Filters, are they good or bad? I’m not talking about iPhone snaps via Instagram, but the more serious photographer using filters (such as VSCO) to edit their photos.
What do I think of filters? I definitely think they have their place and I even use them myself at times. They’re quick, convenient, and—if you’re already working with a nicely exposed photo—they do look pretty good straight out of the box.
However, I also think it’s dangerous to depend on filters to edit your photos without any understanding of how individual adjustments work. Filters can be a nice addition to a photographer’s workflow, but should be experimented with alongside an understanding of how curves, levels etc. affect your image.
Filters are rarely a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Light, exposure, white balance… all of these factors change from photo to photo, so it’s hugely beneficial the photographer understands how to edit their work depending on the photo’s individual requirements.
Let’s look at it from another angle.
Say you want to create a website. You could get by on a ready-made WordPress theme and change the colours or fonts via the WordPress interface to customise it slightly. Bigger changes—such as to the layout—require you to delve into front-end code. If you’ve relied on ready-made WordPress themes all this time, you’re not going to understand how to edit the code to reflect the changes you wish to make. Ultimately, this restricts your creative vision. If you took the time to understand a little HTML and CSS, you could edit the theme to achieve your desired outcome.
That’s how I look at photo editing. Yes, you can rely on filters to get by, but a true understanding of how individual adjustments work will allow you to take your photo editing to the next level.
Filters certainly have their place, and you shouldn’t feel ashamed or guilty for using them, but you’d be doing yourself a massive disservice not to dig a little deeper into post-processing.