Purfylle: Is Post Processing Images Worth The Effort?

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Is Post Processing Images Worth The Effort?

Image edited in RAW using Digital Photo Professional

Do you edit your photos? 


Previously I've shared how you don't need to be a pro with expensive software to edit your photos

I still stand by that.

As long as the shots you are working with are okay to begin with you can edit your image in any format using just about any image editor, and you'll be fine, at least for internet purposes in any case.

But sometimes an image could be made to look great if only you had more image information to work with in the first place. And that's when RAW format comes in.

That's really what RAW format is, it's all the information, every little pixel, the camera has on the image before deciding which pixels to keep and which ones to throw away. However JPG's and other formats have already thrown half that data away and there's no getting it back once it's gone. 

Unedited image which could benefit a great deal from just a few tweaks.
Unedited image: a lot of detail is lost in shadow and the image looks crooked

Just how much of a difference does it make editing in RAW compared to editing a JPG?


More recently I mentioned I was shooting in RAW again. Now I have a computer that can actually actually run a RAW editor without crashing which means I'm more willing to edit the RAW version of an image. And this particular shot of the lake viewed from between the trees illustrates why quite nicely.

It's easy to see that the image at the top of the page - RAW image edited using Digital Photo Professional- DPP - is brighter, straighter and has a lot more detail, especially in the tree bark, that is otherwise lost in shadows in the version just under it (unedited). 

Picasa (my trusty fast, free image editor) will add brightness, adjust contrast, increase highlights and allow the image to be straightened, so a JPG can certainly be improved, however Picasa won't allow you to decrease the amount of shadows and other little finesses. Many of it's tools have been compromised to select speed of editing and ease of use over quality. Picasa allows for adding text to an image, DPP does not. In fact I could go on and on and about the differences in features between the two programs but I won't, lets just keep it simple.

Editing a JPG can only achieve so much for an image.
JPG image edited in Picasa, notice the bark?

I admit that it's Picasa's blogger friendly features like adding text, quick image fixes and collage building are what make it my favourite editing tool to quickly whip out a blog post.  Image editing is time consuming enough without double handling, image correcting in one program, adding text in another and then there is still collages to be considered.

Sometimes double handling an image to add branding or a watermark isn't worth the effort, because once an image has been reduced down to web size the quality difference is negligible.

Sometimes double handling or even triple handling is worth the effort. It will all depend on your priorities, needs, skills and the software you have on hand. And this lake shot is worth the effort of double handling.

Being able to bring out all the richness and detail in the bark, to have the highlights in the water just so, and being able to choose a different colour model (standard) to the one I had the camera set to (faithful) all helps to make a much better final image.

Now the truth is that Picasa will edit RAW images, but it treats them like JPG's (at least, such is my understanding) and Picasa's compromises for ease of use mean a poorer result.

On the other hand, DPP will edit JPG's but just because it has the capability of editing a RAW image does not mean it can get information back that has been thrown away. So if you only have a JPG, a RAW editor will not help you without that extra data. Likewise if you have software capable of viewing and editing RAW images (such as Picasa does), if it doesn't have the settings and the capability to tweak the data, you're still not going to have a lot of joy. 

So in short, only you can decide if Post Processing is worth it to you.


Have you noticed I haven't mentioned Photoshop or Lightroom even once? I'm not in a position to throw money at image editing software and it really isn't necessary to get more from your photos.

I'm sorry if you were expecting to see those shots which last week I had promised I'd share today, however my Sunday has evaporated and those shots aren't prepared (or sorted out from the duds). An unexpected meeting took precedence instead, hopefully I will have them ready for next week.

10 comments:

  1. I use picmonkey, its free and it is really easy to use. I am sure there are also tools on there that I could utilise if I only knew what they all were. I agree that for me a free editor is good enough. I do have photoshop elements on the pc but it is complicated and the elements version doesn't have all the tools so is limited. It's great to see the different versions together, the differences are so clear #MySundayPhoto

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    1. I gave picmonkey a go but I had to switch browsers to use it because it uses flash.

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  2. I used to love just letting my local chemist sort out the exposures in my film! I do shoot mainly RAW and then have to faff around converting them all, by which time I wish I'd shot JPEG. But just for those few occasions when some beautiful depth can be rescued, it's worth it. #MySundayPhoto

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    1. For now I am shooting both JPG and RAW concurrently but I suspect over the coming year that may change. It does slow the camera down a bit.

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  3. I do like a little editing to draw out colour and detail.

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  4. Ok, I can see the difference in the sharpness, and the details of the bark! Yay! Thanks for teaching me to start really noticing tiny details like that, Stella!!

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    1. This makes me happy. I thought of you when I was writing this post.

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  5. This is really useful and such a great resource too! I often use Fotor and PicMonkey because they're both free and the filters they have are really nice if I want something fancy, but usually I don't edit any of my photos on my blog, unless I state otherwise, but it's great to read something like this and see other bloggers saying, it's OK, you don't need this expensive stuff! I definitely see what you mean though and using them as then, as you mention, tiny details just come out of the photo and it improves it 100%! Great post, thanks Stella! - Tasha

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    1. A lot of bloggers who are saying you do need to spend dollars are part of an affiliate program that sells the software so it's in their interest to say you need to spend the money. I'm so grateful I have access to DPP for free just because my camera is a Canon.

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