On a recent talk at a local camera club, I was asked if I thought it was possible to “over-process” an image. I’ve answered this question many times before, but wanted to elaborate on it here once again. As long as the final image conveys your vision and emotion honestly, then you can not over-process an image.
However, the key words in that last statement are “conveys”, and “honestly”. An image that is over processed will not effectively convey your vision, but instead call attention to the techniques and processing, and mostly likely fail as a successful photograph.
When you make images, the goal from the moment you press the shutter to the moment you decide the image is finished and ready for the world to see, is to connect with the viewer, to share what it is you’ve experienced. Often for me that’s a brief but profound moment in nature. Anything that obscures or distracts from that vision becomes a hindrance, something to be avoided, and that most certainly includes “over-processing” or any other adjustment that brings the veracity of the image, or your vision, into question. Once that happens, there is a shift in the viewers mind from the message to the medium, and that’s when over-processing becomes an issue.
Image processing remains one of the most important yet contentious topics today. I am not advocating some purist perspective, quite the opposite. Express yourself as personally as you can. Use the tools creatively. Just make sure there’s a real message behind the technique. And if you’re struggling with your message and vision, that’s ok – we all struggle with that.
It’s called making art, something I believe we’re all capable of if we trust ourselves enough.
What’s your take, agree or disagree?