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Beyond taking the photo

When we look at "finished" photos, they're really a product of a 3 things (excluding the subjects):


  1. taking the shot - i.e. manipulating the camera

  2. lighting conditions

  3. post-processing


I've focused primarily on (1) so far, because learning how to manipulate the camera, and analyze and prioritize your settings to create a shot, is really the first step in creating a better photo. But I'd be lying if I said that understanding light and post-processing wasn't necessary, because they're absolutely part of the process of creating the final photo.


There are plenty of tutorials on post-processing online, so I don't have any plans to cover that. But to any detractor who says that post-processing is "inauthentic", you should know that post-processing has always been around.


In the film days, photographers would manually edit photos, by developing a shot, marking-up the photo, and re-developing it. They'd repeat this process over and over until it was just right - an incredibly time-consuming process. Now we have Lightroom and CaptureOne to help speed things up.


Marked-up photographs by Magnum Photos master darkroom printer, Pablo Inirio. Source: Petapixel


Sure, if you take editing to an extreme, a photo can become "inauthentic" - although photo compositing, a form of "extreme" editing is really an art form unto itself. But editing has always been around, and it's always been an important part of photography. A camera merely captures a scene, but that doesn't mean it's communicating what the photographer was seeing and feeling when the photo was taken. So if you want to take your photo to the next level, I suggest investing some time in learning at least some basic editing.


Before (L) and After (R) - a bit of post processing helps bring out the rich, romantic colors of twilight just before a tropical sunrise


Apart from post-processing, lighting is the other big factor that goes into a shot. Lots of photographers are content with "natural light photography", which means taking photos using available light only. If you know how to take photos in natural light, and you know how to post-process them, that's enough to get you a long way. You can build a career on that. Indeed, some photographers market themselves as "natural light photographers".


But the truth is that light is light - whether it's natural or artificial is irrelevant. What's really important is its characteristics. Look at the light - are the shadows harsh or flattering? What is the transition from light to dark like? And how do you manipulate light to get the look you want?


If you learn how to control and manipulate light, then you can create whatever look you want in any conditions, whether natural, artificial, or a blend of both.


Is this natural light, artificial light, or a blend of both? And in the end, does it matter?



If you find these tips useful, please consider sharing your photos with the community by tagging #dharmaportraits on your Instagram photos - I'd love to see how you're using these tips to create beautiful photos.


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