Over-processed photos

I’ve been noticing a less-than-good trend in photography lately. I see an increasing number of photographs — some of them on stock sites — that are way over-processed in, probably, Lightroom.

Photographers have learned to shoot in RAW format, but many use the dynamic range of that format along with various filters to exaggerate their images to look unnatural while unwittingly blowing way past the limitations of the CMYK gamut. As artsy RGB images, I guess they look OK (if one likes their surreal look), but as photographs I can actually use for much of anything I’m working on, NO.

Recently, I’ve needed to tell several different photographers that I don’t want the overly processed work they’ve sent and have requested their unretouched photos instead. They complain then claim that what they sent is closer to what they actually saw than what the camera captured. I’ve had to tell a couple of them that I wouldn’t use their photos because of it.

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Because overly saturated pics are all the rage on Instagram. Purple skies, pink trees and blue grass are apparently very appealing LOL.

You brought up something that has been bugging me for a while. I have no problem with amping up a the reds or oranges of Autum … but so many have gone way past that. There is a fine line between enhancing and overpowering. I see so many making comments like “Oh it’s so beautiful … I wish I was rich so I could move there” I want to tell them … you could be a billionaire and you couldn’t enjoy this view … it DOES NOT exist! LOL :smiley:

It’s definitely a trend and I’m hoping it dies out quickly. And while we are at it … the overly processed grunge/industrial look can go any time now too :wink:


Yes. Every photo can be improved some. Adjusting the lighting, contrast, dodging, burning, a bit of sharpening, etc… I don’t even mind when a photographers takes it to the extreme and creates a work of art that obviously isn’t a straight-forward photo any longer. I might not have a use for it in my work, but as a work of art, it might be fine.

The bothersome photos are those meant to just be nice photos, but where the photographer went overboard, worked on it a bit too long, lost perspective and ended up with something caught in the middle between a photo and a photo illustration.

I belong to a Facebook photography group of local photographers. They don’t post things there for critique (only compliments), so I keep quiet. But as you said, everyone praises each other on how spectacular the (very much artificial) sunsets and landscapes are when, in reality, there’s nowhere on the planet with colors that vibrant and saturated.

Photographers can do as they please, though — someone’s art only has to please the artist. I’m just mentioning it from the point of view of a designer who finds a perfect photo for a project then has to pass on it because the photographer turned it into a scene from Fantasia during post-processing.

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I agree with the art point of view. To me that’s different. I expect things to be over the top at times. But, social media is so saturated with these over processed images that anyone taking a normal photo, that’s beautiful is in it’s own right, is ignored.

It’s just too easy to do now with the new phones. The camera has lots of editing options. It’s only a tap away to slide that level into oblivion :wink: I’ve even seen people take another person’s image, edit it by over saturation, contrast, vignette or whatever … and post it back saying “I fixed it for you” … Ughhh. :frowning:

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Not by me! I’d go for natural beauty every time. I despise over-processed, HDR, pseudo-instamatic retro filters. In fact, anything that is overtly bling. Anything that’s a fad. This trend is the worst of both of those things.


A post was split to a new topic: New designer from Cameroon

I just happened across this … I swear my PC has ears lmaoooo :stuck_out_tongue:


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It’s funny B, I was just thinking the same thing a few days ago. Instagram, and social media posts is one thing. I get it.

But the stock photo sites are another thing. Photos should appear in their ‘natural’ state - color corrected and subtle adjustments to light and contrast, sure - but I’ve been seeing photos with blur effects, gratuitous smoothing and excessive sharpening, saturation that’s mind bending - you name it.

I understand there’s a new breed of photographer out there, or perhaps a breed of graphic artist even - one that hasn’t formal photography training, yet has highly refined their photo editing skills to compensate for mediocre or subpar photography skills.

Photoshopographers I call them (I just made that up on the spot, good no?)

In any event, and as talented as they may or may not be, stock photo sites should not be entertaining their work. At least, not in my opinion.


Photo Editing Skill Level:
Supreme Grandmaster Ultra Level +

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Yeah, I think that’s a big part of it. I’ve mostly noticed it from the semi-pros (for lack of a better term) who likely haven’t had much, if any, formal photography training.

Like graphic design, photography can be eased into through the back door by starting out with some enthusiasm, a little talent, buying the equipment and putting in a lot of effort. Also like self-taught graphic designers, these photographers often head down paths with no experienced instructors and mentors to guide them or encouraging them to explore alternate routes.

They get praise from friends and family, which gives them confidence and the enthusiasm to keep going. Then they run into someone like me who tells them they can’t use photos after they’ve been turned it into a kaleidoscope of non-printable colors — I likely either end up hurting their feelings or they think I’m just an old codger who doesn’t appreciate their wonderful artwork.

Most of these images are produced for consumption online, without the creator knowing anything about the different requirements of print. They may have heard about CMYK, but think it just makes pictures and colour duller.

This is OK if they never go to print, which most of these images never will. ‘It looks fine on my screen’ has changed from the ultimate whine from clients who want their print to match what they see on screen to the ultimate test of acceptability.


Garage sales and pawn shops are your friends when looking for equipment. They often have specialty items they can’t sell (photo lights for ex). I got an overhead camera mount for $12 - usually about $100 new. I only needed to phenagle the connection. You just need to go in without looking for specific equipment. Look for things you can easily fix or adapt to your workflow.

I actually use a makeup light for color correction. I took the mirror out of the middle of a warm daylight circular tube. So now I can lay the light about 12" from the art and still look trough the hole without any shadows. That cost was only $25, compared to a light box for color correction that can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

When you ask for the photographer to edit the image, are you telling them why you’re requesting it? I’m sure they wouldn’t give you much flack if they know their photos were not print-ready.

I get photos in a variety of ways: stock, existing collections, submissions, custom shoots, etc. When I hire and work directly with photographers, I haven’t run into this problem. When photos arrive or are found by other means, it can be another story.

Mostly, though, I’m not so much commenting on just my personal experience with photographers, I’m also commenting on a broader trend. It’s been an Instagram thing for years, but I’m guessing some of those Instagramers have grown up, gotten more serious about photography and carried over their processing habits into Lightroom and Photoshop.

The reproducibility of photos in CMYK is a relatively minor concern. The larger question for me is why so many semi-pro photographers are doing this. If they want to put vignettes, extra contrast, tons of sharpening, fancy borders and oversaturated colors in their own photos for some personal artistic vision, that’s great. But if their intention is commercial sales, the over-processing of an otherwise natural-looking landscape, for example, usually compromises both its integrity and its usefulness.

Just gonna toss this in here.
Before the current over-processed photo trend, we did a project that actually required somewhat surrealistic photography work where the designer had to over-process stock photos.
It was done for effect to intensify the at-that-time “global warming” theme for a walk thru exhibit. If the right over-corrected photo had existed then, it may have been used.

Kinda like the fonts you all hate. There is always a time and a place for such things.

I have no problem asking a photographer for a different version of their supplied image. Usually I’m paying top dollar, and most of the pros get it. And I don’t say a word about submitted stuff. I just proof it and print it.

That all said though, I’m not too happy with the stock sites that aren’t vetting their images. The last project on which I did image acquisition, I spent an inordinate amount of time reverse searching the photos requested by the client, simply because some of the more expensive ones were showing up in alternate CC-zero sources. This is becoming rampant across the stock world too.
And now with Getty going to a Royalty Free model, their juried collections crumble to dust as well.
Buyer beware.

Nail, head, pop.

I’d say this applies to all the “rules” of design too. If you know how to do it right, you can break them. That’s why I always use the term “rule of thumb”: that’s like the starting point, not end point.

Which, in and of itself, is a good rule of thumb. :wink:


I think I just hit my thumb with the hammer…


You get the hammer I’ll hold the nail and when I nod my head you hit it …

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