So when is enough, really enough when it comes to post processing? In other words, when do you stop? It’s not a photo retouching ethics question of when “should” you stop. I’m more interested in how do you (you personally) know when a photo is done? There’s so many things we can do to our photos that, sometimes, it’s hard to call it quits right? Whether it’s personally or professionally, we all want our photos to look great. But we have to balance that with the amount of time we’re willing to spending editing them. And since most of us are our own worst critics, it’s hard to say “enough is enough already!”.
For me personally, I guess it’s done when I look at the photo and I feel like it looks like it did when I was there. The color, brightness, mood, etc… I start off in Lightroom and sometimes it really is done there. A lot of us have a hard time with that though, because we think it should be harder – even though it’s done. If you have a great subject, great light, and you’re in the right place at the right time, enough may really be enough with about 25 seconds worth of work. That’s a good thing.
Here’s a photo taken in Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, when I taught in Dubai last year. Editing took about 30 seconds and maybe 2-3 sliders in Lightroom. It was really easy to say “enough” with this. I mean what can you possibly do with a place as beautiful and pristine as this mosque is?
(Click to see it larger)

Here’s another taken during sunset at Bandon Beach along the Oregon Coast. Again, maybe 2-3 sliders tops and it was enough. It looks like it did when I was there.
(Click to see it larger)

But here’s a photo taken during my trip to Paris a few months ago. This one took significantly longer. There were people to clone out, junk on the ground and of course it’s an HDR so that took some time to tweak to get the way I wanted. It wasn’t until I did all of those things that this photo really looked like it felt when I was there.
(Click to see it larger)

So my question back to you is when is enough, enough? How do you know when to stop? And when you do stop, do you find you go back to a photo a day, or a week (or even month) later and change it? What percentage of your photos see Photoshop? How often are you able to just stick with Lightroom? You don’t have to answer all of those questions but I posed a few to get you thinking. For me, just about every single professional portrait I shoot sees Photoshop, if only for a minute or two for some quick retouching and blemish removal and to brighten the eyes a little. I’d say that about 75% of my travel and landscape photos (that I plan to use in my portfolio) see Photoshop for some quick retouching to remove distractions and (shhhh) maybe even add a new sky. The other 25% of the time, I’m lucky enough to be in a place like Abu Dhabi or Bandon Beach where the light is awesome and the subject is gorgeous. Then it all comes together with just Lightroom, and It’s those times that it’s really easy to call it quits on editing a photo. Other times, not so much