What is post-processing of raw photos?

Are you wondering why a photographer has to edit your photos? Like, why can't they just download them from the camera and then send them, right?

Well, I'm here to explain what the heck we do in post-processing and why it takes so long to deliver your photos after your session!

First off, we shoot in raw (sometimes referred to as "RAW"), not JPG. That means that when we download the images from the camera, we download them in an uncompressed, lossless format. This format is unreadable by most software programs except for those specifically designed to process it. The advantage is that the image files contain all of the data that the camera captured, and all the possible options for a final image. This allows the photographer greater flexibility and control and therefore provide a final image in the highest possible quality.

Choosing to download raw instead of jpg from my camera is an intentional extra step that most photographers go through. Normally, converting the file would be the job of the (digital) camera. It takes a photo, and creates an image using algorithms and software programming. Sometimes allowing you to add filters or special effects, as in the case with most cell phone "cameras" today. What you get in the end is a JPG. What I get is the step BEFORE that!

So, not only can I make adjustments to color, brightness, contrast, etc, I actually must make these adjustments before I can send you the photos because they are not readable (by web browsers, cell phones etc) until I do.

Here's what it looks like when I'm processing photos from raw to jpg:

I take the time to look at and adjust each photo individually. I preview the changes in real time as I make them... Everything comes out of the camera set at "null" and I need to give it a value. Some examples of things I need to set are Highlights, Shadows, Whites, Blacks, Clarity, Contrast, Temperature, Tint, and as needed, all the individual color channels. A properly converted raw photo will have better depth than nearly all JPGs captured in camera.

Here are some more examples of what the raw photo looked like right out of camera, and what it looks like after I've adjusted the settings how I wanted them.

Besides needing to convert all your photos from raw to JPG, photographers need to sort through and delete a fair number of "throw-away" images. There will inevitably be shots when people don't know their photo is being taken, they may look away at the wrong moment, make a weird face, blink, or someone may step in front of me...etc. etc. This is even more so the case with candid photos. But the beauty of shooting this way is that the keepers are genuine moments and real smiles and are all the more beautiful for it! So... I must go through hundreds (in the case of weddings, sometimes thousands), of images to pull out the very best.