Learn how to handle photographing a foreign culture on location. This is the postproduction part of my series about cultural photography. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure to check out part one about preproduction and part two about on location as well.
Postproduction needs time
After a long time away, you finally arrive home. As the responsible photographer you are, you immediately import all photos on your computer, and you make sure you have them backed up. Now you want to start to edit the images, but if you have the luxury to let them rest on your hard disk for a couple of weeks or even months, I’d advise you to do so. This allows you to look at them with a fresh eye. Shots you found great will suddenly fall off and leave room for others you didn’t even consider.
Less is more
Words to live by. Especially during editing. Cherrypick the best out of the best of your selection. Show this selection to your friends, what do they think? Ask other photographers for feedback. Kill your darlings. No pain no gain. Let the photos hit the postproduction room floor. Okay, it’s getting exaggerated now, you get what I mean.
Remove distractions – don’t alter the story
When you finished your selection, you probably move into retouching. There are a ton of good tutorials out there about photoshop, so I solely want to address some key thoughts here: I only use photoshop to enhance the story, not to alter it. When I’m working for a newspaper, I won’t change anything that wouldn’t have been possible in a dark room, and when I’m working for a business, I only remove distractions. For example, if there is a disruptive object in the background or a fraying thread, I will retouch it.
Disruptive objects like this thread can hurt your photo and removing them won’t alter the message of it. The best way, of course, would be to see it while shooting.
Create a book
Even if it’s just for you: Printing your photos will push them to the next level. And let’s be honest, it’s way more enjoyable to look at your pictures in a book than on a tablet. I recommend the print services of WhiteWall because I like to layout them in InDesign and then just let the PDF be printed.
Stay in contact
Ideally, you build a great friendship with your local guys, and this point will come naturally to you. Just send them some photos and also try to convince them to give some prints to the subjects. It’s not a big deal. If you want to stand out of the crowd: Go there again, meet the people again and ask them how they’re doing. Bring some prints along and maybe do another session with them. I’m certain: cultural photography needs time and a lot of effort has to be put into it. So really, the postproduction transforms into preproduction all over again.