Are You Using Software to Fix Errors, or Do You Invest in a More Permanent Solution?

Are You Using Software to Fix Errors, or Do You Invest in a More Permanent Solution?

If you pick up a camera, you need to know some things about photography. You need to know how the camera works, and how to acquire the results you have in mind. Are you willing to take the effort to get it right the first time, or do you rely on repairing the errors?

Everyone can pick up a camera and make a snapshot. We all have done this during holidays or in our spare time. You don’t need to know a lot about photography to make nice digital memories that can be shared with friends, family, and on social media. When photography becomes more serious, it is best to take more effort in your work.

Perhaps you need to spend some money on a new lens, a flashgun, or you need a gimbal for steady film footage. Or do you prefer to work with the equipment you have, even if it isn’t the best choice? After all, if it doesn’t produce the best result, you can always correct the things that aren’t perfect in post-processing.

Or perhaps you don’t take enough time on location, to check if the photos you have are exactly the way you want. Is the image sharp at the right spot? Do you have enough depth of field? Is the exposure correct? Have you eliminated ugly shadows when using flash light? Did the flash go off? Or are you sure the errors can be corrected in post-processing? After all, we have Lightroom, Photoshop, and even Luminar to fix our mistakes.

Oh no, the flash didn't fire. But I have Lightroom, Photoshop, and Luminar. I can correct the image in post-processing. (in reality this was a photo to determine the background exposure before turning on the flash)

Oh no, the flash didn't fire. But I have Lightroom, Photoshop, and Luminar. I can correct the image in post-processing. (in reality this was a photo to determine the background exposure before turning on the flash)

Based on a True Story

I know a guy – I won’t say his name –  who was asking the community if his real estate images were sharp enough. He posted a before and after image, after using software to enhance the sharpness. It turned out he was using a lens that was very soft when stopping down to f/11. On top of that, he had difficulties with the auto focus, resulting in images that weren’t acceptable. But he kept on using the lens because he didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a better lens.

For shooting real estate it is important to have everything in focus. If your lens fails, and the images aren't sharp, you should use another lens. Make the investment, and don't try to fix this at home.

For shooting real estate it is important to have everything in focus. If your lens fails, and the images aren't sharp, you should use another lens. Make the investment, and don't try to fix this at home.

I was surprised about two things. Why not use manual focus if the auto focus couldn’t be trusted, and why not check focus on location to be sure the images had an acceptable sharpness? But I was also surprised about the refusal to buy a lens that was more suitable for the job. It might cost a lot of money because most modern lenses are ridiculously expensive, but I am sure it would pay off in the end. Now he was spending a lot of time with different software packages to repair the images he had, and he kept on asking the community if the results he got were acceptable.

Based on Another True Story

I know a guy who is filming with his mirrorless camera. He is using a tripod with a leveler and a nice gimbal for his B-roll. But I noticed how he didn’t always balance his gimbal the way it should be done, resulting in some strange gimbal behavior.

There were moments he didn’t even use the gimbal while shooting B-roll, explaining he was using a high frame rate, and the warp-function of Adobe Premiere could correct any rough movements. I never discovered if he didn't use the gimbal because he found balancing too much work, or because he was convinced he could hold the camera steady enough with the help of the IBIS system.

When I use a gimbal, I make sure the thing is perfect in balance. It makes filming so much easier. If it takes a few minutes, it will save a lot of time and effort in post-processing.

When I use a gimbal, I make sure the thing is perfect in balance. It makes filming so much easier. If it takes a few minutes, it will save a lot of time and effort in post-processing.

One More True Story

I know another guy who shot a lot of business photo reports on location. He was carrying a big case filled with expensive lights, light modifiers, and light stands. He had the opportunity to shoot at wonderful and often unique locations.

When it was time to shoot the company employees, he rushed. He didn’t take enough time and care to set up the lights in the best way possible. Often he encountered too many shadows, or the balance between the existing light and the flash light wasn't perfect. On top of that, he didn’t take enough care to remove unwanted objects from the background. He thought it could be removed in post-processing, just like the errors in exposure.

Photographing employees on location is great. But make sure you place your lights as perfect as possible. You cannot go back, so take your time. Don't rush.

Photographing employees on location is great. But make sure you place your lights as perfect as possible. You cannot go back, so take your time. Don't rush.

Perhaps it was due to the pressure to perform, and the limited amount of available time. But it took a lot of time in post-processing to correct errors that might have taken just a few minutes to correct on location.

You might know this guy. It is me, back in the days when I started to shoot corporate employees and business photo reports. I had the right equipment, but I didn’t take enough time to produce the optimum result. And to be honest, sometimes I still catch myself doing it.

Are You One of These Three Guys?

It is very easy to fall for these traps. You might think your equipment is good enough for the job, and the results can be corrected in post-processing. Perhaps that is true, but just like the first true story it may consume a lot of time and energy to correct errors that could be avoided in the first place by choosing the best equipment for the job.

Perhaps you are just like the guy in the second true story, who wasn’t using the available equipment because it was too much work to set up. After all, cameras and software can correct al lot of things that might go wrong. Again, correcting there errors may take more time than spending a few minutes for setting up the equipment.

Or perhaps you are just like me, by using the available equipment not in the best way. The result is acceptable, but not perfect. Post-processing can correct most of the errors, but it is time consuming and less satisfying. Spending half an hour longer on the job could save hours of work correcting the errors.

I took enough time to place my strobes in the perfect angle. It took some time to get it right, but it did save me a lot of time in post-processing.

I took enough time to place my strobes in the perfect angle. It took some time to get it right, but it did save me a lot of time in post-processing.

It might be easy to save money, or save time on location, if you try to correct every error in post-processing. At first that may be no big problem, because when you are starting out, these things have to be learned. But when you find yourself correcting the same errors time and time again, invest some time or money to make your photography a lot easier. Don’t keep making the same mistake, for whatever reason.

Do you recognize yourself in one of these examples, or can you think of a few more? Perhaps even from your own experience. Please share it in the comments below.

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17 Comments

Nitin Chandra's picture

You cannot fix a bad shot no matter how good you are at PP. Having the right tools for the job is always desirable, but, in some cases, one can get by and in others not.

Lee Christiansen's picture

I've fixed quite a lot of bad shots for clients, and some were supplied to me as horrible JPEGs. But it is a gamble and a bad shot can be just as easily un-salvageable. But certainly in almost every case, it was more costly to fix the shots than take them properly in the first place.

But heck, I can make a profit from some pro's bad photography - so long may it continue... ha.

Nando Harmsen's picture

There is a difference between bad composition and bad lightning. Both can be bad, but the latter often can be corrected up to a certain point, I think.
Still, there are some who try to fix the first one also in post. They often fail

Nitin Chandra's picture

Also depends on the genre. Large subjects with not too many details (human subjects), landscapes might be easier to fix than wildlife (birds, insects etc). The composition can generally be corrected in post, light...I don't think so since the detail is already lost and once again, depending on the genre, cannot be fixed...Just IMO.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Composition is determined by your position relatively to the subject. Also objects in the background and on the sides may ruin a good composition. Although some objects in the background may be removed in post, your position relatively to the subject cannot be changed.
Light is much more easy to change, unless you have blown out highlights, or pure blacks. In that case your screwed ;)
But I agree, it also depends on the situation itself.

Nitin Chandra's picture

Agree with that...Try to get the best possible and then make it better. Like the 12 foot article earlier...Every inch matters... :)

Lee Christiansen's picture

I think there is a balance to be made here. I'll often cheat at the shoot when I know the fix is quicker in post. But also when there is a client leaning over our shoulder (who just doesn't get the complexities of what we're doing), there can be a PR effort in how much time we spend on perfecting a shot.

There's been a few times when I simply can't get two elements to work right in a single frame, but I know I got one of the elements right earlier - so a simple composite works a treat.

Time in post doesn't always mean the initial shot is bad or wrong. Sometimes it is the mark of a complete process where the photographer choses where to make the refinements.

Of course when shots fail completely for technical reasons, it is fair that "fix it in post" is a time consuming and unrewarding process - and the results are rarely as good as they should be. I've just spent 5 hrs fixing a client-supplied set of 5 images which fall below lots of standards. The end results are pretty good now, but if I'd been there to shoot them, we'd have got a better finish. (I seem to get a lot of images from clients requiring a fix and it can be enlightening to see what some "pros" regard as deliverables.

Where I shoot portraits I've always got one eye on the viewfinder and one eye on the post production. If I strive for absolute perfection one every frame then I may never get the best vibe. So often I'm shooting with a mind to fix things later if needed because it means I get the right frame at the time.

But yes I dod remember one time many years ago when I confidently shot a location portrait, being sure that I could remove some ugly shadows from a face in post. Oops... that was a long stint with PS and I never made that mistake again.

Kirk Darling's picture

Lee Christiansen I tried but I couldn't think of a way to say that better.

Ivan Lantsov's picture

sloppy guys you know!

Jan Holler's picture

I learned that the time you need for a careful set up pays back with a lot of time saving, especially when you take a lot of shots. If you are in a hurry the only way to keep this advantage is a lot of experience. I cannot understand why one would use "bad" lenses (as described above) and at the same time invest so much effort (travelling to and from location, do the shooting, post processing). If you just get 10 jobs and it takes you quite some time to "sharpen" your images, the pro lens costs you only a 1/10 per job. That alone would justify to spend the money for it and the better quality you get pays back even more. Being a pro means behave like a pro and not just using pro gear.
(Edit: bad english)

Nando Harmsen's picture

Exactly my point. :)

Tom Reichner's picture

For me as a wildlife photographer, I find that the things I have to fix in post processing are things that were beyond my control at the time the image was taken. Things like a blade of grass in front of a bird, or a branch in front of a deer's antlers. Or the underside of some leaves being much brighter than any of the other vegetation around them.

I wish that there was some way to groom the wilderness before I took photos of the animals, but that is simply impossible in 90% of the situations I photograph in. There is no camera setting or piece of photography gear that can make a tree branch disappear! LOL And even if there was, I have no idea just which branch the deer will stop behind, so there really isn't any reasonable way to groom an entire wilderness area for potential photo opportunities. Plus, it is illegal and unethical to do so on the public lands where I do most of my photography.

I have bought saws and pole-pruners and a manual (non-motorized) weedwacker. There are a few times each year when I photograph on private land and have permission to manipulate the vegetation around a wildlife hotspot. But that is the rare exception, not the rule. And so for most of my "errors", I have no choice but to fix them on the computer after the shoot is over.

Nando Harmsen's picture

These things are beyond control, and that isn't the problem. The problem is the use of a bad tele-lens and trying to fix a bad focus in post. In that case a better lens is the right choice.
Although it isn't the best comparisson in some situations. Not everyone has the finance to spend thousands of dollars on a better lens.
But I guess the point is clear.:)

Tom Reichner's picture

Nando,

For me, there is no fixing of a bad focus in post. If I didn't nail the focus precisely, it is a throw-away image. Missing focus is one of those things that, in my opinion, simply cannot be worked around or repaired.

Except maybe for a basic silhouette image, where there is no subject detail, just the subject outline. That is the only case I can think of where a slightly missed focus can be "fixed", and the image salvaged.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I agree. Still, some try to fix it with software like Topaz.
I think it might work when an image is just for the internet, in small size. Still, a good focus is really important

Martijn Kolen's picture

Simple rule of thumb, if it's quicker to fix at the shoot than in post, fix it there, if it's not worth the effort and you can fix it in post with a few clicks don't. Aim for efficiency.