I was asked recently how I edited photos....
Well, in fact I get asked this a lot. And I'm going to break that down for you in a minute.
I actually got asked if I edit photos.
Which may seem like a no brainer and I'd be insulted, but I'm not really. I can take excellent images with my phone, or on film or (and I have done this before and enjoyed the challenge) just setting my Fuji's to JPEG and delivering a shoot and burn wedding. There is no real substitute for getting your images looking as awesome as possible in camera.
So yes, if you were wondering I do edit my images. I don't outsource them, and I don't just balance the exposure and colour balance, apply a quick preset and call it a day.
I really want your eye to go exactly where I want it to when you look at one of my images. I really want the image to tell a story and have a natural flow and shape. I want it to make you laugh or cry or at least feel a little fond or happy about the subject.
I also recently won an award from This Is Reportage for this image. So it's an excellent chance to humblebrag whilst talking about image editing. This is Reportage is an awesome collective run by Alan Law that celebrates all things documentary and reportage in the wedding / family photography world. After listening to a few podcasts I really felt I'd found my crowd.
Anyways, I thought the best way to start would be to look at the original image and maybe work forwards and see what happens on the page.
So here it is. Naked out of the camera with no adjustments. I saw the shot and put my camera up high to take it. The light is really nice and I wanted to get some of the table and drinks in for context, but obviously the main subject in the girl, immersed in her phone and wrapped in the veil.
It really is a grab shot, I had a 16mm lens on and just quickly grabbed it without being able to focus too much on the composition at the time. I think if I'd taken my time I'd have alerted her to the photo and lost the moment - and definitely the feeling she's in her own world.
The first decision is usually whether this is a colour or B&W image.
So what makes me convert images to black and white? Usually strong emotions, strong lines and beautiful light will tilt me towards trying an image out in B&W. Also if there's lots of colours competing for attention.
I think all the colours sit really nicely together here without any interference from me.
It looks nice in B&W, but I like the warmth from the colours in this instance.
This isn't a totally unbreakable rule. But our eyes are drawn to the brightest part of the image. So a big part of editing is damping down those bright spots that are competing for attention.
In the finished image you'll see cropping, and a lot of dodging (lightening areas of the image) and burning (darkening areas of the image) to make sure our attention is firmly on the girl, and that the other elements recede into the background a bit.
If the highlights are creating a nice white negative space, or some interesting drama in the image I think this is a different matter - and can often add to the image and create a different contrast within it.
Quick look at the finished version again to stop you having to scroll to the top;
I currently use Lightroom for 99.9% of everything. I also have photoshop, but it's just their for emergencies and graphic design. I always say if I need to open it then I've made a mistake... see the initial point about getting it right in camera.
I also use the processing in the Fuji camera's if I'm away on holiday and can't be bothered with editing. Sometimes I use the VSCO mobile app for extra editing or phone pictures.
I like a really filmic look to my images, so mixing and matching Fuji cameras, VSCO and my own special preset tends to get me where I want to be.
Yes. I had them custom made for me by Amy-Leigh at Northern Presets Co. I was tired of buying presets I wasn't 100% happy with and wanted something that matched my own tastes.
It was a big investment (both time and money) but so valuable - I haven't looked back or wanted to tweak them since.
I spend a lot of time getting the colours and skin tones to look as natural as possible - that is the main job I do with colour. I don't like the current yellowy look that's going round, and I try to keep colours quite natural and close to the original. So after that the only editing I'll do is desaturating a colour that's competing for too much attention
Saturating the crap out of a colour that deserves the attention. The yellow in the following picture is pushed all the way up to draw your eye to it.
(Although yellow is a full on colour - and could probably be left to fend for itself)