I used to hate editing photos. It actually pained me to get onto Lightroom to go through the hundreds of images I would take (A little trigger happy) and find my top choices to then slide some toggles and push some buttons. It was agony. I wanted that final image that would wow people but I didn’t always want to go through the journey of getting there. Now, 5 years into being a professional photographer I actually love getting to edit images.
There’s a sense of wonder to turning a scene into what I think it looks like. I fully own the story and tell it from a new perspective with coloring, details, and lighting that are all my tools to tell it my way. My photo editing process is a journey of itself, one I’m still on as I look for the perfect method to share a story. But, today, this is what it looks like.
The Culling Process
It all starts with culling the images. While I no longer consider myself trigger happy, a shoot will usually bring in anywhere from 100-500 photos depending on the length and the storyline. Of course, many of these images are duplicates or don’t capture the story just right and will be discarded. With Lightroom’s rating system I go through the images a few times grading each image. The first round I tag anything that catches my eye with 1 star. In the second round, I start to look for more details in the image and tag the best with 2 stars. This process continues until I’m down to the 5-star ratings, picking out the best of the best images.
What started with 100-500 images will drop down to 50-200 images to give to a client for their final selects. Based on the shoot size and the clients needs, I send them a gallery where they can select the images that fit their needs and they feel the most connected to to use in their branding.
My Photo Editing Process
Now we get to the good stuff. The images that the client has selected from my top pics are tagged and arranged for me to start editing. In this process, I have a filter I’ve created that has the base settings I love. I look for high contrast, deep blacks, intense sharpening, and coloring that’s tweaked to feel a bit cinematic. At the end of editing, I want my photos to feel bold, colorful, and adventurous without feeling fake. My biggest pet peeve is a photo that looks oversaturated or like a cartoon. I’m going for realistic but emphasized. That’s important to me. It’s also why I don’t photoshop bodies to look, unlike the original model. Basic skin editing to keep skin looking natural and removing any blemishes that aren’t permanent.
Once I’ve added my base filter to all the images I’ll go through and tweak each image individually; playing with lighting, removing distractions, cleaning up the sky. This is a laborious process to make each image its best. But it’s so worth it. By giving specific attention to an image I’m able to create real impact. The story needs to shine and the images need to be able to work together or live on their own and have the same impact for a brand (or the wall it’s hanging on).
Since I was a kid, I’ve been a fast worker. I would actually get in trouble for always being the first one to finish a test or get through with a project. My teachers thought that I wasn’t putting enough work into these tasks and therefore being lazy. The truth of the matter is that I’m fast. I’ve always been the kind of person to make a decision and stick with it which made testing go easier. I’ve also learned productivity hacks to make sure that my times is effective, hence the overall preset I use on my images as a base. But over the years I’ve learned that by coming back to your work you’ll see things you might have missed in the first round, which is why when I think I’m done I give it at least 24-hours and then come back to look through all the images again.
I want to hand over images that I’m proud to put my name on. This means not rushing the process but being fully present to it. I’m looking for details of how to make an image better every time I look at it so that when I give them to my clients they get the same impact I want their customers to get.
Giving Photos To A Client
My roots of photography are in family and engagement photos so I might have a few quirks that other commercial photographers don’t have. Like the fact that I still hand images over in an online gallery. It’s a great system and organized well so it works for me. Until I find something better I use Pass to send over photos and let clients know that their online gallery will last for one year. They’ll want to download everything and back it up to ensure that they don’t lose any of these powerful images. (Although usually, as soon as they get them they’re downloading them to put to use!)
A few weeks after sending images I like to follow up and see how the images are working for them. Find out if they have any questions or need ideas on how to utilize these photos. Having powerful images that will connect with your customers is important. But if you aren’t using them, they won’t do anything for you. I want to make sure that my client’s investments are working for them.
My photo editing process continues to evolve over the years but one thing always stays true, I’m looking to capture a story, one that feels natural but has an impact. I know that these images will be used over and over again to unify a brand. I take my job very seriously in getting to tell the stories of others dreams and life’s work. This is why I take my time with photos, plan out shoots with details and thought, and follow up with clients to ensure that they’re happy with their end product. At the end of the day, my job is to help sustainable businesses unify their brand.
If you want to see this process come to life, schedule your next Lifestyle Photoshoot with me. It’s time that you had the photos that will impact your customers and tell your story. You won’t be disappointed in this investment.