post production photo portrait

How to easily understand the photography post production

If you are interested in photography, you may have noticed that around 24% of a photographer’s working time is spent on post processing / post production. This is a must-have skill for both amateur and professional photographers who want to get images as they imagine them when shooting.

In this article we will discuss important concepts and resources to go further in this fascinating subject! However, we will not explain how to learn to use the tools, that will be the subject of other blog posts.

Why do post production ?

Before explaining how the post-processing takes place, it is important to explain why we are post-processing:

  • Give a style to an image: it is not always possible to completely create the desired atmosphere as soon as the shot is taken, post production will allow us to do so!
  • Correct the skin (redness, pimple, dark circles, etc.), in our case we do not correct what is not temporary (scar, mole, etc.)
  • Correct overexposure or underexposure of the image; an exposure error can happen to everyone, it would be a shame to put an image in the trash for that!
  • Cropping: Today’s devices generally offer at least 24 megapixels, which is equivalent to a resolution of 6000×4000 … This allows, among other things, to refine its framing if necessary!
  • Correct optical defects: Lenses sometimes tend to create geometric distortions (especially wide angles) or chromatic aberrations, software can correct that in a few clicks!

Post processing is cheating ?!

Tomato throw in sight!

Some photographers, generally from film, consider post production to be “cheating”.

In our point of view the debate is irrelevant: certain image intentions cannot be reproduced without post production!

I have already heard the argument which would like to believe that it makes the profession of photographer easier or quite automatic, it is quite the opposite: Finding your intention and managing to put it into practice in post production requires a lot of learning in front of your screen to be well mastered and understood!

The presets:

A preset is a set of processing applied to an image. It saves a lot of time when working on series of similar images such as when reporting a wedding.

It is possible to create your own presets (good!) or to acquire some on the internet, free or paying (not good!).

-2nd toss of tomatoes in sight –

Warning: It is almost useless to acquire it hoping to have the same rendering for your images:

A preset is created from a photo of a device, a lens, a situation, an atmosphere and with a light of its own!

It may nevertheless be interesting to analyze the parameters that are affected by a preset that you like, to understand how it produces this rendering.

A preset can also be a source of inspiration if we cannot find inspiration or bring our image to what we want.

The crucial importance of RAW

Digital cameras allow you to save your file in JPEG and / or RAW format. If you want to make the most of the capabilities of your device and are interested in post production, it is imperative to choose the RAW format.

This format contains all the information that may have been stored by the sensor of your camera during the shooting, it is all this data that will allow you to work on your photography on a computer, unlike JPEG which is a process of the image applied by your camera according to its image profile, and which offers almost no development latitude.

The image you see on the back of your camera is an image your camera has already interpreted, even if you shoot in RAW.

photo post production softwares

There are different software for post processing, the most popular combo is Lightroom + Photoshop.

You can learn more about the different software on this article.

However, here is a very quick comparison of Lightroom and CaptureOne.


12€/month with Photoshop


229€ the licence 169€/year

We fell in love with Capture One, admittedly its price is higher but it allows a much more advanced colorimetry management than Lightroom, we however keep Adobe Photoshop for the correction of skin or the removal of elements on the Photo. (Note that this one works perfectly with CaptureOne)

At the start of post processing, we will have to imagine the rendering we want to give to our image and process accordingly (or try predefined things to find your inspiration, the famous presets … 🙂). For that we have a multitude of parameters on which we can act.

The list of the main parameters:

  • Exposure
  • White balance (makes an image warm or cool)
  • Tint
  • Contrast
  • Level of detail in the image
  • Manage the intensity of highlights
  • “Lighten” the shadows
  • Color saturation
  • Overall image brightness
  • And many more !

With all these parameters the image is exposed as desired, however, it remains to create the style of our image, work its color palette as a painter would, and this is where the magic can be created! (… or not! It takes a lot of work and years to shape your eyes, find your style, the colors you find right, beautiful, harmonious, respect a beautiful skin colorimetry …).

The work of colorimetry is quickly understood, but mastering it takes many years and a lot of work.

Once you are convinced of your colorimetry and rendering work, you can apply it to series of images, adapting it to each situation. Of course it is possible to save it for later use, as a preset.

Post production techniques

Small chapter to introduce you to two known techniques that will improve the rendering of your photography once mastered!

Dodge & Burn

One of the important techniques to know and generally used in portrait photography (but not only!) and commonly applied in Photoshop is called “Dodge and Burn”. It makes it possible to homogenize the brightness of certain areas to give more volume and contrast to the subject.

Discover the basics in this video:


Frequency separation

This technique involves creating two layers, one for color and lightness and another for texture. This is very practical for, for example, removing a pimple by touching only the texture, the details of the skin will be preserved!

Another video on the subject:


We will take in our example a wedding report, once the import of the images is finished, it is possible to carry out its work process like this:

  1. Sort the photographs giving them a score of 0 to 5. We believe it is always important to prioritize quality over quantity, so don’t be afraid to be demanding when scoring!
  2. Keep a sufficient number of photographs to tell the story of the wedding or according to the client’s needs by picking from the best notes, then from the less good if necessary
  3. Post process the images in the same series, mainly focusing on the overall image exposure and colors, then duplicate the settings on the other photos in the series
    Take a break if you haven’t already!
  4. Go back over all of your images and refine if you wish, but limit yourself to the time spent, stay profitable!
  5. On your favorite images, take the time to work on the skin, correct details: dodge and burn, frequency separation …
  6. Revalidate your images and the consistency of the report

Of course, for a work process on a portrait-type service, each photo will be worked on and refined in its entirety.

Post production advices

THE advice to take away from this article: Think color, color, color and then the rest!

We’re bombarded with images, especially if you’re on social media. What makes our eye pay attention to an image is above all the overall harmony of the mass of colors, it is the very first thing it perceives, before seeing shapes there. , textures …!

If you don’t have much time to spend on post production, then work on the colors, this is what will make the biggest difference!

I had the chance to attend Julien Appruzzese’s great training from the Empara studios which allowed me to draw some important points to be taken into consideration when working on an image:

  • Work with analytical reasoning.
  • Do not hesitate to work by dichotomy to find the “right” value of a parameter
  • Take short breaks when working for tens of minutes on an image. This will allow you to do a “reset” on the way your eyes perceive your image.
  • Do not make huge changes on each parameter: It is the accumulation of small details and adjustments that will transform your image and please you!
  • Zoom in / out, change the background of your image viewer will allow you to take a step back from your work in progress
  • Compare before / after and confirm that you are not going overboard