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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

When Is It Done?

I would like to take another brief interlude from the rock images to mention an issue that I have been thinking about lately.

I have noticed something in my own work and am wondering if others have had the same experience (yikes, could it really be just me?). When I am in Lightroom going through my RAW files to choose ones that I want to work on further, I will frequently make some quick changes to exposure and saturation etc and perhaps even open them in Photoshop to add a quick curves layer. I do this to try to quickly see the potential of an image since the RAW files are, by definition, fairly flat looking.

Using this process, I pick out images that I want to continue working on in order to ‘perfect’ them. I might work on a chosen image for quite some time. Some of the work is general to the image. By that I mean that it would be needed no matter how else the image was processed. I am referring to spotting the photo as well as cloning out errant objects as well as objects that I noticed ahead of time but could do nothing about, such as small signs and the like. Getting the crop right would also fall into this category.

But then I start working on the aspects of the image that are changeable and dependent on the ‘feel’ I want to give the photograph. This includes things like local contrast, saturation, fine tuning the exposure etc. The funny thing is that while sometimes the result looks far, far better than the starting point after the quick Lightroom adjustments, there are other times (and though they are not the majority, they are still not at all infrequent) when I look back at the quick starting point that I had generated only to find that, even after all the manipulations and effort, I like the starting version of the image better.

I wonder if there is something in those first quick adjustments that allows one’s intent or pre-visualization of the image to come out. Frequently, I wonder if I am doing too much to an image, or if the many minor adjustments that I might spend time making are even noticeable. I think knowing when to stop is a big hurdle to overcome, at least for me.

Anyone have thoughts about this?