Behind the Scenes: Post Processing

January 14th, 2018

People tend to forget that there’s a large chunk of work for a photographer between taking the photos and returning them. I hear a lot of complaints, like “why am I paying so much for only __ hours?” Or, “why is it taking so long to get my photos back?”

The answer is: post processing! Post processing takes up way more of my time than the shoot itself. My process differs depending on the type of photography I’m doing. When it comes to photoshoots, especially cosplay photoshoots, I tend to do more in the post processing phase. This is because:

  1. People book me for my photography style. This includes how I post process.
  2. Photoshoots are not meant to document the scene. They purposely have more creative freedom and even more so with cosplay.
  3. People are expecting the best photos I can give them of their cosplays. I’m going to do my best to make sure it meets both mine and their expectations.

Here is a peek at my process!

1. Import into Lightroom

Lightroom is my choice for most of my photo editing. While the editing features (for RAWs) between Lightroom and Photoshop are almost the same, I prefer Lightroom for its workflow, which you’ll see in this entry.

The first thing I do is import everything into Lightroom. I have parent folders for certain types of photography, and then from there, I let Lightroom organize my photos by date.

2. Filter down the photos

All good photographers know to filter down their photos. Some do it along the way; I prefer to do it during post processing. The photos you return represent your work, and they should be your best. Not to mention, your client is expecting quality photos.

You can see that I have a lot of duplicates. If you’re doing digital photography, I highly recommend taking a few photos of every shot! (You totally have the card space for it!) That way if one is accidentally out of focus, you have a couple others to fall back on. From here, I pick out the ones that I think make the cut. I’m looking for photo quality and whether the photo actually looks good (pose, composition, etc). If I try different angles with the same pose, I’ll pick the one that I think is the best out of those.

Some people like to use the rating system in Lightroom. I tend to simply mark by color. In this case, I took both convention photos and photoshoot ones, so I used two different colors to mark the ones I wanted to keep.

3. Create a collection

Now that I’ve marked the photos I want to work on, I create a collection so I see only those photos. I use the Smart Collection feature, so as I mark and unmark photos, the collection automatically updates.

4. Editing in Lightroom

I typically edit in phases. The first go-around, I do quick edits to get the photo close to where I want it to be. After that, I try to take a break away from viewing the photos, like a full day, so that I can look at them again with fresh eyes later.

Next, it takes one or two more phases of editing where I fine tune the settings to where I’d like them to be. Here is a typical look of how I edit. Every photographer has their own style, and I tend to go for brighter, stronger colors on the warmer side.

When the settings and lighting are just right, I barely touch it.

And when it’s really bad or I just totally mess up, there’s more I need to do.

5. Finishing in Photoshop

Once I’m done in Lightroom, I export the RAWs into JPGs and finish up in Photoshop. A lot of times, I don’t need to do much here, but some examples of when I’d edit things out are:

  • People in the background (or some other distracting element like a trash can).
  • Really noticeable stray hairs.
  • Zip ties on the props. (Conventions put colorful zip-ties on props that they have checked and approved for safety.)
  • Anything to help the cosplayer – like if their wig cap or bra strap is showing.

6. Watermarking

I do watermark my photos, which is pretty standard and should be no surprise, especially since people repost other people’s works all the time without permission and credit. (That is super rude and disrespectful to the original artist, by the way. Don’t be one of those people.)

I have a file with different sized watermarks and also colored for light or dark backgrounds. I simply drag over the one I want for the photo, apply a Photoshop action (strokes and adjust opacity), and that’s it. I try to find corners of the photo that don’t get in the way of the subject.

7. Zip and send

The last step is to send them over to the cosplayer! I zip up everything, upload it to my site, and send a download link.

Don’t forget that in addition to doing the shoot and post processing, photographers research and prepare for the photoshoot, and we also have to keep up with our skills and gear. Please remember that there is more that goes on beyond the photoshoot itself!

15 Responses to “Behind the Scenes: Post Processing”

  • Kassy says:

    This is an amazing post, thank you so much for sharing all the information on how you process the photographs!! :D You mentioned a lot of great tips for Lightroom that I did not know about, like the smart collections which would make life a lot easier!

  • Nancy says:

    I love how you consider many things whenever you take the photoshoots! Post processing is definitely something a lot of people forget and might not understand unless their hand is held through the process. I love how neat you organized your files! There were times when I got lucky because the initial picture wasn’t as focused as I liked :’).

    Lightroom is such a powerful application for being able to do some magic! Your photoshop skills are on point with photoshopping some rando out. Thanks for the walkthrough! What kind of computer specs at the minimum would be recommended so you won’t be waiting for ages for Lightroom to render? Just asking out of curiosity, I haven’t used Lightroom before but do notice a big difference when I swapped out my GPU.

    • Cat says:

      I’m probably not the best for determining specs, haha. My computer is always specced for gaming, which happens to work out for photo editing. Though, I’m not sure if Lightroom itself is really that intensive? I think the issue comes from loading RAWs, which are really big files, so you might experience that load no matter what program you use.

  • Michelle says:

    I always figured that image processing takes a lot of time and effort but I had no idea what went into it. Photographers like you deserve the respect because of how much time goes into it plus the whole making sure that the client is happy with the results. This is an interesting process that I enjoyed looking and reading about. Thank you again for the wonderful shoots we did together!

  • Lee says:

    That is awesome! Post-processing was my favourite part of photograpy too. Sometimes I enjoyed it more than actually taking the photos LOL. It’s been sooo long though that I forgot all those things. One day I’ll get to your level. I’ve always wanted to learn how to edit the backgrounds (like when a person is in the way). You do such great work!!

  • Chynna says:

    Wow, I’ve heard of post-processing because a guy I know is a photographer as well, but I didn’t realise so much went into it! Such an informative post ~ thanks for posting :D

  • Pauline says:

    This was such a fascinating read to me! I love reading about how others go through their editing process. This was a great read to understand how the professionals do it! I edit my photos in stages too (by photos, I mean Instagram. The ones on my blog are usually just how they are unless I posted it on Instagram before!) but at a lot smaller scale: removal of anything in the background and then editing on VSCO (with filters, adjustment of lighting), further editing on the Instagram app itself (usually sharpeness!)

    Thanks for sharing this Cat! Definitely one of your blog posts I’ll go back to!!

  • Holly says:

    I always forget how long it takes me to edit and process my photos. I’m still editing my photos from New York, hence why I still have 3 more blog posts to share!

    It’s the same with web development; so much goes on behind the scenes that takes a lot of time but that people don’t take into consideration, like testing.

  • Cassie says:

    I always knew there was more than just taking a picture and I found this really interesting. Thank you for sharing :)

  • Joy says:

    Woah, I am seriously impressed! I respect photographers so much. There is so much work that goes into it.

    I also really liked being able to visually see the adjustments you made. Did I already say that it was impressive? because it is. I’m sure that some of the things you have to fix or edit doesn’t even register to the people you’re doing a shoot with. Even after they have received the pictures.

  • Amy says:

    This is such an interesting post. I never realised how much work goes into editing photos, and it was great to see your process. It must take you ages!

    I think it’s great how you edit your photos. I have so many of me where my hair’s all over the place or you can see my wig cap and they would’ve looked great if they’d been edited. It’s so important for cosplay when so many things can go wrong with a costume!

  • Claudine says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Cat! It’s really fascinating how much work goes into the post-processing of photos. I have friends who are photographers so I kind of have an idea of what they do during the whole process, but I’ve never seen it from a perspective this detailed.

    I really love your style and the way you edit your photos. I definitely agree that there are so many other things involved in photography other than the actual shoot itself. I have so much respect for people like you who work in photography! <3 Again, thank you so much for sharing this!

  • Tara says:

    While I knew that you’d have to process the photos after the shoot, I didn’t realise just how much work went in until now! It’s definitely more complex than just fixing up some lighting issues! And the Photoshop part surprised me, which shouldn’t. I was thinking it was odd how so many photos came out looking perfect (ie: no crowds in the background), but it make sense now to edit them out ^^;;

    Thank you for sharing your process! It was really educational ^^

  • Ongaku says:

    Awesome, I do all the same things pretty much with mine. I use Lightroom for most of my cleaning up of the photo with brightness and stuff and then Photoshop to get out the annoyances. Thanks for sharing your steps and and stuff.

  • Katy says:

    This is such an interesting post! You certainly put a lot of care and attention into your photography – I’m sure your clients are always pleased! Taking duplicates of shots is such a good idea. I’ll do that with blog photography from now on. Lightroom seems like really efficient software – and I agree with Tara, I didn’t realise you would edit crowds out! I thought places were just conviniently empty! It seems silly now, of course you would have to edit!

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