“To do, or not to do?”,

2009, Image editing, Photography

After my previous post, and the comment from my friend Ronald Bunnik, I went through some photographs and wanted you to show some unprocessed and processed photographs (all in-camera jpegs by the way). All processed photographs were edited in Photoshop with some minor color and contrast adjustments. And these photographs also got some unsharp masking for some additional local contrast. I could use an action for this processing in Photoshop.

What do you prefer? The unprocessed or processed photographs? I personally like the processed photographs, because they have just that extra byte.




All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

28 thoughts on ““To do, or not to do?”,

  1. Hello Wouter Brandsma,

    i am not sure. Sometimes i like the unprocessed and sometimes i prefer the processed. Perhaps in between.

    Good luck to you.


    1. Thanks for visiting Titus. This is absolutely not an easy post for me. I like the photograph of the horse, but I am not sure about the colors. But then, I have never been sure about colors anyway.

  2. Hi Wouter,
    thanks for sharing your unprocessed and processed twins with us.
    Regarding the B&W, processed photos improve a lot. I’m not sure if an exposure compensation is adequate to get the color photos right?

    1. Hi Markus, You’re welcome. With color photography we seem to be more focussed on correcting the exposure and colors. As if we don’t want to make choices. With B&W photography I personally don’t mind choices. I don’t mind blown highlights or very dark shadows. It is easier for to see compositions in B&W. So maybe I should have done the photograph of the horse in B&W too. It would work really well with the sky in my opinion.

  3. Well,

    to be completly honest, and not because i said so… I do like the unprocessed better, somewhat softer indeed, so less bite. More relaxed to view at, subtle like the water with the flowers.

    Especially the first and second are good examples of a softer, may is say, less digital look. Life is already so harsh!

    If us, the viewers, would only be presented the unprocessed ones, we would still love them?

    It is also a matter of time, time spend, again at the computer, improving, altering. Time that could well be spent in another manner.

    However, I do the same, and I think for me, it is either do nothing and be happy with that, or do alot and be happy with that too. I tend to lean to the ‘ do nothing’ more now, time is becoming more and more valueble to me, the picture taking and making a moment a memory is taking more importance than enhacing or upgrading that memory.

    The horse picture for me is a bit different, it is the only one where I am in doubt, but in that case the light and the angle to hit the head is important to catch and or enhance the finer details.

    Remember, I consider myself a perfectionist, I search for photographic tools that have a high(er) image quality or have a photographic heritage. But, in protecting myself to spend too much time in processing I try to do less and less in my photographic yourney, That even includes taking less pictures…

    sorry for that long post!

    1. Look Ronald. There are so many things in-camera that can define the look of a photograph. Not just the settings, but also how the lens draws and renders. Probably the lens is even the most important factor. Take Zeiss lenses for instance. Most of those lenses are quite contrasty, while many Leica lenses tend to give more local contrast. To compare the Ricoh GRD lens with the GX lens. The GRD lens renders with more contrast, while the GX lens gives a flatter appearance. For me personally the mid tones become too flat. Now, this might not be clear in web view, but it does so in print.

      I think you may count yourself lucky with a beautiful rendering lens on your Sigma DP1.

      And to be clear. I don’t spent a lot of time processing my photographs. I select only a view photographs to be processed and it comes usually down to just a view minutes per photograph. But I don’t take many photographs either. I still keep the idea alive of 36 exposures…

      And of course no problem with your long comment!


  4. Nice blog you have, and thanks for sharing. I would prefer the unprocessed ones, but then you can’t always make such generalizations.

    1. Thank you for your comment Mads. It is basically the first time that I posted unprocessed photographs next to the processed ones on my blog. And I might consider using the unprocessed photographs more often.

  5. This is interesting. With the color pictures I prefer the processed images. But with the B&W images I think I may lean toward the unprocessed pictures, or more likely something between the two. In pictures where there are large blocks of black with little white (or vice versa) I think I would prefer more contrast. But over time I’m learning that with “busy” photographs, meaning a range and mix of darks and lights I prefer a more blended approach where gray values blend more comfortably into one another. In truth, I probably would process my B&Ws the same as you did, but seeing your side by sides makes me reconsider. I’m also not sure I like imagery with a lot of busy contrast. Just my style.

    In Lightroom, I like that I can boost the blacks which to my eye provides the dark foundation I like while still allowing for a good range of gray tonal values.

    We must be on the same schedule… 36 exposures a week with little processing time!

    Great blog, Wouter!

    1. It is all about feeling I guess. When a photograph feels right, processed or unprocessed, that is the direction you go for. For me, it would usually be a processed photograph. Maybe I should leave some extra days between photographing, processing and posting to give myself some more time to reconsider the final outcome too.

      Thank you Andrew.

  6. Hi Wouter,

    I definitely prefer the processed photos, although the differences are not so dramatic, there is visibly more details in them. I would probably use different color processing, but it’s just me 😉 I understand why you used so light processing.


    1. Thank you Pavel. Adding some local contrast gives the sense of more details, despite not even sharpening the photographs. I know you prefer your personal color look, but me and color have to come a long way yet.

  7. For myself I can’t really say I prefer one over the other in the colour images. However, I definitely prefer the processed versions of the b&w images.

    In the b&w’s I think there is a nice and useful increase in contrast, which, to me, adds a more three-dimensional quality to the images.

    1. I personally will almost always prefer the B&W photographs and the three-dimensionality is my personal impression too Mark. But unfortunately not always so clear at these small web sizes.

  8. Hi Wouter,

    I prefer the processed pictures except the aeroplane which, to me, looks better unprocessed. I think its because the lighting is subdued and the flatter unprocessed ‘look’ adds to the subtle lighting mood. The colour is fantastic. Excellent photo.

    I find the lens on my GX100 quite low in contrast. I think this is good, and if you use the histogram to govern your exposure the low contrast of the lens actually then increases dynamic range. Contrast can always be added, it cannot be reduced (speaking from a master file point-of-view).

    In my job I meet too many people just out from design college or have recently finished a Photography degree whose work looks as if its all been done my the same person. Therefore I would say continue forging your own style and listen to that inner voice. Do what your heart tells you.

    Long live the GX

    Long live Wouter

    1. Your comment gives me confidence again Chris. Many thanks for such. There is something about a personal style that goes beyond the possibilities of a camera. I will be returning to my style.


  9. Very interesting post Wouter.

    Often I show my wife the before and after processing versions of my photos and ask her which one is better. Her most frequent comment is “Can you do something in between?”. Her second most common reply is “The brighter one”.


    1. The thing I learned after this post Amin it to not show the unprocessed photographs. And in particular not to your wife! Do the thing you prefer, you like, and you feels right.

  10. I prefer the processed. But I think the key question (referring back to your previous post) is, do they look natural or over processed?

    Your PP has enhanced the images without making them look like the results of Photoshop

    1. In my head I have a photograph, not an image. In the end, the result should always be something that reminds us (or at least me) of a real photograph and not a digitally enhanced image.

  11. Wouter, most of these photos could go either way, but for me the slight increase in contrast works best. Most of my digital processing involves contrast enhancement, dodging or burning, maybe some cropping but thats about it and only when needed. I spend very little time working on my photographs after shooting them. Coming from a film b&w background I always prefered limited or minimal processing of my photographs. I also still shoot “rolls of 36” so to speak and am selective of my subject matter, if it isn’t looking right I won’t push the shutter. Even though it cost nothing to make hundreds of photographs, being selective can be a good teacher.


      1. Wouter, I apoligize for going off topic here but I noticed on everyone’s comments that the names are linked, but mine did not link. Would you know why that is?

        Again sorry for the detour but I’m curious about it.


  12. A very interesting post Wouter!
    For me, I prefer the processed pictures due to the different contrast. Your example pictures are not heavily processed so the differences are more subtle.
    Overall I think post-processing images while not necessary is a good thing to do in order to get the pictures closer to your vision and how you like to see them.

    1. Thank you for referring to this post Cristi. I still believe it is important to me to make my photographs distinctive. To create a personal style to strenghten my vision (using your word). I like it when people say it is a photograph from me and not from my camera.

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