Photographers often aim to create a work that accurately depicts a subject, and/or is informed or inspired by the experience they had looking at it.

A significant part of the work of making a photo is often in post-processing on a computer, rather than in preparing and taking the photo with the a camera.

So I wonder whether there's any known practice of taking a computer to the subject (or vice versa) and creating the finished photograph while viewing both together. I'm sure that people have done this but my question is whether it's a practice that has a name and perhaps prominent photographers have talked about doing, or prominent photography commentators have discussed.

Of course for small product photography this is likely to happen incidentally, and for street photography it's usually impossible, so I'm thinking more about things like landscape, cityscape, and portraiture.

In the comments Kaz asked what the purpose of this would be. I'm looking for answers about people doing it for any purpose (or the negative answer to say no-one really does it), but a few purposes I can think of might be using a subjective impression of colours and brightness etc as a reference, preserving the option to take further photographs in case there are relevant details visible in the subject that it turns out during post processing weren't sufficiently captured, capturing a mood in a more abstract way, working in collaboration with a portrait subject, or just enjoying the environment while making a landscape image.

  • Answers about analogue techniques are also very welcome, but I imagine getting a good look at your subject in a darkroom would be tricky. – bdsl Apr 5 at 12:54
  • Here is a question to answer inside your question: for what purpose(s) would you need the original subject, when you have the unretouched version of the image that you can A/B compare instantly with your edits, and presumably, when you also have some other images of the same subject? – Kaz Apr 5 at 22:03
  • @Kaz I answered. – bdsl Apr 6 at 13:33

It's not exactly the term you are specifically looking for, but looking for information about tethering will get you in the right track. I'm not aware of any generally used term to describe tethering plus applying further post-processing during a shooting session, but some folks definitely do it.

Tethering is when the camera is hooked up to a computer or other device that displays the image as soon as it can be transferred from the camera to the host device immediately after it has been shot. Depending upon what application is being run on the host device, postprocessing steps not available in-camera can be applied to each image as it is imported by the host device and then applied to the image as it is displayed on the screen of the host device.

Tethering also allows controlling many functions of the camera using the host device. Things such as ISO, Tv, Av, etc. can be set form the application running on the host device. Of course if a specific lens requires manually turning an aperture ring on the lens that is not controllable by the camera, then one can't adjust aperture via the tethering application. Ditto for zooming a lens. If the only way to zoom a lens is to turn the ring on the lens, then one can't change the focal length using the tethering application (unless one also has an electromechanical device attached to the lens that can move the zoom ring and be controlled from the host device).

  • 2
    I do a lot of photography of (antique) paintings, and "tethering" is the workflow. Basically a special form of product photography where reasonably accurate color fidelity is important. Since the paintings need to be stored elsewhere, any color comparisons need to be done before the painting is removed to storage. Art museums do this with their collections as well. – Yorik Apr 6 at 20:06
  • @Yorik that looks like it might be expanded into a good answer. – bdsl Apr 7 at 9:01
  • Although the term tethering certainly doesn't always refer to doing post-production immediately after capturing the raw photo. I know lots of photographers shoot tethered and emphasise to clients / subjects that the images they see on screen are not the final product. – bdsl Apr 7 at 10:06

For analog, instant film such as Polaroid. An example is William Wegman 24”x24” camera work.

For digital, straight to jpg using a camera’s built in features such as black and white, sepia tone, warm, etc. (the options tend to increase with each new generation of camera).

Personally, I find direct to jpg liberating because there is no more work to be done later...RAW always means there’s more work to do. And it is sitting at a computer not behind a lens. Mirrorless means I see what the jpg will look like.

For portraits and other static subjects, lighting techniques can produce exact results straight out of the the camera. And again, it’s not time at a computer.

It’s just photography.

And that’s what you can call it.

Anyone who tells you different is wrong. Just make pictures the way you want to make them.

Edit. A person can use one or more color filters in front of the lens to make fine adjustments to color balance. Some cameras such as some by Sony allow in camera adjustments on the blue-amber and green-magenta axes. https://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/support/tutorial/ilc/ilce-6400/en/06.php

  • This is interesting, but with either Polaroid or creating final jpegs in camera you're doing all the post-processing decision making in advance, so that the actual post-processing can then be fully automated and immediate. That's slightly different to what I was thinking of, which is making the decisions after capturing the light while the subject is in view. – bdsl Apr 5 at 16:22
  • 1
    I'm not sure what "Anyone who tells you different is wrong" means. I don't see why anyone would tell me that the process you describe isn't photography. – bdsl Apr 5 at 16:23
  • I suppose this gets close to the process I was thinking of when used repeatedly in a session, so that viewing one image and comparing it to the subject informs the camera settings used for the next image. – bdsl Apr 5 at 16:24
  • 1
    @bdsl A popular opinion is “serious photographers shoot RAW”...it’s often been said when I mention going straight to jpg. YMMV. – Bob Macaroni McStevens Apr 5 at 16:52
  • @bdsl Previsualization, I think, is fungible with post processing. Knowing what I want and making it is a possible result either way. Post processing suggests I didn’t know what I wanted before making the picture. I try to avoid that for personal reasons and that’s why straight to jpg liberates me. – Bob Macaroni McStevens Apr 5 at 16:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.