dramatic and epic intent. The result is frequently over contrasty, over saturated and over textured images. Too much contrast, too saturated colours, too much clarity in the mid tones, too much sharpness... are frequently the proof of a lack of sensitivity, subtlety and respect for the genuine intent which led us to make the photograph in the first place.

As processing adjustments get too intense, post-processing starts to be seen, not felt, and it stops enhancing a mood or intent. Instead, it becomes a barrier to it, and it blocks the observer at the superficial level, not allowing her to go through it into the deeper levels of signification that the photograph could have provided. When we go too far with post-processing, post-processing becomes the real subject of the photograph, and we have failed as artists wanting to use photography in an expressive way.

Post-processing is quite like cooking. When we start, we frequently drown the tastes with an abundance of spices and condiments, using way too many ingredients whose tastes blend and hide each other, leaving in the mouth a unique strong taste with no nuances.  

Post-processing is quite like cooking. When we start, we frequently drown the tastes with an abundance of spices and condiments, using way too many ingredients whose tastes blend and hide each other, leaving in the mouth a unique strong taste with no nuances.
As our experience grows, we make simpler dishes, with less but better suited ingredients, and become subtle in the amount and diversity of spices we use. A good chef will prepare a meal that delivers a subtle but intense range of tastes, coming in waves, deployed in different levels, none of them overpowering the others, none of them taking over the dish. 



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