It’s like saying you’re doing your washing. It lends nothing to the respect that any good image deserves after the shutter has been clicked.
The term ‘post-processing’ could just as well be a way of doing a tax return on an incomplete image. It’s a truly horrible phrase, and one that I feel should be removed from the dictionary of any self-respecting photographer who cares about his art.
The birth of an image requires care and attention. It is a long process – one with no defined beginnings or endings.
The conception of an image may start the moment you set foot out of your car, put your wellies on, begin that hike into the moors. It may have begun much earler – while you were dreaming the night before the shoot you eagerly anticipated. And let’s not forget the point at when an image is complete. This step too, is ambiguous at best: I’ve never really known when my work is done on many of my images. It may be at the point of the shutter being clicked, or it may be after a week or so of living with it in my digital-darkroom. Sometimes, I realise months later, it was nowhere near complete and is still unfinished.
I make this point because I don’t think we should make a distinction between our time out in the field, and our time behind our computers. I think the word ‘post-processing’ helps create a divide, and it’s unhealthy. It encourages the idea that any work done after the shoot, is an after thought. For some, it instills the attitude that their approach out in the field *should* be different from their approach once home behind their computer. But most importantly, it encourages one to separate the creation of an image out in the field, from the work that is done once the image is back in the studio.
I see no separation.
Image creation and manipulation are one and the same. I compose in the field; I recompose (by cropping) in the digital darkroom. I think about shapes and tones in the digital darkroom; I do the same whilst out in the field too. I think about the scene in 2D in the digital darkroom; I’ve taught myself to look at a scene in 2D whilst out in the field. There is no separation. In fact, I’d say that there is a symbiotic relationship between my time out in the field and my time behind my computer. Things I learn behind my computer screen, feed back into my time in the field, and my time in the field influences the time I have behind my computer screen. Again, there is no separation.
While I am out in the field making images, I’m thinking about images. I have learned to abstract scenery into a photograph while I am on location. I have also learned what I can do with certain tones, contrasts I encounter out in the field during the digital-darkroom work. I see textures and tones in the landscape and I think about how they can be transformed, brought out, enhanced or subdued in my digital-darkroom. I do this on location. And because all of this is happening at the same time, there’s never any post-anything to be done. It’s just a continuous flow of creativity.
My main reason for bringing this up, is not because I feel it the term ‘post-xxx’ encourages us to become emotionally distant to our work (it does), nor the fact that it makes us think of photography as two different approaches (it does), but mainly, because I think a lot of photographers think about ‘scenery’ whilst out in the field, and they think about ‘images’ once back at home: there is an unhealthy contextual shift in attitude to ones work the moment we move from location to computer. Our approach and attitude to our work should not change, regardless to where we are or what we are doing, if we wish to be better photographers.
There should never be any dividing lines in art – images evolve. To assume that our time out in the field is one of two clearly defined steps, encourages ourselves to put limits on what each of those stages involves. It’s creative pigeon-holing. Images are born and grow in the most surprising of ways, and by keeping an open mind, we let them go where they want to go.
Let your creativity flow by removing confining terms such as ‘post-processing’ from your artistic vocabulary.