I've been getting a lot of processing enquiries lately. Usually from working photographers whose work I already consider to be stellar; which just goes to show how much of a constant pursuit this craft can be.
I'm the same way; so I certainly don't feel I'm an authority on the subject. I'm constantly analyzing the work of others, filling my brain with a visual scrapbook I can refer to when I get behind the lens or sit at the computer. Art is a never-ending quest, a never-ending maze of questions and insecurities. If you stop, you die. Complacency is the wall you never want to hit.
I answered such an email this morning and mentioned that processing was our public face. It's what everybody sees, what goes on the web or gets printed. I believe it's as much a part of our individual style as our way of shooting or lighting, the decisions we make at that point just as important as those we took at the time of capture. It's all intertwined and symbiotic.
It also defines much of the emotional pull of an image, what the viewer will react to. By controlling the mood we can push different buttons, elicit different responses. And this is something just as important as editing: choosing the right rendition for the right selections.
The shots below were taken yesterday, in a restaurant in Vieux Longueuil. Our stop for lunch after visiting the Salon du Livre Jeunesse de Longueuil with the kids. All from a single series shot with the X100 but processed differently: the first two use my "usual" colour and black and white treatments, the third introduces a slightly more muted and detailed approach that adds more micro-contrast by playing with shadows and highlights.
I think any one of these would work as a final output, but that decision is something I wrestle with on every shoot. Steve Jobs said the things you leave out are just as important as the things you leave in; this applies to every artistic endeavour as well.
It's all part of the thought process.