A photography journey – From darkroom to lightroom

Darkroom prints by Mr. Loo Chee Chuan

Apart from gear acquisition syndrome and actually taking photos, there’s another path that we all went through during our photography journey, which is the post processing workflow. Photo editing is something new to me when I started off learning about photography. It has always been shooting on film, sent it to the lab and printed pictures are returned to me. And during the times when I was shooting on digital point and shoot or my mobile phone, there’s no such thing as RAW files either.

So when I started using the Canon PowerShot G10, I was intrigued by it. I have no idea what I can do with it, so it’s all about self exploring and experimenting. At that time I was only using Canon’s own Digital Photo Professional software, which has limited controls. But still, I spent a lot of time playing around with the sliders and presets. Slowly, I was introduced to Lightroom and I had been using that application ever since.

And there was a point of time when HDR photos were fashionable, everyone was trying to run tone mapping algorithm on every single of their photos, making all these super fake HDR photos and still loving the result, and I was one of them. With limited understanding on how dynamic range works, I just dump my photos into any HDR software found from the internet and HDR the hell out of my photos.

Fortunately, I soon realized that it was a huge mistake. So I spent some time learning myself how to use Lightroom properly, and perhaps a little of Photoshop as well. And that’s when things got improved a little from there. I won’t call myself expert in editing, in fact I’m still pretty suck in editing photos. But at least I can do a much better job that I was back then. Nowadays, the trend is on AI editing, which is something I didn’t get my hands on to try out yet. But if I am going to continue my photography journey, it is perhaps something that I need to take a look at some point in the near future.

What was your post processing history that you would laugh over today?

Perspective Correction

How often do you correct the perspective of your picture via post processing? All lenses, especially those wide angle one, will exhibit a certain amount of distortion. Besides that, when you are not careful when framing, it’s easy to have slanted horizon or vertical lines.
For landscape shots, I think generally with levelled horizon it is more pleasing and… natural to viewers’ eyes. For architectural shots, it really depends on the framing itself. Sometimes I will do a perspective correction to ensure buildings are levelled, sometimes I’ll go a step further to ensure even the vertical lines do not converged.
Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset
Slightly slanted shot, before and after levelled.
For streets shots… Well, I think there should be more freedom for this type of shots. When Adobe first introduced the auto perspective correction in Lightroom, I tend to abused it by clicking on the auto adjust on every single image that I shot, even for street shots. Until one day, I realized that… hey, why everything seems to be so… formal and boring. There onwards, I started to put in more thoughts into my picture before clicking on the adjustment button.
Levelled street shots are okay, or I would say they are pretty “safe” in terms of overall composition. Some shots when slightly slanted just give you more energy into the picture, letting you to feel closer to the action. Well, it may not be something that’s to everyone’s liking, but that’s where the fun and creativity of photography takes its place. Take your imagination to fly, step out of the box, and enjoy shooting folks 🙂

To edit, or not to edit

Very often you will find people asking “why are you shooting jpeg” and then recommend that “you must shoot Raw to capture most data” and finally “you can do wonders in post processing on Raw files”. Well, I can’t deny that these statements are actually correct, but most of the time, most of them who recommend these may not know what they are saying. They simply follow some advise from some pros and then shoot Raw blindly.

I’m not expert in photography, I’m just amateur at most, and my editing skill sucks. I’m not against shooting Raw, in fact most of the time I’m shooting Raw + Jpeg (though most of the time I ended up using the Jpeg file straight). My take to Raw is: Shoot Raw only if you know what you are doing and why you need the Raw files for. Jpeg from camera nowadays are pretty usable, and for those who are not good in photo editing, perhaps no matter how hard you try, you still can’t beat the in camera JPEG processor.

For me, I will use the Raw files only under certain condition:

1. HDR landscape

When the scene’s dynamic range exceeded camera sensor’s capability, take bracketed shots and merge them later on during post processing to expand the dynamic range.


2. When AWB fails

Shooting Raw allows you to adjust the white balance later, useful when shooting under mixed lighting condition where the camera simply can’t nail the correct white balance.

3. When I have a final image in my mind that can’t be captured as it is

Sometime looking at a scene, I know I will do post processing later for sure (e.g. Black and white landscape) then I’ll shoot in Raw to make sure I have most of the data with me to work with later on.

For professionals, they shoot Raw most of the time because they simply need the quality, they need the files to edit later to their taste, they need to make fine print and so on, therefore there’s a reason for them to shoot Raw. For hobbyists and amateur like me, I rather spend more time in shooting than post processing my pictures at home 🙂

Well, it’s just my personal preference. At the end of the day, you just need to do what you think is right. Enjoy shooting!

Something I like about Fujifilm – Film Simulation

From a long time Canon user, I jumped ship overnight to the Fujifilm camp. What’s the reason you may asked, well, the answer is: many. Today I’ll just talk about one of the reasons why I like to use Fujifilm camera: their superb film simulation software.
In the early days of my photography, I just shoot and share straight out of camera Jpeg. Later on, I started to play with simple (and free) editing software such as photoscape (I still use this software once in awhile) to do some simple editing such as add vignette and put in some filter simulation.

When I got myself the Canon PowerShot G12, I started to shoot only Raw and edit the pictures with Canon supplied DPP software. There’re more adjustments can be made, but the software is pretty limiting in terms of altering the feel of the picture and adding filter presets (maybe I was too noob to fully utilize it back then).

This brings me to the next step of editing… Lightroom. I think this happened around the era when I’m using the Canon PowerShot G1X. So I continue to shoot Raw and edit in Lightroom. The basic presets in Lightroom is pretty… basic, so I ended up spending more time in searching for free presets online, but the result is not very consistent as not all presets are suitable for all situations and file types.

Editing has slowly become more of a pain when I experimenting Photoshop during my DSLR era. I just cannot understand and making full use of the software, too complicated, haha. However, things get a little different when I started my journey with Fujifilm.

Fujifilm X series camera features a software function called “film simulation”. They are basically various types of “presets” that apply on your picture to replicate the colour and look of film print, namely Provia, Velvia, Astia, Pro Negative, Monochrome, Sepia and Classic Chrome. For people who don’t like to spend too much time in front of computer editing like me, this is like a saviour.

Other camera makers do have some sort of “profile” or “preset” built in, usually will be those like vivid, high contrast and so on. Well, they sort of get the job done, but not as elegant as what Fujifilm has achieved. My workflow has changed quite a bit after using Fujifilm camera. I’m shooting Raw+Jpeg now, and whenever I feel that the Jpeg is good enough, I’ll just use it and share it. If not, I’ll try adjusting using VSCO app on my iPhone with the Jpeg files. If I got something else on my mind, then I’ll work on the Raw files later on back home with Lightroom. Basically, my time spent on a computer editing the pictures has greatly reduced. And that simply means I got more time to actually go out and shoot!

I can also shoot in Raw, then do the conversion in camera to my desired film simulation. There’s also an option to shoot “film simulation bracketing”, which simply just took 3 shots of the same scene with 3 different film simulation. I’m looking forward to see what other film simulations will Fujifilm add in to their cameras in the future.