Over the years I have seen several different views on whether to do post processing on your photos or not. It varys from “processing is cheating” and “I want it to look the way I saw it, so I will not change it” to “it is the end result that counts and anything is allowed”.
I must admit I tend to agree mostly with the latter and in this post I will try to explain why. First of all, every photo in the world is somehow processed, or edited. I prefer the term “edited” and will use it from now. If you shoot RAW you edit the images yourself from the raw image data. If you shoot JPEG and don’t touch your files afterwards, you let the computer in the camera do the editing. This is done by algorithms made by software engineers, which means that people in a country far away decide how your photos are going to look. That is why the same scene captured by two different cameras with the same settings can look different. And which one will be exactly as your eyes saw the scene? Probably none of them.
One of the reasons is dynamic range. Modern cameras are getting better and better dynamic range, but the eye is still way better than the best camera. So if your photo comes out with black or white areas where you saw detail with your own eye, then it is not the way you saw it. To get as close as possible you will need to edit your photo. Bring up the shadows or pull down the highlights, or maybe you even need to blend different exposures. This is what you may need to do to make the image look like the scene you saw. I can not see it as cheating to overcome the technical shortcomings of a camera.
You also make a lot of choices even before you press the shutter, that also influences how the final image will look. You choose an aperture and a shutter speed (or the camera does it for you, but the effect is the same) and also a focal length. All of these decisions are influencing how the final image will look and make it look more or less like the scene you saw. I think very few would see it as “cheating” or “wrong” to have a very shallow depth of field or to have sharpness all the way from front to back, even if we don’t see the world that way. These are edits made before the shutter is pressed, but edits none the less. And how can you avoid them?
Happy shooting and editing!
Hans Petter Birkeland.