Technical Tutorial: Digital Photograph Post-Processing Workflow (in Photoshop)

In this tutorial, I have compiled technical tips from two reference books: Digital Exposure Handbook by Ross Hoddinott and Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz.

This example Workflow is biased towards applications for architectural and interior photography. It’s mostly reusable for general photograph enhancement, but it covers subjects such as perspective corrections, but not skin tone optimisation for example. This is stricly photoshop for photographers and photography enhancement, from RAW conversion to correcting incorrectly exposed or noisy photographs, it does not cover at all how to create designs from several source images.

photography post-processing tutorial in pdf

Photography tutorial (shooting tips, general principle of exposure, specialised tips for architectural photography)

I have written a Photography tutorial in pdf format.

In this tutorial, I have compiled technical tips from two reference books: Digital Exposure Handbook by Ross Hoddinott and Architectural Photography by Adrian Schulz.

This tutorial compiles tips for shooting photographs. Digital post-processing of images will be covered in a separate document.

The first part explains the general principles of exposure, the second part contains tips specific to architectural and interior photography because that is what I mostly do so far. Later versions may include specialised tips for other type of photography.

I very much hope this tutorial will be useful to many people, however, it took me a lot of work to write it therefore all content is copyrighted to me. You are welcome to use the information, quote etc… but please refer to the source as:


Please give this above link, not the link of the actual document you took because the general link will always contain the latest version of the document.

Many thanks and have a good read!

Robert Polidori on his work

In a book surveying his career ‘Points between… up till now’, Robert Polidori discusses interesting issues in the introduction.

His interest in interiors started in 1987 when he photographed several New York flats whose owners had recently died and that had been looted. He says ‘On one hand, I came to consider the remaining objects as exteriorizing the personal identity and ideals of the dead individuals, yet on the other hand, these same objects, carefully accumulated over a lifetime, had now become a valueless heap of trace detritus for all the rest of us to wilfully discard (or vandalize). […] I perceived the rooms and their objects as some sort of sociological/psychological Rorschach test. I was convinced that there was something intrinsically historic and psychic about the subject matter that should be captured for posterity. Upon further reflection I came to regard the implications of the scene as being evocative of the human condition in general.’

In 1994, he photographed buildings destroyed by the Lebanese Civil War. An old lady guided him through ruins and asked him ‘Do you feel able to take beautiful and pretty pictures of all this?’ He places this lady’s ‘dare’ (his own word) at the heart of the controversy surrounding his work. ‘My work has often been criticized as somehow lacking integrity because I transgress ethical principles by rendering tragic or violent situations as artificially “beautiful”. This “aestheticizing” is considered to be conceptually disturbing since, some argue, it brings a viewer to an experience by which realities and their causes are ultimately trivialised and misrepresented.’ On the particular reproach that his New Orleans pictures did not capture explicitly enough the government’s failure to properly maintain the levees, he says ‘a photographer cannot, after-the-fact, visually capture the long expired preceding moments, causal links or the far remote spatial tangent of a scene.’

He states his favourite subject is ‘the psychological implications of the human habitat (the room)’ and links this to his ‘phenomenological interest in wanting to know what makes something or somebody tick’. He explains: ‘though most of my photographs are devoid of the human form, I have actively sought out rooms where the interiors were substantially and meaningfully filled with traces of human interventions. I consider these traces as being imbued with iconic references to what Carl Jung called the human psyche’s Super-Ego.How one wants to be perceived by oneself and others is infinitely more interesting to me than how one might happen to look.’

He explains that, while he had long ago abandoned the ‘intellectual notion of the existence of God’, the experience of photographing Chernobyl caused him to contemplate ‘the futility of Hope as a certainty’, and ‘the eventuality of foregoing the emotional crutch of brighter possibilities was infinitely more painful’.

About his feelings while photographing painful places, he explains ‘whenever the question comes up, I always answer that I feel nothing when I make these types of photographs. I feel before and after, but while executing them it is my belief there is only time to accurately act and react. I try to preload my emotions ahead of time but I don’t readily call upon them when I shoot. I want them to be instinctual yet non-conscious. Like surgeons in the operating room, the technical imperatives of photography demand complete mental acuity and a concentration that should not be disrupted by any background noise.’ I found this statement fascinating because it perfectly describes how I feel when I take my own photographs: you have to be completely focused on the act of seeing things, and you have to do the work not only well but quick because there is only a limited amount of time during which you can sustain the required depth of concentration.

Photographers of post Katrina New Orleans

After being so fascinated by how Robert Polidori photographed ravaged interiors in his ‘After the flood’ series, I looked into other photographers of post Katrina New Orleans in order to find out how they each approached the subject, dealt with the ethical implications, and what aesthetic choices they made.

Seesaw magazine presented ‘Remnants’ by Wyatt Gallery and ‘After the Cry’ by Will Steacy.

I like the colours, depth and shadows in Wyatt Gallery’s photographs.

'Remnants' by Wyatt Gallery

Will Steacy adopts a more documentary perspective, focusing on heaps of debris and a near scientific study of molds. He is interested in environmental concerns.

In his photo essay In the Wake of Katrina, Larry Towell adopts the trademark Magnum B&W documentary style. Some pictures devoid of people have a strong haunting quality, particularly long branches and debris near the Mississippi shoreline, a stuffed fox in a glass tank escaped from a museum or collection and a flooded cemetery with the trees and tombs reflected in the water (You need to watch the whole essay on the provided link, I cannot embed particular photos from a flash presentation).

In In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster, Chris Jordan mostly adopt a documentary ‘outdoor’ perspective but a few pictures convey a more aesthecized and disturbing perspective.

I found this ‘Baptist Church, Lower Ninth Ward’ particularly amazing.

Jane Fulton Alt is both a photographer and a social worker. Her photograph series ‘Look and leave’ was taken while she accompanied displaced Lower ninth Ward residents revisit the ruins of their former home as a volunteer worker on the ‘Look and leave’ program. The photographs are accompanied by narrative about the reactions of the people who visited their destroyed homes, but these people do not appear on the photographs. Only empty homes and personal belongings are shown. She comments ‘As a photographer, I prefer to let pictures speak for themselves. But as a social worker, I know that there are some images that stories can illuminate.’ She makes a point that the pictures were not taken while the residents visited their destroyed homes, but on her own after her social worker shift has ended. It is interesting how her perspective as a social worker influence her vision as a photographer, yet the two activities are kept formally distinct. (Again follow the link, the pictures don’t embed.)

John Woodin was raised in New Orleans. A year before Katrina, he photographed his childhood neighborhood and the interior of the homes of his family, focusing on the architecture of the ‘working poor’. After Katrina, he came back and took pictures of the exact same locations. (follow link for portfolios ‘City of memory’ and ‘After the flood’, I cannot embed pictures from a flash presentation.)

In ‘Color of Loss’, Dan Burholder uses HDR (High Dynamic Range) to picture interiors devastated by Katrina in great details despite the darkness. The photographs are supposed to look like paintings. However I find them rather disappointing because I feel the HDR process is taken too far. Moderate HDR enhancement can look striking, but here, the shadows are completely obliterated and most pictures have a completely even lightness on their full surface. To me, the colours appear both saturated and washed out because of this even bright quality to them. The total absence of shadows combined with a choice of lens giving a distorted perspective in some of the pictures cause the feeling of a total loss of the sense of space, at least to me as a viewer. It is possible that the HDR process was taken a bit too far due to over enthusiasm for a back then new technique.

Portrait of Neglect by Debbie Fleming Caffery consist in B&W photographs of displaced residents and ravaged places. There is a striking picture of plaster hands from a statue in front of a wall with peeling pain, but again, I can’t embed from a flash essay.

There are more close up portraits in Debbie Fleming Caffery’s series than in any other work considered. I find it darkly ironic that the work of Robert Polidori has been attacked as immoral for being too anaesthetized, and the documentary work of other people, for example Alec Soth, is sometimes judged dubious for having a too ‘poetic’ perspective. Documentary photography is never neutral, it always shows as much the photographer’s perspective as the events depicted, and it is even clearer when comparing the work of several photographers on a same subject.

As a viewer, Debbie Fleming Caffery’s close up portraits are the only Katrina pictures that made me feel uneasy. Though I’ve never done portraits myself, I’m always fascinated with portraits where the subject is given the opportunity to try and show themselves as they wish to be seen, such as Diane Arbus. Of course, they most of the time will project a different image as intended, or let something slip, but that’s the interest of it, the subject cannot fully control the photograph any more than they can fully control their life, any more than the photographer themselves can fully control the picture they’re taking. But at least the subject is given an opportunity, they’re given power, and the photographer takes some kind of risk than their subject may subvert the picture. I find it exciting that, because there are different inputs to the picture, the result is uncertain. With ‘candid’ portraits showing expressions with a lot of pathos, I don’t think I’m so much made uneasy by looking at people suffering, than by being presented with a picture carrying a label of ‘raw emotion’. It’s almost like the picture carries a label ‘this a truth! this person is not performing for the camera!’. But I only see the finished picture, I cannot see how it was taken, and it is still possible that the subject performs. It’s only my subjective experience as a viewer, but I think what makes me most uneasy with ‘candid’ pictures, is that they give me the impression that the photographer is denying presenting a viewpoint.

Seesaw Photography magazine

I found an interesting online photography magazine Seesaw magazine created by Aaron Schuman, Photographer and researcher at Brighton University. It contained more information on my favourite photographers and interesting new projects.

Alec Soth describes his Sleeping by the Mississipi series and his work in general as ‘more lyrical than documentary’ and reflects of the difficulty to tell a story with pictures. The iconic pictures from the series were taken in the Midwest, which is a kind of a photographic black hole, with most photographers attracter to the mythical West of the exotic and eccentric Deep South. The whole interview centers around the theme of making pictures that are somehow between documentary and poetry, ‘objective’ yet infused with the photographer’s vision and empathy.

Stephen Shore recently published an extended edition of his famous series ‘Uncommon Places’. It includes more portraits and interiors, whereas the original series became iconic for its images of suburban landscape and intersections. He explains how the use of large format came to him gradually while working, and how it ended up making him look into different aesthetic choices, such as abandoning the hand held in favour of a tripod to give the pictures a richness of details that forced to viewer to really stop and look. He also discuss two interesting problems: how photography that is contemporary when made may be seen as ‘nostalgic’ or ‘retro’ by viewers a few decades later, and the depth of understanding of the sense of place a photographer has for places he is familiar with, compared to a place where he’s just moved to (something he experienced after moving from NY to Monana, where he felt his pictures could only be picturesque calendar pictures at first.)

In The Stage: Raw theatres Colin Miller photographs empty theatre stages, aiming the capture the feeling of charged energy on the verge of explosion that permeates them before a performance.

In The Balkans: architecture wounded Richard Mosse photographs post-was Balkans, including derelict buildings.

Detroit – Street Photography

I was sent to Detroit last week for my day job and was able to take a few pictures. However I had limited free time during daylight, limited access to a car, and no time to find a local guide in advance, so the possibilities were rather limited.

As said in a previous post about Ghost towns in the USA, there are loads of abandoned houses all over Detroit. However, some of these areas are very dangerous and the Ghost Houses in the relatively safe areas are often inhabited by junkies, so it’s not safe to go in without a couple of tough local guys. Sadly, I had to look from the street, however frustrating that was!


Those street photographs have nothing special about them but I really like the light in them, I think it has a ‘Stephen Shore’ feel to it 🙂 I was lucky to have such beautiful ‘American dream technicolor’ light that contrasted with the general setting of urban decay. I would have liked to take more photographs of large freeways lined with abandoned buildings because outdoor photographs were safe enough to take, but sadly I had to give back the car to the day-job-colleague I was sharing it with. I hope to be able to go back for a proper art trip and be free of these frustrating limitations.



Traffic lights dangling from a cable over a deserted street: an iconic ‘Twin Peaks’ image!


The corridor from my hotel which reminded me of Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’.


This is the ballroom from the hotel which for some reason caught my eye. It looked like a set from a Roy Andersson movie in its creepy blandness.


The Mc Donald logo and Spangled banner juxtaposition is so very cliché, but I could not resist 🙂 (but WordPress does and censors the flag on the right !)


The hotel, ubiquitous malls and 6 lane streets made me think a lot of Marc Augé’s book ‘No Places’ (‘Non lieux’).

‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ continued during Summer 2010

In June/July 2010, I went back to Ireland to shoot some more photographs and video footage for the ‘Ghost House’ and ‘Disciplinary Institutions’ projects. I mostly revisited previously explored locations; My aim was to try and rely less on the automatic settings of the cameras, make better use of the tripod, and generally be more thoughtful about my images. I have not looked at the video footage in depth yet, but for the photographs, the result were mixed. I did get some good images I did not get before, but some scenes I re-shot look no better in the newer, more worked versions than on the older version where I only specified the ISO and let the camera do the rest of the work.

This is a Ghost House in co. Galway that I visited in 2008. The first picture with the stairs is my favourite of everything I’ve made this year.

Ghost House

Ghost House

This is a Ghost House I saw from the road. I could not go inside because it was locked up, but I thought the exterior shot was very interesting because the walls appear to be bleeding.

'Bloody' Ghost House

I was granted authorisation to go into Woodlawn House, co. Galway. The house is empty and awaiting renovation but the elaborate interior architecture was enough to make interesting pictures.

Woodlawn House

Woodlawn House

I went back to the High Park Magdalene Laundry in Dublin, but I did not get much better pictures than last year.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

Magdalene laundry, Dublin.

I went back to the Good Shepherd Magdalene Laundry in Cork and got better pictures, especially from the upstairs floors. Some of these photographs need to be straightened because my tripod was not straight on the uneven floor (I need to find out how to do that).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

(The book says ‘Ecclesiastical Law’).

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

Magdalene laundry, Cork.

I also got more pictures from Eglington and St Kevin’s insane asylums in Cork.

Eglington insane asylum, Cork.

I found by chance a Magdalene Laundry in Kinsale, co. Cork. The building itself was gutted and being transformed into flats, but the inmates cemetery was still there at the back of the building site.

Magdalene Laundry Cemetery, Kinsale, co. Cork.

Our landlady also tipped me to go see Letterfrack Industrial School: Industrial Schools were the equivalent for boys of what Magdalene Laundries were for girls. The School is now a normal school, but an information panel in the hall tells the story of the former Industrial School and the inmates cemetery has been turned into a sort of memorial.

Of course, erecting memorials afterwards does not change anything for the victims, but the contrast between the tended memorial of the Industrial School and the rusty, abandoned graves of the Magdalenes made me bitter. The wrongs done to the little boys are at least publicly acknowledged and apologies are at least paid lip service to. But the Magdalenes do not even get this: the Catholic Church still refuses to acknowledge any wrong done to the Magdalenes, despite campaigns from inmates’ descendants, and public authorities are all to eager to eradicate the Magdalene Laundries from the face of the earth, turning them into overpriced apartments without as much as a commemorative plate. Seeing this contrast made me all the more determined in my project to document the Magdalene asylums.

Letterfrack industrial school

Letterfrack industrial school

St John’s College Library, Cambridge.

Thanks to a friend librarian at St John’s College library, Cambridge, I was allowed to take pictures inside. I also wanted to make videos but I could not find any way to make travelling shots that were interesting and long enough, due to the layout of the bookcases. I wanted to make images in the atmosphere of Alain Resnais’ ‘Toute la mémoire du Monde’ but was a bit disappointed with the final result, due to the library layout that forbade any interesting shot apart from close ups, and light from the windows always causing reflections on the books.

This is the best picture I managed 🙁

St John's College Library, Cambridge.

I quite like this stairs picture though. I think it looks striking even though a bit cliche. Sometimes there is a simple reason why many artists end up repeating a standard picture: because it works!

St John's College Library, Cambridge.

‘Le Jardin aux Jouets’, Raw Art House in Gravelines, 59, France.

On my way to a David Lynch lithography exhibition last summer, I stumbled upon a Raw Art House in Gravelines, 59, France, and stopped to take pictures and videos. There was no sign and I could not talk to the owner, but I found out from the blog of Jean-Michel Chesné that this place is called ‘Le jardin aux Jouets’ (‘The toy Garden’) and the artist is Cyril Roussel, a retired slaughterhouse worker.

I have a long standing interest in Raw Art, especially in those artists that turn their whole house into their lifelong artwork. I feel this is the most literal illustration of how we reconstruct the outside world to match our inner world. What most people do secretly through secret imaginative play or repressed fantasies, Raw artists do it literally on a physical territory.

These photos are not ‘art’ because I’m merely documenting someone else’s art, however, I am interested in documenting what I call ‘Raw Houses’ (i.e. Raw Art shown in the artist’s house rather than in museums) as an ongoing documentary project.

Le jardin aux jouets.

Le jardin aux jouets.

Le jardin aux jouets.

Le jardin aux jouets.

Photographs from the Catacombes of Paris (December 2010)

In December 2010, I shot photographs and videos in the Catacombes of Paris. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, bones from the inner city cemeteries in Paris were transfered to disused quarries because overflowing cemeteries caused sanitary problems. Since then, The Paris catacombes have been a source of inspiration for literature and art.

Here are a few preview pictures. I have not done anything clever with the photographs and video footage yet. Some pictures have annoying shadows because the poor light conditions forced me to use a pocket lamp sometimes, even with very long exposure. I need to find a way to edit those unwanted shadows out (for example on the picture with the cross), possibly using a light gradient. Otherwise I think there is the potential to make some of these black and white pictures very striking by playing with the light and contrast. I am still unsure what to do with the video footage, other than a pure short documentary.