Have you overdone it? (Part 3)

I have already written two articles with the same name and a few others touching on the same theme. Today, yet another of my reader requested to write some more on this theme. So, here I go. The writing is going to be a difficult one, especially with my kids listening to ‘wheels on the bus go round and round’. It’s a catchy tune and somehow digs into my brains… aargh.

Actually, the more my kids watch this, the more they like and more they sing it. Same goes with the post-processing of the images too. With the kind of photographs each of us are bombarded with each day, it’s no surprise that we start to think in the same way. Those overcooked images seem to be the new normal now a days. The electric greens, the deep blues, waxy skins… the list goes on. I have written about many such points earlier. Here, again, I’ll talk about a few other flaws that are obvious signs of over-processing.


Every tint and every shade is just a small change of the original color. Sometimes these changes are so small that it becomes difficult for the electronic screens to show the subtle change. In such scenarios, they end up showing the neighboring values. This appears as bands of a hue on the screen. This is usually the flaw of these screens but overdoing post-processing can cause images to show this even in areas where such banding should not be visible.

(Move the slider to see banding effects. This is an intentionally over-cooked pic. Thanks to Sudipto Roy for sharing the original image and letting me mess around with it to this degree.)

In the image above, I have intentionally post-processed the sky. These ‘bands’ were not there in the original scene but here they appear due to post-processing. Banding is usually noticeable in large areas of subtle changes in color or brightness/darkness. Sky is the first place in most such pictures.

Just today I noticed a photograph in one of the famous facebook groups with excessive banding which was being touted as extremely beautiful. To any trained eye, banding will always take the impact away.

(This is another overdone image of Trishul peak. I had to limit the tones also intentionally to get the banding. The banding can be seen as curvy horizontal lines in the sky mostly. Move the slider to get an idea.)

The first culprit that causes banding in post-processing is when one tries to spread the values across the whole of histogram by compressing the curve in order to make use of the complete tonal range (Curves Tool at your service). Another culprit are the tools that try to create an HDR like image. I call these ‘pseudo-HDRers’. Be on the lookout for banding if you use any of these.

Sometimes, the banding may also appear due to compression that happens while saving the image or while uploading it to sites or apps that use compression (like facebook or whatsapp). So, no, it’s not the fault of photographer always. Quite frequently it can be substandard monitor or these apps or sites. But then, a serious photographer should not be showcasing his/her work on such degrading platforms…. just my personal opinion.

I took out a music album that I simply adore – Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water. It has been lying on my desk since the last hour or so, while my house is filled with music from yet another youtube kids’ video. My turn to listen to music has still not come. The difference is the same in photography. One music is a masterpiece to me. The other one is a masterpiece for my kids. Everyone is different and everyone’s tastes are different.

Excessive Contrast

This one is also related to my earlier point and I may have mentioned it earlier. However, here it is again.

(The image on the left is with high contrast. One of my friends had posted this pic on his Instagram since we were on this trip together. He got lots of wows and likes. The one I like more is with lower contrast on the right. Notice the details in the window frames on the upper floor, as you move the slider)

This is a simple example of how a high contrast scene may look good initially but does not hold interest for long. The details, the textures, the feel is missing in high contrast scene. The high contrast scene also seems to have higher saturation. The sky appears clearer too. But, the one with normal contrast has more realistic values and brings out the character of the dilapidated house.

Usually this over-processing happens with black and white images. With no colors to guide, photographers often overdo the contrast. Be on the look out. Take care of details in shadow areas and in brightly lit areas. Ensure that when you increase the contrast, the details in these regions does not get lost.


In the series of these articles, I have covered –
Dynamic Range, Saturation, Sharpening – Have you overdone it?
Mid-level contrast, Vignette, Structure – Have you overdone it? (Part 2)
Banding, Contrast – In this article !

Do check out these articles too on the same theme –
Top 10 Photo-editing Traps
Photography getting lost to Photo-editing

Do be on the look-out, the overdone photographs stir some nasty emotions in me. I might be writing more on this whenever these images start overpowering me again. I am abruptly ending this article since the kids have gone out to play and now is the chance for me to enjoy some real music. Bye for now!

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