The Gap Between Making and Processing Photos

« Long Exposure Photography in China |  How to Take Photos in Fog (and process them in Lightroom) »

You have reached the archive of articles posted on my personal blog. This blog is no longer updated, but you can read my latest articles at my new website The Creative Photographer and find my photography ebooks at my new store.

Thanks for reading! Andrew.

City of God Pavilion, Hangzhou, China

View from the City of God Pavilion, Hangzhou, China. The predominant colours are green and grey.

Fujifilm XT-1, 35mm, 1/180 @ f5.6, ISO 800


I may have been showing you my photos from China too quickly.

The main benefit of waiting between taking photos and processing them is to view them with a more objective eye, away from the excitement of taking them.

Oded Wagenstein writes that he likes to wait two months before processing his portraits, to give him objectivity. This is what he says:

Upon returning home, I do not review my images right away, but only about two months later. Unless a customer is waiting for them, of course. I build in a time gap between the actual shooting and the sorting and reviewing of the images. Sound crazy, right? That’s because I need to have an “emotional detachment” from the on-site experiences in the field. I want to be able to review the images like my audience will later do.

Further reading: A Visual Storyteller: An Interview with Oded Waganstein

I’ve been thinking about the colour palettes I should use in my processing of the China photos.

In Hangzhou it was overcast and rained a lot, emphasising the green and grey hues of the natural environment around West Lake. What colour palette should I use to create a unified set of images from Hangzhou? It has to be something that emphasises and works with the conditions I encountered.


Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The Forbidden City, Beijing. The predominant colours here were red, brown and grey.

Fujifilm XT-1, 35mm lens, 1/250 @f16, ISO 1600


Conversely, in Beijing it was hot and dry. The colour palettes I encountered there were red, brown and grey. For that, I want to process my images in a way that reflects the natural colour palettes I found.

Read what David duChemin says about colour palettes.

This takes time, as I need to select the best images, then process them, then view them together as well as individually to see how they work. Bruce Percy recommends creating contact sheets.

There’s nothing wrong with the photos that I have shown you so far, but they may look different by the time I have processed them with these new ideas in mind.

What do you think about leaving time between making and processing photos? I’d love to hear your thoughts – please let me know in the comments.




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

16 Responses to “The Gap Between Making and Processing Photos”

  1. Chelin says:

    Call me impatient, but I like to see my photos straight away! I do a quick rating as soon as I import them into my LR catalogue and if I have time, I’ll process them straight away. This way I act upon my images with a real perception and memory of the day, spirits are high with excitement and memories are fresh. I agree that it is good to detach yourself from your images, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t go back to them later on, create virtual copies and re-edit them. I actually think it is very interesting to see how differently (or not) I process my images at different times.

    • Yes Chelin, you are impatient! 😉 I like the idea of processing while you are still in the creative mode. Wouldn’t have worked in China though – we always arrived late back at the hotel and knackered. I barely had energy to look at the photos let alone process them.

      • Grant says:

        Hi guys.
        Andrew. As soon as you mentioned being knackered at the end of a day shooting in a foreign country I had to chime in. One’s image backup plan needs to be rock solid but manageable. Keep it as simple as you can because if you’re too tired to do it you won’t have the protection you planned for.
        I had the good fortune to visit several countries in Europe over a month last summer and came away with some fantastic memories and A LOT of raw files. To avoid running out of SD/CF card storage I brought an iPad and a Western Digital MyPassport Wireless drive. Before departure (important!) I planned and practiced a great redundant backup plan. Too bad the plan depended heavily on having both time and energy for execution because I had little of either. It was mostly a family holiday so not a big deal but I’ll have to plan better next time out.

        • Hi Grant, you are absolutely right. I used an iPad as backup and it worked well because I could just connect the memory card and copy the images over once I got back. But I didn’t have the energy or time to do any processing or sorting of images. That had to wait until after the trip.

  2. Kellie says:

    I’m always excited after a photo shoot to have a look at my pictures right away, but I’m finding more and more that I tend to be a bit disappointed with them because they don’t reflect right away the emotional high that I was feeling. But if I wait for a few weeks or a month to go back and start processing them I realize that they aren’t too bad after all, and some that I may have overlooked turn out to be my best ones.

    • Hi Kellie, I like looking back at my photos months or even years after I have taken them. It’s interesting how much potential I see in some images that I initially didn’t like so much when I do this.

  3. Hernan says:

    When possible I like to download my images to the computer and rename them and place them in the appropriate folder as soon as I can. If there is no rush, I process them later.
    Sometimes I go back to see images that I did not processed, and see if I should. But usually my first impression was correct, and don’t need to go any further.

    • Hi Hernan. Sounds like a straightforward way of doing things. Out of interest, do you use Lightroom or a similar application to keep track of and organise your photos?

      • Hernan says:

        Hi Andrew,
        I have been using Photomechanics for years, before Lightroom was around. Then I process in Photoshop.

        • I really need to check out Photomechanic. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Thanks!

          • Hernan says:

            Photomechanics is been around for many years, and it has been keeping up with changes. From this up not only I rename and organize images, I can also upload directly to my webpage server, to Flickr, 500p, etc. You get the idea…
            And is one of the very few companies that you can actually talk with a human in customer service.
            Check it out!

          • A glowing recommendation. Will do!

  4. We spent a month in Italy last year. We did a daily blog for our friends back home so they could see and read about what our daily adventures were like. At the end of the day I downloaded the images into the laptop so I had a back up to all of my images. It afforded me an opportunity to see what I had envisioned in the camera and did I manage to be creative. There were days we were beat from walking everywhere, but we still managed to get the “paper to bed” before we went to sleep. I ran the best images through LR and did a quick export of those images I needed for the story. Then I uploaded them to WordPress as low resolution images. It took time but it was also a chance to unwind before lights out. The art was created when we got home.

    • Hi Christopher. Sounds like having a goal such as updating a blog gave you the motivation to work on your photos. That’s a really good idea.

  5. David Little says:

    While I would like a sure-fire, definitive answer to your question on the value & extent of the time between taking & viewing/processing the capture, I think both the “immediate” & the “wait a while” actions have their pros & cons. Processing as soon as possible helps me convey the emotion (usually excitement) of the moment the best as I process the photo in Lightroom… On the other hand, I find that often I will indeed change “the look” in subtle ways if I view days, weeks or months later. Does that mean that my initial adjustments were “inferior” or somehow less than the best? No. Just different… All things being equal (no new software technology/adjustments), my later processing is more of an ongoing process, a refinement, than a radical transformation – so, I personally prefer to view & adjust as soon as time permits. That at least puts certain captures on my radar…

    • Hi David, that’s very interesting. I find myself doing the same – going over older photos and reprocessing. Sometimes I think the reprocessed version appeals just because it’s new (even if the adjustments are subtle). But sometimes the newer version is definitely an improvement.

« Long Exposure Photography in China |  How to Take Photos in Fog (and process them in Lightroom) »

Sign up for the free Mastering Lightroom email course