Editing secrets | Photography Tips & Tricks

A couple weeks ago I ask my Facebook fans if they had any suggestions for blog post topics. I got a few really great suggestions and I'm going to talk about one of them now. I was asked to write about beginner photo editing. I'm not going to get into all the technical details of photo editing, but I think it's a great opportunity to talk about my editing style. So here you go!

Post processing is a huge part of photography. Yes there are photographers who don't do post processing at all, such as Zach and Jody Gray for example. They teach how to get it right in camera, which really is every photographer's goal. It is not always that easy to do though, due mainly to equipment and light limitations. To get it right in camera, you have to be able to control exposure and white balance most importantly, but also know how to manipulate the scene to get the final product to look the way you want it to. This often means using special tools like reflectors, off camera lighting, filters or a slew of other, often expensive, pieces of equipment.

So, for those of us who are just starting out or who can't afford to invest in those things (yet), that's where Photoshop (or other photo editing software) comes in. You can do anything with Photoshop really. You'll often hear people say "you can Photoshop that, right?" in reference to adjusting or changing how they look. And the answer is often yes, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing for your photos.

My editing style is still evolving, but I have found that I am leaning towards "clean edits", meaning nothing fancy, nothing overdone and as little editing as possible. When I started out in this business, and I discovered Photoshop actions (a recording of a series of commands to which you apply a name. You can play the recording back to apply the action to any photo. You can purchase and download actions created by others or create your own), I admit that I sometimes overdid it. The subject's eyes were a little too bright, their skin was a little too soft or the colour was a little to harsh. As I learned to use actions in moderation, I have found that there are certain ones that work for my photos, but don't change the original image too much. Instead, they enhance the image and make it look even better than the original.

Here is an example of my editing process, without getting too technical:

  • Adjust white balance and exposure in Adobe Camera Raw (a Photoshop plugin that allows you to edit RAW files - so you can do basic edits there without losing any important information from the image)
  • Open image in Photoshop and crop if necessary. I try to crop every photo the way I want it in camera.
  • Remove any distracting background objects, skin blemishes or other unnecessary things in the photo using the clone tool or the healing brush. I decide what to remove on an image-by-image basis, because some things are just part of the scene while others are not important to the story being told.
  • Adjust Levels. This increases or decreases the highlights and shadows in the image, to add contrast. I try to balance both so there are no blown out parts or loss of detail in the shadows.
  • Apply an eye brightening action. Sometimes I do this in conjunction with a portrait action that also softens skin slightly and removes redness in skin. I adjust the opacity on each level as I go to make sure I'm not overdoing it.
  • Apply a subtle action that pops the colour in the image. I have several different actions that I use for this, depending on the photo and how much I need or want to add that colour pop.
  • In most cases, I'm pretty much done at this point so I just sharpen slightly and save the image.
  • Sometimes I will do a black and white conversion, if I feel the photo will work as B&W. Or I will play around with other more creative actions to see if anything else will work, like vintage, haze or colour boosting actions.
That's it! After that I save as high resolution jpeg for printing and also as a low-res jpg with my watermark for posting online. Here are a few examples of some recent photos and how I edited them.

For this photo, I darkened the black background so that the family really stood out. Then I popped the colour and sharpened it. That's it!

This is one of my favourite recent shots. After I brightened it a bit, I had to remove some red from baby's skin, then I softened it a bit and brightened her eyes. Then I applied the colour pop action and sharpened it.

This image of this beautiful bride didn't need much post processing. I used the clone tool to remove a distracting sign on the wall in the background, I brightened her face and added a little warmth to the whole shot. Then I ran the colour pop action and sharpened.

The main thing is not relying too much on post processing, because not only does it take away from the subject(s), but it takes a lot more time. It can be fun playing around with different editing styles, but in the end I want to make sure my clients have photos that they can be proud to display on their walls regardless of how they are edited. And my editing style is constantly evolving as I learn new techniques. Photoshop is a very powerful tool, and I am nowhere near an expert on it. It's a lot of fun the learn!

If you are still with me, I hope you enjoyed my little lesson. If nothing else, I hope that it helped you to understand the work, time and care that goes into creating all of my images. xo

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