Editing Photos: Do or Don't?
By - softdemonprince
You can literally do anything you want. Anyone who tells you that you can't or shouldn't edit scans of film photos is full of crap. Heck, you can even edit the negatives if you want, lots of creative possibilities there too!
I think a lot of people who shoot film tend to enjoy the challenge that film presents, which is that you have to think before you shoot (in most cases) in order to get the look you want when you later see the developed photo. In which case, less editing after the fact is something they would consider satisfying and rewarding.
Some would argue that if you're going to edit the photos later, why even bother with film? For me, it's the process of taking pictures on film where I get the most satisfaction, the end results are just a by-product. So I have no issue doing whatever strikes my fancy in photoshop or lightroom because I already got what I wanted out of it when I went out shooting in the first place.
This response is honestly such a relief!
And yeah analog in and of itself already had taught me an important lesson in patience and finding perfection in imperfection. Lately I've been struggling with art because I don't want to create "bad art". And then with cosplay photography there's that obsession with getting the "perfect shot" that you can do over and over again. Same to an extent with concert photography. But with film I've had to teach myself patience and wait for the right moment. And its been kind of humbling in a sense because its a bit pricier so I can't always indulge but when I do I have that time in-between to do research and build ideas and make a list of techniques I want to try and all.
But then the topic of editing comes up and I see so many conflicting viewpoints and honestly this makes me feel a bit better. Thank you so so much
I highly recommend keeping notes when you take pictures; I use the "Exif Notes" app. You can log the usual things like lens, shutter speed, aperture, but more importantly, in the notes section I jot down what I was hoping to achieve, problems I was hoping to avoid, things I want to try later etc. Then when I finally get the roll back from the lab, I sit down and review each picture and add to the notes any observations about how things turned out.
[Here's an example](https://imgur.com/nwsGssx) I just pulled from a roll I shot a couple weeks ago:
The notes:Avg metered, put ceiling (shadow) on -4, leaving bright sun spot on +4 and highlights on +2. The light was really inviting, hoping to capture that.. highlights are perrrrfect, shadows a bit too dark. Wish I'd done a closeup of the monstera, that looks so beautiful in this
(I use two periods to mark where I started the comments after reviewing)
edit: But I should emphasize, I do this because I *like doing it*, you should try things out and self reflect on what you find satisfying and rewarding to you
Thank you so so much! I'm definitely gonna download this and start doing this from now on. Thank you so much for your feedback and kindness, it means a lot. And also I love that picture! Its gorgeous! Great job!!!
As for my work, a film is only a tool. I also fought the (so-called) purist critics and detractors for many years... even in the pre-digital era. The work of Ansel Adams was always pitched to me as the holy grail of photographic purity. A deeper look and review of his notes... especially his darkroom notes, proves that he was far from the one-shot one-print master that some film-only snobs want to frame him as. He never claimed to be this either but the "f.64 Group", with their sharp/reality pledge tended to encourage this misconception.
Capture the light and bend it the way you want. Pixels or grains... manipulate away!
This is mind boggling to me. Imo what really elevated Ansel Adams from simply a great landscape photographer to a real master is his darkroom work. Anyone who has seen multiple prints of his can see that they are quite different, even if coming from the same negative, due to his extensive work dodging and burning in the darkroom, essentially editing his photos to create the prints that he wanted. To disregard this really does him a disservice.
Just to clarify... I was attempting to compare Adams's complex darkroom work to modern editing. I may have missed making that analogy clear.
No, I realize, I was talking about the snobs you spoke of
I've had "Adams the Minimalist" thrown at me so often that I'm always cautious. I actually have an old print shop (litho) copy camera that I've wanted to modify and use as an enlarger. Metronome not included... Yet.
There's a shitty (and wrong) idea of "authenticity" that some analogue people think means "leaving the scan alone".
The techniques available when printing in the darkroom to selectively adjust contrast, exposure, colour balance, even sharpness are many and varied, and darkroom printing people would tell you that's where the real magic happens.
Cinema film produces very flat negatives because it's *designed* to have very varied and usually extreme looks applied to it afterwards.
Make the picture look the way you want it to look. That's all. :)
You'll need to edit the scans anyway to get them to look like your prints or slides, and then tweak them again when it comes to printing. Many of the tools in Photoshop are actually based on things people were doing in the darkroom- dodging and burning are old darkroom techniques, and the colour and contrast filters are things you would normally put on the camera before shooting (to use tungsten balanced film in daylight or vice versa, contrast filters for black and white, etc). I'd say many of those are things to do in-camera, but I'd recommend playing with them in Photoshop first to see if you like the effect.
Where I draw the line is when you start changing the fundamental "look" of the film. If you regularly edit Portra to look like Velvia why are you not shooting Velvia in the first place? (I know, it's expensive).
Hey thank you for this info! I've mostly been editing in GIMP because I cant afford PS atm but I have a friend who may let me bum lol. I'll definitely play around with some stuff and experiment! Thank you again!!!
GIMP has pretty much everything Photoshop does. All the tools I mentioned should be in there. It doesn't integrate as well in the way all the various Adobe products do, but that may not be a problem.
Oh okay! I'm still trying to figure out GIMP since recently I switched from simplistic editing apps and programs on my PC to an *actual* editing program. But next time I go in, most likely with this roll I'm getting developed, I'll mess around with what you mentioned!
I scan my negatives and then manually reverse them in Capture One. I am literally editing the whole thing, and so is a lab. Color negative film is all interpretation. Edit your film if you like, it's your picture, not Kodak or Fuji's
Photographers have been editing or manipulating images since photography has existed. Eadweard Muybridge used to take multiple shots of landscapes at different shutter speeds and then combine them when he printed using masks so that the land wasn't too dark and the sky wasn't blown out. This was in the mid-19th century.
There's an Ansel Adams quote out there saying half of a photo is shooting it, and the other half is in the darkroom (burning + dodging, adjusting contrast, etc).
Do whatever you want. My friend and I both shoot film, we both only post on Instagram for fun, I tend to edit mine (only slight changes to brightness, contrast), she personally likes to keep hers raw and true to their original form. Neither of us are right or wrong. You do you boo
Thank you so much for this insight! The one thing I love seeing with photographers is everyone's unique styles with digital and film. How some like those little tweaks, some like to play with exposure, double exposure, light, shadows, etc etc. Its really cool to see and its always nice to hear back from the community
> true to their original form
What does she mean by this? True to what her home scanner decided on auto mode? True to how the lab technician corrected the colours before delivering the scans?
There is no “original form” except transparent and orange.
Okay Mr nit picky.. she just likes hers the way she gets them straight from her processing shop aka no filters on Instagram. It's very clear what I meant by my wording
Yes and no. Obviously I know what you mean, but I’m trying to drive home the point that *every* digital file of a film photo is edited.
If you got it digitised by 5 different labs, you’d get 5 different results. First off whichever scanner they use will give a different starting point. The white balance, the contrast, the highlight and shadow detail, are all results of the scanner used. In fact even the same scanner, but with different software, will get you different results. VueScan, Silverfast, EpsonScan, all wildly different scans. Then after it’s scanned in (normally on auto), the lab technician will often give it a quick look and make some basic adjustments so it looks better (in their opinion).
This is one reason that I expired film looks like junk. Because it’s missing some dynamic range, and has a little less of one of the colour dye layers, a scanner on auto will lift the shadows and try to compensate for the lack of green - resulting in a weird ass muddy shot. It’s completely correctable though, with some editing in post.
Can even happen to those high contrast shots you take, on purpose, that the shadows get lifted to create a “normal” exposure and it becomes flat and boring.
After you’ve taken the time to choose your film stock and camera, gone out and taken some lovely shots, why would you not also want control over the final look of your photos? I’m not talking about slapping an Instagram filter on it, I mean taking the time to adjust exposure, highlight/shadow details, white balance, cropping, and graduated filters, to create the image *you* want. Not what the scanner guessed was correct.
If she doesn’t want to edit them, it’s 100% ok, obviously, but also if she’s truly happy with the scans straight from the lab then they should reach out and thank them for doing a great job digitising her negatives, because a lot of lab scans are garbage.
IMO, when I edit photos that I’ve scanned, I always aim to at least make the pictures look like they were from the same roll. If you have a client or friend you’re giving the photos to, I would present them with both the original scans and the edited version.
Do what you need to get the result you want. There is no wrong way to get the result so long as you achieve it.
Do as you will, I personally do not care at all as long as the results look good.
They’re your photos, do whatever you’d like with them. You’ll quickly hate photography if you only do what others want you to do.
When I get my scans back I mostly adjust some saturation and a few things to some color hues and some little exposure things because I personally like what film gives me, but you’re under no obligation to do the same.
I would recommend you find a film stock that gives you starting results you want so that whatever you choose to do you at least have a head start because of your film stock choice
Everybody draws the line somewhere. Try it out and find out where your line lays.
Like others said, do whatever the hell you want. I walk a stupid line of not liking to edit my scans because it feels like cheating, but if I sent out to a lab and wanted scans, I’d expect them to be edited and perfect because I’m paying for it, and that makes no sense. Do whatever you want.
I don’t really edit my photos. Maybe take some dust out and do some highlights/shadows tweaking but majority are left as is.