For me creating a photo is a three step process:
The first step is looking at your photos and reviewing your work, making sense of it, comparing it to the best and trying to figure what you would do differently if you had the chance to go back. When you take the time to look at your work you start noticing things you wouldn’t see otherwise. You notice the similarities in photos, you notice things you do consciously or unconsciously, you start noticing the characteristics of your gear and how they effect the image. You learn how to make the best out of the equipment you have.
Eventually you develop a set of rules or guidelines to go by so when you have a camera you don’t really have to think too much. You kind of know what you’re looking for so can rely instinct and sensitivity for everything else.
Unless I have an emotional connection to a particular image, I don’t even really like looking at my old photos anymore. It gets too annoying because there are so many things I would have done differently.
The second step is being in the moment taking photos. I love and hate this part; Taking photos is fun but it builds a great anxiety because you want things to be perfect. Sometimes ill have an idea and by the time it gets to the point where I can click the shutter, the reality is completely different than imagined. Sometimes the reality is better but most of it times it isn’t. I’m still working on refining the process of shooting, I learn something new every day. Sometimes when I’m just out shooting on the street ill get into a zone where I just clear my mind and everything I shoot is good. Some of my best photos were taken within minutes of each other. That rarely happens though haha.
3. The Final step is editing. I think this is one of the most important parts but most people don’t ever talk about it. I’ve been learning how to edit photos on my own for a few years and I’m still trying to perfect my look. When I decide how to edit a photo, the first thing I think about is context.
When I started out I would make every photo look the same way but life isn’t like that, life is fluid. A snapshot should give off a certain mood, a different mood then you would have in say advertisement or editorial. Its up to you to decide what mood or feeling you want to express.
I realized that putting effort in editing a photo you can can add so much to it, it can be the difference between a good and great photo. I’ve also realized that some photos don’t really need much and going overboard can take away from it, its all about finding the right balance and knowing when to stop or keep going. You can spend hours doing something to a photo that most people wouldn’t even notice, they will feel it though.
Back in the day, the greats would put an unimaginable amount of time time into developing photos in a dark room. All that time and effort turned them into masters at their craft because you learn so much. I think even putting in half that work with Photoshop could produce great results down the road. Time is money though, so I usually spent a lot less time editing my professional/commercial stuff then I do the stuff I post online.
Lightroom is great for editing tones and colors, Photoshop is essential when you need to get technical.