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May 12, 2011 / arthill

SOOC or not?

SOOC, short for straight out of the camera.  Every day people post photos online at smugmug, Facebook, Flickr, etc. and, in the caption or the description, tell us that the image is SOOC.  Some people who usually manipulate or at least crop their photos seem to give us this information just to say “Hey I know I usually fix up my posts but I got lucky this time and I was so happy with this picture I didn’t need to do anything to it”.   For these people I think it is a way of heading off questions about post processing. 

For others though, it seems that SOOC is some sort of accolade.  That it’s a good thing.  For some it seems they always say SOOC and even go on to say uncropped or no post processing.  Some even emphasize the point in their “about me” or bio section.  “All my photos are SOOC” or something like that.

In today’s post I am going to try to discourage this whole SOOC thing.  I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings but sticking with SOOC and trumpeting the fact just doesn’t make sense.  Ed Spadoni  over at 2guysphoto and I have had some conversations about this.  We see a lot of photos that could be significantly improved by cropping.  His post today ask-2-guys-photo-im-ready-for-my-close-up has a good example of how cropping can make a huge difference.  My post Crop it makes the same point.  Why would I be happy with this

when I can crop to this?

Here’s the way I ended that post

“Too many people take it as a badge of honor to post everything on-line just as it came out of the camera (SOOC). Don’t be one of those. I’d much rather look at an image that displays your cropping skill and judgment than occasionally be impressed that your in viewfinder composition was spot on. Sure, theoretically in viewfinder composition should be as good as you can make it. Practically it often isn’t. So crop already.”

But I’m not just talking about cropping.  Most pictures can be improved with other post processing techniques.  It can be something quite complicated or something very simple e.g. adjusting the exposure or contrast.  If you don’t want to make any adjustments you’re saying that you’re willing to accept all mistakes that your camera’s metering system makes. Why?

Let’s say you shoot a picture and see right away on your camera screen that it is too bright.  So you make some camera adjustments and take another picture.  Why is that any better than noticing that a picture is too bright and adjusting it on your computer before you post it somewhere.

I think some people have the idea that the great photographers from the past were great because they got the exposure and composition right SOOC.  That’s baloney.  They manipulated things a lot in the darkroom – burning, dodging, cropping, doing prints with various exposure times and then picking the best. And the pros, now?  They go nuts with Photoshop.  Lots of them only shoot RAW so that they can do all of their tweaking on the computer.  In other words, they never produce an SOOC image. 

I’m not suggesting that – it’s just as silly to never do SOOC as it is to always do SOOC.

I’ll get off the soapbox now and close with a few examples of pictures I shot that were okay SOOC or needed a little help.


SOOC                                                                         Adjusted exposure                                        Gave it black background            Put a red border around it

SOOC although I could darken the background and even crop some off the top.



la jolla cove IMG_7238 2-13-2011

Straightened it and adjusted the exposure.


Leave a Comment
  1. Maryann Goldman / May 12 2011 1:10 pm

    Points WELL noted. I am sure I will rethink my words before I say sooc on a daily post now;-) But, seriously, once I thought pp was a cheat, and I am over it now. I always try several things with my shots to see if they can be improved. Sometimes not but MANY times yes.

  2. Susan Wilde / May 12 2011 6:36 pm

    I agree with you on this. I see many shots that are SOOC and are nice, but a little cropping and adjustments can take them from “Nice” to “Spectacular”.

  3. Billie King / May 12 2011 7:42 pm

    Great blog topic Art. Liked your sample pictures, really made the point. But in particular I liked the last two, in using a little help with the exposure. I play with exposure a lot and find it hard because I work on a MAC and I know my pix look different on my husband’s PC…not always better or worse, but certainly different. I don’t know what to do about that. It would be nice if those people on the dailies who really know photography (like you and Phil and Curtis and so many many others) would do some constructive criticism on some of our pictures—you could use mine in fact and it would never hurt my feelings and everybody who stumbled onto my pix would benefit…I realize that’s pie in the sky stuff. You’re awesome to do these blogs for us. Thank you so much

  4. Howard Hull / May 13 2011 3:43 pm

    I agree Art. I try and get it right in the camera but 99% of the time it seems I don’t and/or I want to add a little more pizazz and post processing really helps. Thanks again for your very helpful blogs, they’re great!

  5. Janet McQueen / May 14 2011 10:33 am

    Excellent blog & I entirely agree. I really think that every digital image needs at least basic contrast enhancement & sharpening, especially when shot in raw & your points on cropping are an important consideration for every single shot. Post-processing is a wonderful tool that has given us unlimited freedom to create the image we envisioned when we took the shot, or to create something entirely different…. & although I know it’s not for everyone, I love it!
    Your topics are always so relevant, Art…. I am really enjoying your work here… :-))

  6. sharkbayte / May 14 2011 3:24 pm

    This is interesting and very helpful info; last year I started the dailies, and really started to get into photography, I was reading whatever I could find online. I had read in so many places that you need to get it right in the camera, I had even read that if you have to crop or edit your photo it’s ruined. So that is how I approached photography and doing the dailies. I had a lot of comments on my pictures regarding that approach. I thought it was the correct way to do it and I was also not using the auto dial on my camera, then I read I should shoot in raw/jpeg. I never could understand how everyone’s pictures were so perfect. I have no idea why I thought posting on the dailies it was supposed to be sooc either. But as the year progressed I started adjusting levels and yes even cropped my pictures. This year I am trying to learn more about post editing as well as the basics and composition. So Art, your blog has been a great help! I really thought I was failing by not posting SOOC all the time and as well as announcing when it was SOOC. I wonder why so many folks (myself included) have this idea regarding SOOC?

  7. Doug Sandquist / May 14 2011 9:57 pm

    I’ll chime in.. I remember about 6 years ago I started a Picture a day project that lasted 16 months… During that time I shot everything RAW and spent a long time in the Post… and had the mindset that I could fix most things in post, which is not true. I stopped because of the time it took in post..
    So when I started this year again, I made a commitment to get it better out of the camera so my pp needs were less. The fact of the matter is there is a lot of wasted pixels in most histograms that just don’t need to be there.. So basic level adjustments almost always help digital images… I’m using Aperture for my PP now and have discovered that the Auto Enhance button works almost flawlessly in one click when the exposure is correct out of the camera. Personally I’m not a big fan of post cropping as you end up losing pixels, but this is just a personal bias. I do very little in post, mainly because I get the exposure closer out of the camera than I used to, doesn’t mean I’m a better photographer, but I see things I didn’t see before and I try to fix them before I take the picture… Oh and I almost never shoot RAW, it takes far too much time for my needs…I think in general SOOC images are a little bit dull, but that’s just me I suppose

  8. Harsh / May 18 2011 6:33 am

    I totally agree with you Art. There’s a school of thought that one should perfect the exposure such that it does not require any PP. The you also find some who go overboard with PP! To each to his own I guess. I shoot in RAW so the least I need to do is to convert it to jpg which still is SOOC. Lot of my pics are shot on-the-go while traveling or on street where one does not have the luxury of perfecting each shot in camera. Like you, I’ve found that some pictures come out much better after PP or a little correction while a few work fine just as they are.

  9. Ed Knepley / Jul 17 2011 9:45 am


    Stopped by after reading your comment on my blog’s HDR post today. Thanks.

    Couldn’t pass this SOOC post without comment.

    I’m a SOOC of sorts as I advocate getting the image as “perfect as possible” when you click the shutter. Of course perfect depends on lots of things – that’s where the “as possible” comes in. All that said, every image of mine undergoes PP color & tonal contrast adjustments at a minimum (plus RAW>jpeg/tif conversion. I believe in 100% RAW unless there’s a good reason not to.).

    Regarding your cropping comments & red truck example: IMO, there was no reason to have included all of the material that was cropped out to *begin with*. That’s why nearly every image I make is done with a tripod – to slow down and see before the fact rather than in PP. Crop first in the viewfinder – and later for fine tuning if needed and not major surgery as with the truck.

    Not 100% SOOC, but not shoot it now & fix it in Photoshop later either.There’s a happy medium which I guess is your message.

    Nice blog,

  10. arthill / Jul 17 2011 11:41 am

    Thanks for the comment Ed. I fully understand your point about doing the composition right in the viewfinder but sometimes it doesn’t work out. For the truck picture I would have had to cross the street and I guess I was lazy. I always shoot RAW but sometimes I’m pretty happy with the camera produced JPEG.

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