This post has been long in the coming. It’s a topic of some dispute in the photography community. There are people who hold to absolutely NO editing, people who hold to a crazy Photoshop approach (making the image look almost nothing like the original), and people who hold to editing to enhance the already-there quality of the image. These people tend to stick healthily in the middle–and have their own unique style of editing (but not crazy or they end up in the huge Photoshop category).
I fall into the last category…and in this post I will do my best to explain why.
Editing to Enhance
In my own mind…I dislike editing that completely changes an image. For instance I don’t like removing moles or freckles. Those are character adding. But blemishes–I think removing them is a good idea.
I edit to enhance what’s already in the image. Take this image here…(yes I realize I use this one all the time).
So when I edit I try my best to enhance what’s already there. If it’s just a bad picture then that’s my fault. I’m not going to beautify a picture that isn’t beautiful. That in my mind, is just laziness. If there’s no quality–it goes in the trash bin; not my editing platform. But if the image has great potential (focus is on point, lighting and composition are good.) then I will edit to enhance.
Jpeg User of Necessity
I shoot in jpeg for those of you wondering. My simple reason for that is my editing platform doesn’t do a good job editing RAW…and I have had a hard time actually converting them BACK to jpeg for internet sharing.
RAW is another way of shooting on camera. It saves information that jpeg loses. The drawback is that the information makes the image coming out somewhat bland. So you have to edit it back into the image. That’s actually not a bad thing…because RAW images have so much information when they’re fixed–they can be stunning! Jpeg chooses what information is saved in your image. But if you’re using something like light room shooting and converting in RAW is a good idea.
The big difference?
Jpeg processes the picture on your camera for you RAW allows you to process the pictures.
If this confuses you here’s a great article on RAW vs JPEG.
Editing: did you change your mind?
I think in one of my earliest posts I said something about how I want to edit as little as possible to preserve what’s already there. I still agree with that statement. But at some point I realized that not everything can be done right on your camera and still look like a photographer. While I believe that a photographer should actually prove they know how to be one by strong composition, lighting, and focus– I think that a little less than half of photography is editing. Here’s an image I found before and after.
In some ways…I think it boils down to this. Are you planning on becoming a payed photographer? Or are you just everyone’s go to person to snap a photo and preserve a memory? If you’re planning on becoming a photographer…you should consider editing seriously. It’s fine if you want to be a natural light photographer (they still edit!) and if you want the quality of your image to shine through. You can still do that! Just don’t get into presets and filters and do stick to basic edits for lighting and blemish removal.
What’s YOUR Style?
I am going to do something new! I am gonna’ take you through my editing process on an image I took today. I promise the before photo will be the straight-off-the-camera photo. I am going to use screenshots so…yeah. Sorry. That’s the only way I can show you at the moment. I am literally editing this RIGHT NOW as I’m typing this post. So here’s my image:
Here’s what you need to know. This image was shot in overcast weather (today) and I used a picture style setting which increased saturation by 1 and increased sharpening by 3. This is on manual mode…so it’s not cheating 😉 . It’s just part of my style for nature shots. Keep in mind that my style for portraits is different. Also bear in mind that different lighting conditions will influence the choices I make for editing.
- Fix the white balance!
2. Fix chromatic aberrations around the flower by removing magenta and purple from the photos on the color slider.
3. Exposure Fix.
Black level- +23
And that’s it! Here is the before after for you…
You can see my style is a slightly warmer edit overall. This is a pretty recent development which I described in my post I Was Doing It Wrong!
For portraits I like warmer too…but my editing process is different. The reason I chose to edit this image vs. trash it…is because I saw potential in it. I like overcast lighting, and was pleased with the focus. Even the exposure wasn’t bad. I also like the other Queen Anne’s Lace in the background+ I love the blur. So that was a keeper in my mind.
For new people this may still seem like a lot of editing. I understand. I went through the no-edit phase. I was shocked when I saw stuff on pinterest which showed me the unedited work of photographers I looked up to and realized…half of the image was editing!
That’s not to say that the on camera quality isn’t as important. I think it’s the #1 priority. I don’t wanna take awful pictures and then make them look good on an editor! Yuck. But I have noticed that as I learn photography my style and composition and all-around skills–just get better! So don’t get discouraged if your photos don’t look like the pros right off. You will become a better photographer as you practice…and will learn so much more. Oh, and just so you know–the pros’ photos don’t look like the pros’ photos right away either! They edit them too. But the pros are also a lot better photographers as well. A whole lot better than I am.
Do you edit your photos?
How much do you as a photographer (or how little) do you edit your photos?
Thoughts on this subject?
Do you want to see more of my editing processes?