9 Steps for Creating a Photo With a Computer and Specific Software

Sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes in the state of Colorado in United-States. Photo in black and white by Amar Guillen.
Sand dunes of Great Sand Dunes in the state of Colorado in United-States.

Definition of the Verb "To Create"

If you look up the definition of the verb "create" in the dictionary, you will find several definitions.

The most common definition is :

To create is to make or design something.

But there is another definition that is much more interesting for us who are photographers:

To create is to make original works that bear the mark of one's feelings, one's thoughts, and one's personality.

Don't you think that these few words perfectly describe the state of mind of artists in general?

Application to Photography

If I apply this definition to photography, I can say that creating a photo is to make an original image that bears the mark of your feelings, your thoughts, and your personality.

Isn't that the exact purpose of using your camera?

In any case, as far as I am concerned, this is exactly the goal I am looking for in my photographic activity.

The Creation of a Photo Requires the Use of a Computer

For me, the creation phase of a photo involves the use of software on a computer. You can also use a tablet or a cell phone with specific editing applications. The principle remains the same.

However, I choose to process my work on a computer because I believe it is the tool on par with lasting results of excellence.

Some people will argue that this is totally false. They will say that a photo can be created perfectly using only a camera without ever processing on a computer.

I agree with these arguments for some photos that are simply perfect from the start. However, the percentage of these successful photos seems about 0.01%. Even if we were to be generous and say that 0.05% of all photos taken do not need processing, this is still a slim number.

Personally, I usually only manage to capture 2 ideal photos at the time of shooting. It is very few compared to the 1300 photos which constitute my stock of developed photos.

Nowadays when I take pictures in the field, in other words, when I build them, I make sure they

  • are well exposed,
  • are well contrasted,
  • contain the right amount of sharpness,
  • manage colors well,
  • incorporate visible creativity,
  • are well composed,
  • are well framed.

When I photograph a scene, I make several images. In landscape photography, I change my point of view in height or by moving from side to side. Sometimes a move of 1 meter produces a spectacular result.

In European wildlife photography, as I am often on the prowl, I cannot move. I always assess the potential of the scene before I advance.

In African or American wildlife photography, animals are often less fearful than those in Europe, because they are less hunted. In this case, I can afford to change my point of view.

Regardless, when I fire up my camera, I always try to make sure that my photo has potential. I will elaborate on this concept in a later paragraph.

Despite all these precautions and all this setting up, my photos on the ground are generally rather flat and without relief. The colors are bland. I must also specify that I often use natural light.

In underwater photography, the use of 2 flashes allows me to obtain generous colors and particularly good contrasts. But this type of photographic practice remains rather confidential and little practiced by photographers.

That is why I use a computer and software to develop my photos. This is what I call the creation phase of a photograph.

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The Purpose of Developing a Photo

As I have just explained, the creation of a photo involves its development. Except for rare expressions, this is a necessary phase with photos taken in RAW.

I often explain it during my workshops and conferences: developing a photo allows you to reinforce your photographic process and your artistic process if you have one.

You remember that in one of the definitions of the verb to create, there is the word personality and the word feeling. To create is to put your own stamp on it. To create is to differentiate yourself from other photographers or other artists. To achieve this, the development of your photos is the surest and most certain way.

Developing a photograph allows you to best express that you have to say by reinforcing the image you have built in the field.

The Steps to Create a Photo

In this paragraph, I place myself in the case of the creation of a natural photo. By this I mean that I do not mention montage photos.

  • The first step for me is always reframing. This is an essential step because often a good crop gives a different vision and impact. SLR cameras have sensors with proportions 3:2 or 4:3 (Olympus). In many cases this ratio is not adapted. Personally, I like the rectangular 16:9, 2:1, or 3:1 ratio, and the square 1:1 ratio. I often adopt standard formats because for framing or adding a mat, it is easier to find the right products.
  • The second step is noise removal. I often shoot in low light. My photos are often noisy. I have a loss of quality in the rendering of details. Denoising with a specialized software allows me to recover those details.
  • The third step is the management of distortion. I apply profiles to correct the distortion and chromatic aberration induced by my photo lenses.
  • The fourth step is to remove disruptive elements.
  • The fifth step is to manage the sharpness. It is essential, especially if you use long focal lengths. I take particular care to make the essential points of a photo sharp. For example, for an animal, I want the focal points to rest in the eyes.
  • If the photo I want to create is in color, the sixth step is to manage the color contrasts. The knowledge of the color wheel is essential to manage the complementary colors. My goal is to attract the attention of the viewer.
  • If the photo I want to create is in black and white, the sixth step is to transform my photo into shades of gray.
  • The next step is to manage the contrast of my photo. I use only different dodge and bun techniques. I paint each part of my photo to find the best contrast.
  • At this point, I have in front of me a corrected photo that is sharp, well cropped, well exposed, well contrasted, and has been noise reduced. The photo is harmonious, easy to look at, and simple to understand. So far, I have only applied general technical tools, and already it is a better version than its previous self.
  • Now, and this is the eighth step, I will apply my personal style to create an atmosphere to my photo. I will enhance the atmosphere. For this crucial step, I will use filters, brushes, and gradient techniques. This stage is certainly the most important for me. It is at this moment that my creativity will express itself. It is difficult and quite long.
  • Finally, and this is the ninth step, I finish my photo by scanning it with the zoom at 100% to correct the small defects. It is in this finishing step that I add the vignetting.

The Evaluation of the Potential of a Photo

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