Every pro photographer makes mistakes. If the job is important enough and the mistake is big enough, it could be the end of his career. Some kinds of mistakes are inexcusable for a pro, namely the kind that come from laziness or improper preparation. Others are so common they happen almost every day. One thing that separates amateurs from pros is the post-processing skill to salvage a good photo from a mistake - or a set of mistakes - that could could ruin a photo. To illustrate what I mean by "salvage," I'll explain how I processed a photo I snapped a little too hastily, realizing only afterwards that the settings on my camera were wrong.
The photo below was the first I took at a NekoMaru cat cafe in Okinawa. Having just walked in the door, I saw this adorable little guy laying on the floor. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, I took out my camera (50mm portrait lens already attached), focused and pressed the button. Then I looked at the shot in the viewer and realized my white balance was off and that it was underexposed by two stops. Damn! On the bright side, the eyes were in perfect focus and the shot was well framed, meaning that it just might be salvageable.
The white balance issue was no concern at all since I was shooting in raw mode, meaning I could set the parameter in Lightroom. I set the white balance to fluorescent because the lights above me seemed strong, but after looking at the result, I knew I'd misgauged it, so I reset it to daylight. Of greater concern was the exposure. I was shooting at f/2.2 on my 50mm portrait lens and I thought I had the camera set to Aperture Priority mode. But that was not correct. I was in manual and the shutter speed was too fast to get a good exposure. Oops!
The solution was to go into Adobe Lightroom and boost the exposure by two stops. This worked. Since I'd been shooting on a low ISO, the noise level in the image was not too bad, so it didn't appear to grainy when adjusted. The result was good enough that I decided to further process the picture, ending with what you see below.
What other processing did I do? Besides all the usual tweaks to vibrance, saturation, HSL and the like, I used a radial filter over the cat's face set to effect the area outside the circle. I pulled the exposure of the background down just a bit to bring out the cat's face. Then I took a brush tool and sharpened the eyes very slightly. Finally, I added a very subtle post-crop vignette to help further push down the background. Notably, I did not apply software lens corrections, which would have brought of the brightness of the corners of the image (the opposite of what I wanted).
That's about it. The take home point is the everyone makes mistakes. This one was small and inconsequential. When it comes to fixing mistakes, remember two things: 1) shoot raw because it allows you a lot of options in post and 2) if your focus and framing are correct, you can often salvage an under-exposed image in post-processing. The same is not true for over-exposed digital images. Two stops above would have destroyed this one.
Thanks for reading!
My simple blog about the art and science of photography.