When I was young, I spent many Saturday afternoons building model airplanes. I began with the SnapTite ones that took like 5 mins to put together but I quickly realized that these well, sucked. They looked like crap and didn't do justice to the aircraft it was intended to portray.
So I sucked it up and started building the more complicated ones and spending more time on them and I learned one really important thing that bridges into most aspects of my life.
The little things add up BIG TIME! A little detail here, another one there. Suddenly things are beginning to look really nice. Same goes for anything really. It could be woodworking.
...but you're not reading this because you're into woodworking, or building 1:48 scale Spitfire fighter planes.
Details matter in all aspects of photography. Period.
From the composition, (are any trees or buildings growing out of your subject's head?), the subject, the light, the location and the post processing all contribute to the final product. I think we can all agree that we don't like to look at way overdone Photoshop work. But as with every other aspect of the shot, the post work is CRITICAL.
Now I'll not get into the debate about whether or not using Photoshop helps or hinders the foundations of photography because the reality is that nearly every image you've ever seen on a computer screen has been touched in Photoshop in some way.
The key is to be subtle and pay attention to the details. While the spectrum of possibilities in Photoshop are nearly limitless they are within reach thanks to the countless tutorial sites out there. See an effect you like? Google it or youtube it and you'll find multiple different approaches to achieve what you're looking for.
The key is to be subtle and look for every detail you can that detracts from the image. Stray hairs? bad white balance? Levels off? Minor blemishes? Dust spots? Dead pixels? An interesting trick I've picked up is to flip your image 180 deg and look at it upside down. You'll be amazed at what pops out at you that you may have not noticed before.
What details did I miss in this edit?
Personally, I think the intent is to correct any mistakes from your original shot (crooked much?) and then use the tools available to ADD to the appeal of the image. Remember, its about the details. ...the subtle details. Easy does it, don't overdo it, you don't want to appear (unless you really do) heavy handed and contrived because (in my opinion) that detracts from the appeal of the image. The last thing you want is someone to look at your image and say "I wish they didn't overdo it with the post, they had a nice image to begin with."
SO - As with my model planes, its important to pay attention to the details and not just throw a quick coat of paint on it and call it good. The same applies in the post processing of your photos. Take the time and put the thought into the right amount editing that will allow your photo to stand out for the RIGHT reasons. Remember, we're looking for quality, not quantity...
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