"That's cheating!", said one of my friends when I showed him how fast you can make an image look better with only a couple of tweaks on your smartphone. So is it really cheating to alter an image after you have pressed the shutter on your camera? First, it's so much easier if you can make as much as possible to your image already when pressing the shutter release on your camera. The lighting, the cropping... less work afterwards. All this is even more crucial if you are shooting in jpg-format. Many serious photographers though shoot in RAW, and that means that there is usually at least one step you have to take afterwards, that's converting the image to jpg. I dug a little bit in my archives and found this image of an old 16th century church called the church of holy George. How did the original image look like, almost straight out of camera, with only conversion to jpg and watermark? Like this...
A bit dark and dull. The light, when I shot the image was pretty nice. Not too moody, but soft and beautiful. What I tried, was to expose for the sky so that it would have some detail, and that's why the image is a bit under exposed. If I would be a purist then I probably would leave my image like this. But then on the other hand it would look boring. Definitely wouldn't enjoy showing this image around. When seeing this unprocessed image, would you like to visit the actual place? I wouldn't. So my next step would be to open up the details a little.
A little bit better, right? Used a masking brush in Nikon capture NX2, first for the sky, and later for the ground. Just simple tweaks with the levels and curves tool and the job is pretty much done. This image I probably might even show to people. A documentary kind of image, but better than the original. But then I might want to be a little more artsy, and that's where the filters come handy. After converting the image to jpg, I opened it in ON1 perfect effects and played a bit with all kinds of presets and filters. The final image is maybe not true to the lighting conditions when the image was shot, but if someone would show me this type of an image, I would be ready to go to that place right away for a couple of camera clicks.
So is it cheating if you do some post processing on you images? My answer is no, but who knows, maybe you have a different opinion and you have the right to it.