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Brussels cross-processed and thoughts on photo editing

place du petit sablon
grand place - guild house cartoon mural
grand place - hotel de ville
sablon church gallery
grand place - brewer's guild
blue sheep
decoration on gare centrale petit sablon
place du grand sablon art gallery

Some photos from the weekend after Easter, when my parents came to visit. I took them on a little tour of the city, and I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on how everything fits together now!

I edited these photos to make them look cross-processed* I probably spent about an hour and a half sorting through my photos from the weekend, picking 25 and editing them (the ones not shown here can be found on my flickr). Today I want to talk a bit about that.

I edit all the pictures I take. When I didn’t have a good camera and took pictures every day, which would usually mean badly lit places, I really used to do a lot of editing to get the colours right. Now I have an SLR and take all photos outside, I don’t need to do that so much, but I will still adjust the contrast and brightness on any photo, crop it if necessary and give it a border. And then of course there are the photos where I do more elaborate things like what I’ve done here and clones.

Photo editing is not something I get a chance to talk about much. I’ve given up trying to have conversations about it in real life, even with people who have photoshop, because no one is really that interested. And on the blog too, the photography posts get much fewer comments. And I know some people think I’m a bit excessive with the editing. And it does take up ludicrous amounts of time (just like blogging, ha!).

But there are some reasons why I persist.

Someone said to me one ‘I don’t want to to edit me photos, I just want to have them’. And I get that sometimes the photos are just meant to be memories and not works of art, so why spend lots of time messing about with them. But I used to think like that, and now I have an external hardrive full of photos. That I will probably never look at again. There are just too many of them, and I have no idea what they are, and I have no cause to look for them.

In contrast, the photos I have sorted through and edited, I remember them. I do sometimes think of a specific photos, and then I’ll go back and find it on flickr, and be pleased. The way my mind works, I only remember stuff I that I’ve actually done things with. I could read an article now, and next week I will have forgotten everything about it, unless I had some cause to properly think about it, or better, write about it. And it’s the same with the photos. Editing makes me engage with them properly, and then they become proper memories.

Plus, I take so many photos I would drown in them if I kept them all. It’s not unusual for me, even when taking tourist photos, to take a picture of the same thing from three slightly different angles, with different ISOs or white balances or whatever. But I’ll only keep one of them to put onto flickr and delete the rest.

Of course I could just take fewer photos, and I guess that’s what most people do. But then, I do like things to look good. I do like photos as photos, not just as memories. I enjoy the creative process of making them better, and multiple copies and editing are part of that. And I do always find it a bit baffling that people (usually guys, it’s that stereotypical gadget obsession) will spend ridiculous amounts of money on cameras and lenses and then not put in the time to actually use them to their full extent and learn them properly. And I often see people’s photos taken with fancy pants cameras that just look so, well, crap. I see a badly framed, overexposed or washed out holiday photo and I wonder why don’t they just crop it, and turn the brightness down a bit.**

And the final reason for my editing obsession is that I really enjoy learning. I’ve never taken a photography class in my life, but through trial and error I reckon I’ve got pretty good, and I enjoy looking at my older photos and seeing the progression. And I’m curious, so when I see an effect on the blogs, I’ll google it to find out how it’s done and try it out. It’s so satisfying to learn how to do things! I always want to try something new, and with photography and photoshop there is an almost limitless number of things to still discover.

So that’s why I edit! There are of course questions about the editing of people, and the changing of how one looks, which I’ll maybe talk about another time, but for now i’ll just ask: Do you edit your photos? Why? Why not?

* or rather, to make them look like what some types of cross-processed tutorials tell me they look like. I’ve never actually seen a cross-processed photo in real life and I suppose it depends on the film anyway.
** for clarification, if people are using their phone or a cheapo point and shoot, I get it. But if you’ve gone to the effort of lobbing round and SLR with a posh lens, I assume that you care. And then I don’t understand why you’d not take a simple step to make the photo better.

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  • Susan O'Hara 25 April 2012, 9:17 am

    Are you kidding? The photos don’t look like they’re edited at all. They all look natural. Great job and great shots!

  • Chloe 25 April 2012, 9:56 am

    All these photos make me want to jump on a plane and travel, edited or not. But I do understand where you’re coming from about the editing, I am fussy with how my photos look, and I pretty much edit everything before I post it online anywhere.

    P.s. you may remember me from ‘Butterfly Cupcakes and Daffofils’, I am back with a brand new blog! Please come and visit 🙂 Wardrobe Quarry

  • Izzywizz 25 April 2012, 1:06 pm

    Well I dont do much photo editing myself as I only have a compactcamera. However I usually crop my pics and have just begun playing around with frames by using photoscape.
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  • Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys 25 April 2012, 3:52 pm

    I go through phases of editing loads, and phases of just saturating the colours a bit and calling it a day. I notice I always seem to have to edit my photos more than Albert’s which I consider a sign that he just takes the better picture to begin with. Still, I find it fun and therapeutic, and I love that I can do it. I had a great deal of fun desaturating an ugly yellow car from my beautiful cherry blossom photos yesterday, for instance!

    Also, I agree with you on people who buy DSLRs and lenses, then make no effort to learn how to use them. I think some people believe the very fact of having a DSLR will automatically make their photos better…
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  • Dawn 25 April 2012, 6:08 pm

    I edit all my photos and I agree with all the comments you made above. I don’t see anything wrong with adjusting the colour balance and contrast, and most photos benefit from just a tiny bit of colour correction.

    I don’t understand when I see people using a DSLR with it put on auto and not even filtering their photos for focused photos before throwing the whole collection up on Facebook. Actually, I would like to extend that comment to anyone posting photos on Facebook, 20 non-blurry clear photos are better than 100 crappy out-of-focus shots. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, every camera is capable of taking good clear photos if you know how to use it.

    I have a DSLR and everyone assumes that the reason my photos could ever be good is because of the camera, not because I have spent hours using my camera, reading about how to take good photos, developing an eye for framing a picture and learning how to use photo-editing software. No, it has to be the camera, and of course, it has to be the amount of megapixels that determines how good or bad a camera is.
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  • superheidi 25 April 2012, 6:09 pm

    Well, most of my life has been analogue. Black & white meant editing in school in the dark room. Colour snaps meant: wait for days and see what you did after processing. I wasn’t that cheap. So most people shot less pictures, you had to decide on what and when to snap, know your camera and learn the slow way. If you’d invest time and energy in technics you could skill yourself in taking better pictures. To me, that’s were the real talent and skills lies: taking the actual pictures, being able to frame, compose, knowing what light does. Not in the process after that. I was too lazy for all the technique and proper learning and therefore remained an average snap shotter.

    In the analogue world there have always been photographers that did a lots of editing in the dark room. Creating special effects and retouchting, play with the light, play with contrast and cropping. Some things haven’t changed and other things did change with digital photography. We take far more pictures because it doesn’t cost exta film. Or we can edit them afterwards as we don’t have to own a fully equipped dark room. But may this all have changed our ways of photographing? Taking a picture is still taking a picture, right? But maybe it did change? Pimp avareage snaps with fancy apps? I’m still struggling for an answer here.

    I think you should never forget that your starting material should be good to begin with. A bad shot is still a bad shot, no matter how much editing you do. You can discuss about creative aims and processes, for sure. But all depends on what pictures you want to take. I prefer realistic documentary photography above all. The real world is already extra ordinary enough.

    Editing can enhance a picture, but shouldn’t be the fix for a bad shot. I really prefer well done realistic pictures. Or if you want to go over the top, go all the way over the top with editing. I’m not stating anything on your pictures. I’m just reacting in general on your food for thought. Which is nice actually. 🙂
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  • Trayci 25 April 2012, 8:27 pm

    Amazing photos, so colourful and vibrant.

    X x
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  • Veshoevius 25 April 2012, 10:39 pm

    yes I edit mine – they look better – it gives me satisfaction to produce a nice image
    Love your photos!!
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  • Andi B. Goode 26 April 2012, 6:55 am

    It’s easy to argue that the act of taking a photo itself is a kind of editing – you’ve chosen what’s in frame and what’s not, etc.
    I edit all of my photos, even if it’s just a little bit of brightness or exposure changing. It’s why I take photos in RAW because it gives me more editing capabilities. Since people started taking photos, people have been editing photos. Cropping them, dodging and burning sections, enlarging bits, making composites (from negatives pre-digital days), air-brushing, etc.
    I sometimes like to give different effects to my photos but I generally just play with the colour cast a little, etc. if I’m doing anything major. And I straighten a lot of them too! Thanks heavens for the straighten tool. Haha.
    And my photography lecturer always said taking more photos is better. A lot of professional photographers (either commercial or artistic) will take HUNDREDS of photos to get maybe 10 good ones, you know? Choosing which photos to keep or show is also a process of editing.

    Oh, and this is one example of a cross-processed photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49666099@N07/4565024567/
    It’s not the best example but it’s the only one I’ve got uploaded. A quick search around flickr will show you plenty of cross-processed photos.

    -Andi x
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  • Terri 26 April 2012, 11:46 pm

    Have you ever taken a class in Photoshop? I’ve considered that…and never considered that I might actually be able to teach myself. Like you, I also remember the photos I’ve edited better. It is similar to keeping a journal of places I’ve visited. Writing about them makes them seem more real and tangible to me. I recall in greater detail.
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  • Desiree 27 April 2012, 1:24 am

    Oh I love the pic of the structure that looks like it’s got a town stuck on the side of it!!! Amazing!! I think all sheep should be colourful (probably illegal though) and I love the cow in the window:)). I love your view of Brussels and have so enjoyed your photos since you moved there. No, I don’t edit even though The Phoenix is always trying to talk me into it coz he loves the clever software you can get now. We just bought Aperture 3 and I’m still learning how to use it but not sure if I’ll get around to cleaning up my pics. Maybe my wedding pics would be fun to do though as some of them are under-exposed. xo
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  • Corrine/Frock & Roll 27 April 2012, 4:21 am

    Your photographs are absolutely PHENOMENAL. What wonderful editing skills you have indeed!

  • Rhianne 1 May 2012, 10:45 am

    Ohh, they do look cross processed, I have cross processed film photos and it is one of my favourite looks with film, so I like how you’ve edited them.

    It so interesting to me how our photography styles differ – I take only the one photo and rarely edit, I like the challenge of using film and getting the photo perfect in one shot. I love your results though, I love photos as photos too and I think your photos reflect you really well, and really thats what photography is abut – sharing how you see things through your photos.
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