When you employ the services of a professional photographer, one of the key skills you are paying for is that of post-production. This is the process which happens to a photo after it is taken and is made up of the following steps.

1. File management
2. Image selection
3. Processing
4. Retouching
5. Exporting

1. File management

This includes the process of downloading the photos, organising them into a system so they can be easily retrieved and backing the images up.

This takes time and involves a degree of expense in the form of hard drives and storage solutions. Photographers must ensure that images aren’t at risk of loss – this may also require specific software or online services.

2. Image selection

This is the process of deciding which frames are kept and delivered to the client and which ones are removed, eventually to be deleted. Typically 65-90% of the images taken will be deleted, either because they are very similar / identical to other frames, technically inferior in some way, or just simply deemed unsuccessful.

This is in much the same way as a feature film would involve hundreds of hours of footage, which would then be edited down to the final cut of just an hour or two.

It is the photographer’s opportunity to narrow down the selection in order to present their best work and ensure the most efficient use of time during the post-production phase by not wasting time on duplicates or inferior frames.

It separates the wheat from the chaff!

3. Processing

This is the stage whereby the images are adjusted mainly for colour, contrast and tonal range, but also potentially straightened up and cropped. There are many other finer adjustments and tweaks that photographers sometimes make to their images such as correcting for lens flaws, perspective and sharpness too.

Photographers may also use ‘styles’ which are a pre-determined set of colour and contrast values, applied to an image to give it a particular look. In the film industry a similar process is referred to as colour grading. Instagram filters are an example of the use of styles.

4. Retouching

Most people are familiar with the concept of retouching which is also sometimes called air-brushing or editing. This is when very specific changes are made to remove, alter or enhance elements of an image. It can include beauty retouching (from removing spots and wrinkles, to changing body shapes, hair colour etc) and is mostly commonly associated with the software Adobe Photoshop. For this reason, it is also sometimes referred to as ‘photoshopping’.

5. Exporting

This is the final stage which converts our ‘raw’ files to a high resolution jpeg. A raw file is an unprocessed file which is not easily read or shared due to their unusual file type and size. We rarely deliver these to our clients unless they are skilled in using them and are therefore able to undertake the post-production process safely themselves, from steps 2 to 5.

In summary, post-production is essential to the work flow of a professional photographer, and includes such elements as editing and retouching, but also file management, processing and the exporting of images. Professional photographers can’t deliver their work without each of these 5 steps to some extent. Retouching is perhaps the only step which is not always necessary.

Since it’s a necessary part of the process, at Fisher Studios we factor the cost of post-production into our overhead. We only charge separately for retouching, if our clients specifically request retouching, and for this we quote separately depending on what is required. However we are usually very happy to accept minor requests for retouching free of charge, provided it is only to a selection of images (we always provide many more photos than we know you’ll ever need), after all we want our images to look amazing too!

Question: The photo below illustrates just how different an image can look as a result of post-production, but can you tell which changes are a result of ‘processing’ and which are a result of ‘retouching’?

Bicester Osteopathy clinician with patient - this photo is before post-production Bicester Osteopathy clinician with patient - this photo is after post-production

Answer: The only retouching was to remove the vertical window frames. All other changes are in the processing of the image.

Answer: This architectural shot required extensive retouching including removing several elements and rendering a wall.

Answer: This mirrored table required removing the highly reflective surfaces, smoothing, and a number of elements taken out (retouching).

Queen's College Before Queen's College after

Answer: This image of an Oxford college was taken during dusk and required a lot of manipulation on it’s tonal range. This was all achieved using standard processing without any retouching.

SBS after

Answer: Sometimes there’s a huge object in the way – by taking three shots at slightly different angles, this composite was skilfully stitched together using retouching techniques.