Click on any of the images below to see a before processing and after processing version of each image.
These before and after images don't show the processing involved, just the image straight off the sensor, then the final processed image. I think it's really interesting to see the stark difference between the two.
I have a number of methods for processing images. One method is manually in Photoshop, using curves and layer masks to effectively 'dodge and burn' different areas of the image to get the exposure and contrast that I want. Another method is to process the image through HDR software. My prefered software being NIK Software's HDR Efex Pro. Then sometimes I find that for the composition, a black and white conversion is necessary, and usually I will use Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro.
One rule of digital photography is that every digital photograph needs significant post processing. Whether you are trying to re-create the colour,contrast and brightness of the original scene at the time of capture, or whether you want to create something more impressionistic....post processing is a necessary process.
If you are happy with your images straight out of the camera, that's fine. But you should understand that you are allowing your camera to apply all of the post processing for you. And a camera's post processing procedure works in the form of a series of contrast, colour, brightness and sharpening changes applied by a computer algorithm which was created in a laboratory possibly years before taking the photo, and thousands of miles away from where the photo was taken. Is that the best way to process the image?
What I am saying is that you cannot beat the personal touch!
The first layer of post-processing that I apply is to remove or neutralise as much as possible all of the in-camera's automatic adjustments. I do this by processing all my RAW images through a batch job that I create in the Capture NX software that I use. That batch job tones down all colour saturation, brightness and contrast. It then applies a daytime white balance, and that becomes the basic image, the starting point for my post processing, in either Photoshop or Lightroom, with the help of Nik Software.
And that basic image, or starting point, is the 'before' image in these before/after examples. The 'after' version is the final finished image.