My Photography Mistakes #2496

I’ve made so many mistakes in my career. Lacking backup gear, forcing pictures, forgetting to reformat the card, crushing hard drives, etc etc. This list is long.

But in the past several years I made one mistake far too many times, and it was this: not leaving enough time, reminding the client to leave enough budget, or directing the proper energy toward the post production of my pictures. I learned my lesson finally in the last year or two, but it took too long. If you’re in that rut, snap out of it. Sure, nothing can replace a great photo outta the camera as a starting place, genius, luck, whatever, but do yourself the favor of building post production mojo into your workflow properly.

And btw, make sure you’re not still in the leftover handful of photographers whining about “having to process your own images.” Instead, remind yourself what a great opportunity it is to put another personal layer into your pictures. Click the ‘continue reading’ link below for the full post/comments…

34 Responses to My Photography Mistakes #2496

  1. Jon Marshall July 8, 2008 at 2:29 am #

    Agreed. Love doing my own post, separates my work from everyone elses…

  2. Anonymous July 8, 2008 at 2:45 am #

    Great advice. It’s all really about the attitude anyway.

    I’ve heard of photographers who used to bitch about it, but I can’t really imagine it any other way.

  3. Alvaro MAM July 8, 2008 at 3:00 am #

    And how about thinking about the post-processing while the shooting is in progress, any ideas? Of course this doesn’t mean being careless because of the later fix, but about being clever.

  4. Jon Gayman July 8, 2008 at 5:33 am #

    I do all my own post, but then again, I never have budget for assistants, so I set up all the lighting, carry my own gear, and in general do everything myself anyway. Doh!

    I’m always scanning through my lightroom library though, looking for images that were picks but not stars, if you know what I mean, from the first time around, but on second pass have some potential given a little bit of post. More often than not I find a so-so image that I can turn into something I’m really happy with.

  5. Rick July 8, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    As a retoucher myself, I am always amazed at the degree to which really good retouching can make an already good photo into a stunning one. Mistake #2496 is perhaps the most difficult to work around. Even as the photog’er does 95+% of the work, the last <5% takes as long or longer to complete. For hi priority commercial shoots, 2-8 hours per image is common. Complex compositing can take a week or more. Ultimately, it is about achieving the artistic vision of the art director and photographer.

  6. Sarah Rhoads July 8, 2008 at 7:51 am #

    that is great advice Chase. I really love doing my own post work, it adds another stylistic element to it since everyone processes differently.

  7. Michael July 8, 2008 at 7:54 am #

    I never understood the whining from other photographers especially in the editorial world that budgets decrease and now they make less because they have to factor in post processing done by somebody else. I don’t even want somebody else to do it because only if I do it, I can make sure it’s my vision completely in the photo. Not an interpretation from somebody else.

    As for the mistakes, yeah been there done that :). “Oh sh*t .. I just took 5 photos and the card’s already full?” :)

  8. lizsong July 8, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks for the input. What sort of post-production mojo have you built into your workflow?

  9. Anonymous July 8, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    can’t imagine NOT doing my own post production.

  10. Richard Cave July 8, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    Nothing wrong with making a mistake just as long as you dont repeat it,

    We are not allowed to anything more than levels. dust removal ,colour correction sharpening.

    Anymore we are sacked. I have started to keep a folder of images that I know would be good retouched. I call this the three oclock folder. As on a quiet day I can pull a image out of it at three and by the time I finish it is time to close.

    There is only a few people that I trust my image to as I do not want my photos on

  11. Tuffer July 8, 2008 at 12:37 pm #

    The same people complaining about post are probobably complaining about everybody and thier mother having a digital camera and lowering the barrier. For commercial grade photos, post raises that barrier back up a notch.

    And ditto what @alvaro said- very interested in hearing about how post-processing is thought about during the shoot.

  12. Walter Dufresne July 9, 2008 at 5:17 am #

    Post-production is absolutely a great way to separate one’s work from the pack. For me, the tougher goal is to make the picture look like it’s *not* re-worked in post, that the picture is still only a straight photograph. Lighting *during* production is the key. Making the work appear graceful and easy is perhaps bad for reminding clients what we do. The easiest solution is the old “before and after”: here’s what anyone would’ve gotten by snapping a photograph, here’s what we made with the same subject.

  13. Matthew July 9, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    I know NOTHING about post processing. I try to do everything in camera, and I can do a few photoshop basics, most of it in Adobe Camera Raw with exposure adjustment, shadows, curves, and some saturation.

    How you you learn to be a post processing genius? Photoshop is a big program. I own CS2, but would love to take a class on it. The community college doesn’t seem to offer what I need, and sometimes book resources don’t quite get me there either. Not to mention the time perspective.

    So what is the logical next step?

  14. Darien Chin July 9, 2008 at 1:58 pm #

    Wow, this is a different perspective to me. I didn’t even think about people not wanting to do their own post work. I mean, I know it can be tedious and it’s not that I even really enjoy doing it but I’ve always equated it to being the brother of camera work. They always seemed to go hand in hand to me, and almost as important to an individual’s style as taking the picture. I was turned down on the biggest job offer I’ve ever gotten because I wouldn’t hand over processing rights. Many times I’ve wished I could have a clone to do my processing for me…

    Which makes me wonder, are there any twins out there that work in tandem…one as the photographer the other as the processor? That would be pretty neat-o.

  15. Tom Legrady July 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    My own experience of Richard Cove’ comment is

    Nothing wrong with making a mistake, so long as you make it fewer than 47,139 times


  16. Tom Legrady July 9, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    My own experience of Richard Cove’ comment is

    Nothing wrong with making a mistake, so long as you make it fewer than 47,139 times


  17. Loren Callahan July 9, 2008 at 10:32 pm #

    Great Post Chase!

    I actually hated doing my own post especially for 1500 photos at one time. I lost all of my work, some 110,000 photos (yes the number is correct) on two different external hard drives last November within two weeks. I was struck with many difficult decisions and felt essentially out of work. Luckily all the photos were recovered and I happily enjoy doing post now! A lessen well learned. Be thankful for what you have, because it can disappear in a flash.

  18. Chase Jarvis July 10, 2008 at 1:42 am #

    @ Matthew: you’ve gotta jump in with both feet, just like you did with your photography (presumably). You’ve got to seek education, the advice of your peers and sink some hard work into dialing yourself in.

  19. Chase Jarvis July 10, 2008 at 1:47 am #

    @ alvaro: I confess to almost always thinking about post processing during shooting. Some considerations that go thru my head:

    1. This client doesn’t want to do much based on their audience. Therefore, I’m gonna do a solid capture in camera and create it more like I want it the first time around.

    2. This client is going to go nuts in post production with a team of crazed monkeys, so I’ll give them a huge variety of options.

    3. WE get to do the post production job on this so I”m going to give myself exactly what I need – the best capture and all the elements, not necessarily the best looking frame outta the camera.

    4. Client really gets it and we’re going to collaborate on the final product so I’ll give us both the best captures and the best elements and we’ll work it together.

    When #3 and #4 come around, I’ll always have a really solid picture –in my mind, and on paper and in tearsheets– of what the final images will look and fee like. Color, tone, density, content. That’s really fun… Obviously my preferred method.

  20. Nate for July 10, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    The Post Work Flow is Key!

  21. Simon Duhamel July 10, 2008 at 10:11 pm #

    People take post-processing for granted, they don’t want to pay for it though they hire you for your “look”!

    Post-processing shouldn’t be the bastard child of photography!
    Thanks for reminding us!

  22. Carl Zoch July 10, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    post processing for me helps me complete what I am trying to say through my images… would never do without.

  23. Chase Jarvis July 12, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    @ Liz: TIME. Precious time. I’ve built TIME to make it the way I want it…

  24. Carlo A. Balistrieri July 15, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    I know people who do NO post-production at all, and have read about others who HIRE post-production out. Like the great majority of posters, I do my own–and consider it part of the (I know…sounds big-headed…) artistic process. It can’t really be my work if someone else is doing it.

    Coming from a long-term film background, what I do IN the camera is pretty decent, but learning what is possible in PS3 (or pick your post-pro. software)–enables me to raise my own bar…

  25. Alan Bremner July 22, 2008 at 5:52 am #

    It was my love of messing around with photoshop that initially inspired me to make a transition into photography so I couldn’t imagine not doing my own processing.

    And, ditto what others have said about it helping you develop your own style. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd at the best of times but developing a solid understanding of how to get the best out of your images in PS is a really good start.

    Well, that and decent pictures of course :)


  26. Carl Durocher August 18, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    So true!

  27. Anonymous June 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm #

    you mean there are people who will do my post for me?!!!??

    where are these creatures of the night that you speak of?

    i enjoy post, its where my initial thoughts of what i wanted to photograph of the subject, my shots of the subject, and the rest of my creative mind all come together for the last time before the image is complete. If you aren't doing your own post you are just doing half the work.

    Also, if by the time you are done post and you are still not satisfied with the result, there is only you to blame. You can't complain that the photographer didn't give you enough to work with, and you can't complain that the screen jockey didn't capture what you wanted out of the photograph in post. Just you…. and that can be a humbling experiance.

  28. Amy Ralston November 8, 2009 at 7:22 am #

    Hey Chase, first really lovin' the blog! I am searching in your archive for efficient workflow. I would love to get insight/overview to your general workflow, but specifically to in the digital darkroom. I work in Lightroom and LOVE the development, it is just when I get to pre-development the organization …ugh!!! I have a good idea, but I sense I could be more efficient. As you mentioned in your "mistake #2496" TIME is the factor. Any words to share? Thanks in advance ;o)

  29. Terence Jones August 6, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    I agree. I love to do my own processing – because i am the only one that knows how the result should look like.

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