The act of interrupting your life is the first step, for something got your attention.
Do you stop or continue? Now that you have returned, parked, walked back to what caught your gaze, decided to bring out a camera, picked a position, an angle, a focal length, focused, chose a color balance, or just set the camera to A or P. You have done the easy part, taking the picture. Used to be I thought that was it. Too late to think about the background or what was, or wasn't in focus. Plenty of time to rethink that after you get back.
I am referring to digital printing, even if it began with film. More options mean more divergent paths. Once I have settled how much saturation, how much contrast, how much brightness, I bring up or down highlights and decide how much detail in the shadows to bring out. Still need to select how much of the image to keep and lose, in the cropping. This helps keep the printing honest, having exact borders, carefully set. Just as in a cinema movie, editing is critical to how the story will play out. I like to edge my images with borders of one or more colors and tones. Even minor adjustments, can and will have a major influence in the final show.
One of the problems options give you is color balance, done after taking the image. After finishing all the earlier steps, I will go from one extreme color balance to another, in case I see something worth the diversion. Swinging through the color spectrum, blue to red, I often discover new worlds to explore, bringing a new purpose to what was taken.
Somewhere along the trip you have to decide who your audience will be. For me appreciation is just as important as the financial reward, and I have been known to give my work away if it finds the right audience. If your work is for yourself, congratulations. You're done.
If you expect more, do you sell it to a business, a photo agency (pot luck), display as art for sale whether a restaurant, fair, gallery or museum, or to your client. Each of these require additional steps, for it deserves its own kind of display.
This is the exact moment we all wish we had an agent to handle these details. Someday, that might be my job for others, and there will be many clients, but for now I will have to do the work just for myself.
An example of color balance, one of the last steps.
I had photographed a fall tree limb, which by itself, was fine in it's straight appearance. As I swung through the extremes, I went from middle fall, to early fall, and then late fall, (it appears) but really it was the influence of my color balance choices.
Another example of post production decisions...
Altered color balance image.