In the film age, post-processing was done in the darkroom with selective dodging and burning and other techniques. I don't know a lot about the film techniques because I've never developed my own photos.
In the digital age, post-processing begins when you open the digital file (hopefully in RAW format) in your favourite editor. For me it's either Canon's Digital Photo Professional or Paint.NET. Cropping, changing exposure, sharpening, saturation... there are so many ways you can change a photo. One could wonder at what point a photograph ceases to be a photograph and is instead a digital construct.
Here's a case in point. I started a photo theme on Google+ for bridges. I looked for a bridge photo of my own and decided on the Chaleur crossing the trestle near Gascon, Quebec. This is the original image. The only processing done to this is to resize it.
Now this is a heavily reprocessed version of the same image.
You can see I cropped it a bit. I used Paint.NET and ended up with four layers:
- foreground and bridge and portion of engines
- train cars
- yellow on engines
Just for comparison... I blogged about my Chaleur chase with David Morris back in 2007. At that time, I posted this photo. It's not the same image but only a few seconds later than the above image. I don't remember the processing but I'm sure I cropped a bit, maybe tweaked the brightness and/or contrast, and resized it.
What do you think? Do you prefer the original, or the heavily reprocessed version? Are the changes too much? Does it still look realistic? I'm very curious to hear what you think of this particular image, and image manipulation in general.