To share or not to share, that is the question

2010, Photography

Some time ago I received several requests to share my B&W post processing. I mentioned that I would carefully think about it. From a pure technical point of view it sounds like a legitimate question to me. It really does, but what would be my benefit and how would someone else benefit from my explanation? This really bothers me. I believe in inspiration, ideas, and creativity. Together with dedication and the willigness to learn and practice a lot, it can make you a better photographer. Post processing is certainly part of the deal, but only just a part.

First comes the image taking/making. I sometimes get the feeling that people think they can save their images with some post processing. A new crop, fixing an over- or underexposure, dealing with wrong white balance. I do some post processing too for some contrast tweaks, dodging and burning, but I really want to keep it to a minimum. And I can keep it to a minimum when I get stuff right in the beginning. Now do I dimminish the post processing part? Of course not. But in particular with digital photography it seems to be over emphasized in my opinion. We all would like to see imminent progress and maybe we can see best progress with our post processing.

I decided not to write a new article about my B&W post processing. I use the tools and knowledge many others do too. That is, a camera, looking for subjects, finding good light, enjoying the moment, and when I get home selecting some photographs and editing these in Photoshop or Lightroom. There is not a single technique I use, but multiple and it all depends on the photograph and the intended look. For me getting out and taking the photographs is the bread and the editing just the butter. I almost always use the B&W jpegs and process these (, but does that really matter?). That is it. I prefer to enthusiast myself and hopefully others too. I would love to see everyone to get out, to practice and learn, learn, learn. For me, there was no greater thrill then figuring it out myself. That is what matters to me.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

Update: As requested by Cam see here the first photograph also in color.

21 thoughts on “To share or not to share, that is the question

  1. I agree, that post-processing is over emphasized these days. The taking of the photo is more important. Getting it right at the moment will give you better photos even if you are a lousy post-processor (like myself).

    Learning it by yourself is also important. The compromise is what this person did. You get to see the post-processing but not the exactly the technique. In some ways it takes away from the photo if you know what the creator did to it after the shot.

      1. Even with these post-processing steps it takes away what the photographer did. I have to admit that I thought the word creator as you mentioned was sometimes suitable too. Some of his images reminded me of a discussion I had lately about when is something still a photograph and when does it become an enhanced image (where you add or remove some). At least he clearly shows that he alters his images which is honest I guess.

  2. I agree. Every picture requires another treatment and post-treatment. And it’s really all about finding your own way in photography, even whether you’d like to take pictures that are perfect from the beginnen, or whether you’d like to rely more on post-processing. If the end result is pleasing you’ve done your job right 🙂

  3. “For me, there was no greater thrill then figuring it out myself. That is what matters to me.”… superbly put!

    Isn’t that where the real joy lies in all creative endeavours?

  4. i admire you for even *thinking* about sharing, as i know the process is a lot more complex than people would like… there are plug-ins and actions galore, as well as stand-alone programs that emulate different film and grain — but there isn’t some magic wand you can wave over any image to make it perfect…

    i wish there was!

    but every image is different and needs to be treated that way — as something special. people ask me to show them what i mean, how i know, but i can’t! i just do…

    is it instinct?

    or is it just giving each image the respect it deserves?

    1. You are right Cam. It is not just something and something there. There is a lot about feeling which has greater impact on the end result. And that is not the feeling I have when I edit the photograph, but when I took it. I can take photographs to feel better, but for me there is still a lot of mood that is reflected in my photography. That doesn’t need to be obvious and noticed for the viewer, but is for me.

      And thank you Mike and Rose. I guess I am an explorer and the moment of taking the photograph is so much more important to me.

  5. It is, or so I think, always a difficult question; whether or not to share one’s technique. Certainly many photographers are more than happy to relay both the actual process as well as the mental manner by which they approach processing. Others, such as yourself in this instance, prefer to remain mute on the matter.

    I can’t imagine that either way is truly superior to the other. Perhaps it is simply a matter of what makes the photographer feel comfortable?

  6. “For me getting out and taking the photographs is the bread and the editing just the butter.”

    I agree entirely – nice post.

  7. dear my friens.

    I love your thought and photography world. And I wish more people can know you.
    Do you agree me to translate your posts in Chinese on my blog?



  8. Wouter, more than any photographer, I think you have already shared enough of your photographic philosophy and technique to be entitled to “hold-back” when you feel it. Further details are icing-on-the-cake; however, many of us should have a solid understand, from you, that photography is not one way… it is always evolving. Over the years, I have learned, from you, to be a photographic minimalist…that is my style and it fits me well. After a while, it is up to us, as photographers, to apply what has been shared and taught to our individual circumstances.

  9. its an interesting debate on whether to share or not to share the ‘secret recipe’ of ones images… the truth is that the secret ingredient is not the process but the image itself. The imaging process is just the icing on the cake.While I am impressed by the look you get from your images, I am more in awe of your vision.. the ability to see the picture.

    I will confess to have shared one of my own recipe in a little video…

    but that was done for other creative and possibly eventual financial gain, and was also aimed at more generalist, beginners audience. It was an experiment…maybe an subliminal attempt to destroy some of the mystique of the process, and allow people to get back to taking pictures. I spend very little time in PP…maybe it shows.. but i don’t care… i would rather move on to the next picture and move forward that way.

    all art is theft… but like any good criminal you should cover your tracks well and deny everything if caught. Failing to pull off a bank robbery and then explaining to the judge that it worked for Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t impress anyone



  10. Wouter,

    can i ask you to share that first picture in colour?

    your abilities to process in black and white are stellar, no doubt, but i also have been loving your subtle use of colour… and a lot of your viewers would really enjoy the treat!

    also, i think, it really helps to show that a strong image is a strong image no matter what you do with it… turning it into b/w, enhancing the colour, whatever, is only icing on the cake.

        1. Honestly, this one needed very little processing (in fact the B&w version was converted with a gradient map in Photoshop, but don’t tell anyone). Most importantly it is get the image right when taking the photograph. The 60’s look comes from a 50mm Pentor lens. Modern glass is wonderful and perfect, but I like older glass a lot more.

  11. i love old glass! but i love some new glass too… it ends up making a difference, whether we like it or not, because of the way it renders colours or shades of grey.

    perhaps you can start a new blog entry with just the two photos of your daughter?

    it’s always interesting to me, what people prefer and why, especially on an image like this that works both ways… what do they see? and what does it make them feel?

    i get sick of the people who say a particular camera has good ISO up to a certain point, but then it’s too noisy and will only be suitable for black and white — like b/w is only a dumping ground for your less than perfect shots… pffffft!!! there is so much more involved!

    and i’m recommending a new blog post because people come here to see your work and learn and be challenged.

    a serious look at b/w vs colour would be wonderful. and it’s sometimes easier to see the differences when it is somebody else’s picture, rather than our own.

  12. I feel sad and numb, but due to a bizarre twist in the comments of two stubborn men, including me, I decided to edit the comments and close the comment section for this post. I am sorry and I hope to find new joy with the suggestion made by Cam.

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