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by Aditya

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I'm a beginner photographer and would like to know that how to get a really good photo, is the photo editing necessary? Suppose I would like to participate in the photo contest although I have shot a really good photo for the contest, do I need to retouch the photo a little bit with Photoshop for this contest? Do the judges from photo contest look the originality of photo or the goodness of photo?

What is the photo contest purpose? (like-originality of photo or how look good of photo)

And Please also share some quick tips to retouch the photos.

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By "the photo contest", do you mean the one on this site? Every photo contest has its own goals and its own rules. This one has a specific goal: to select an appealing image for the header which showcases the work of one of our members. Different contests may have different goals, and that's separate overall from the question of whether editing is "necessary" for a good photo in general. –  mattdm May 8 '12 at 3:48
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I'd take a look at photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1769/… . Also photo.stackexchange.com/questions/8142/… which touches on the issue. –  drewbenn May 8 '12 at 4:53
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possible duplicate of Do professionals all edit their pictures heavily? –  mattdm May 8 '12 at 12:27
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Also, please limit to one question per question. Its a big thing you are asking to start with. –  Itai May 8 '12 at 13:11
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More importantly actually, I think this is way too subjective. What is a good photo? I may be biased by I consider my photos good :) and among my entire gallery there are only 2 crops, 1 tilt and 4 stitched images. The rest are straight out of the camera, so obviously I think it is possible. I'd rather shoot and process! –  Itai May 8 '12 at 13:18

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If you are a beginning photographer, editing should not be a priority. I believe editing software is dangerous for beginners because it will allow you to produce artificially pleasing photos. Focus on the fundamentals: lighting, composition, and perspective. Software can add a lot, consider that nearly every modern film is digitally color graded, but every true picture needs a solid foundation. Some competitions limit the amount of editing you can do.

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Whether you edit your photo, and how much, depends on what you're going for.

One definition of art I like, is:

The accurate expression of the artist's imagination.

Therefore, you edit until the photo expresses what you, the photographer/artist, intend for it to express. If the photo, as captured directly from your camera, expresses that which you intend, then no editing is necessary.

If you intend something that the raw photo does not express (a different crop factor, color changes, glare corrections, etc), then editing is necessary.

Your question is a bit like asking:

To paint a good picture, do I need to use blue and red, or can I get by with just yellow?

And the answer, of course, depends on what you intend to paint.

Now for the contest, the judges are you and me, and everyone else who visits this site. You can use whatever criteria you like when voting for a photo you like for a given week's contest, and so can anyone else.

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The photo contest is about beautiful photos, the judges don't care how you shoot this photo or what did you do to them (unless they specified that in the contest rules). However as a general rule don't over edit your images if you want them to be realistic. Lots of rules guide the judging and it depends on the photographing category you are working on. For example your goals in portraiture is different than landscape, not the same rules apply.

My answer to your question would be Yes, generally you may want to edit your photos. You may spend great time and effort to take the shoot and it may save your photo to spend an hour or two to retouch it in photoshop. However don't always depend on photoshop. When you take a photo, don't ignore something bad in your photo and say to yourself that I'm gonna fix it later in photoshop. That's really really bad cause it won't make you good photographer. However sometimes it's very hard to get what you want without editing you photo. Always challenge yourself by trying to take your photo as far as you can without editing your photo. For example, try to shoot on tripod to get a tack sharp image instead of just applying the Unsharpen mask in photoshop later.

Bottom line is: Use your judgement whether and how to edit your photos. That depends on what are you trying to achieve and what is the contest that you are running for.

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I'm sure that someone, somewhere has the talent to do a straight from the camera entry, but everyone else will use a photo editing tool.

Note: there is no need to use Photoshop (TM) Lots of folks do great work with Aperture ($90) or Lightroom (~$150) or Photoshop Elements, or even The Gimp.

I am not one of those out of the camera guy, and wasn't back in the film days either. All of mine need a bit of a tuneup.

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I think, if I read the question correctly, that the OP wants to know whether post processing is necessary to be competitive in a contest. Obviously, not knowing anything about the particular contest, it's hard to say, and I haven't entered a contest in a long time, but here is what I can say, based on contests I have seen:

  • You need to consider your competition. In most cases, they will post-process their images. Will you need to do the same to get the "pop" and sharpness you need to look as good as them?

  • Consider the rules of the competition. Are images meant to be unmodified, or is light digital retouching/manipulation considered ok? If so, then what are the parameters for this? Color cast correction? Contrast, saturation, etc. manipulation? Cropping to improve composition? Adding or removing objects to improve the impact of the image?

  • There are almost certain to be some sensor spots somewhere in your image if you used a small aperture. It is almost taken as a given that you will retouch these out.

Judges in competition always say they are impartial and can spot digital manipulation. Not true. They are just as clueless as the rest of us. I remember when judges used to look at prints sideways to try to determine whether they were inkjet prints. It's hard to imagine their opinions weren't affected by whether they thought the image was digitally produced or was done completely through photograph process (Type-C or Type-R). Now, understanding that judges are human and will try to reverse engineer any image they think is good, you need to reverse engineer them: Do they have a prejudice against digitally enhanced images or should you just go for it?

Of course, now digital submissions are common, so the print is less important so if you are just sending a jpeg, you can cover a lot of Photoshop work.

So my answer is, "it depends." You have to spend some time figuring out who your audience is and then create the right image for them.

Good luck in the contest!

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