The Editing Process

1. If you are a photographer, you will see that my techniques are very simple. I know that I personally learn from seeing processes go from beginning to end. Hopefully seeing my process will give you one or two things you can take away and make your own to fit your own style.

2. If you are a client, or admirer of photography, I hope you can take away a deeper appreciation for what goes on “behind the scenes”. As photographers, our job isn’t over when we go home after the shoot. That’s when we start the second half of the creative process, achieving a look and feel to your images and tweaking to make you look your best.

The images you see here are from a recent track shoot I did with my sister-in-law. They were taken at about 9am before the sun was directly overhead. I try to always shoot with my subject’s face in the shade to avoid any harsh shadows.

All of my editing is done using Adobe Photoshop. I shoot all of my images in the RAW file format. (Sorry if I just lost all of you clients. Please ignore the nerdy photography talk. I’m one of the least technical photographers you will ever meet, but there will still be a few technical terms thrown in here. Sorry.)

This first image is straight out of camera, with no editing. Pretty good exposure, but very little contrast. Just not a “wow” image for me yet.
Next, I open the image in the Photoshop RAW dialog box and start to make some changes…
First, I make sure the exposure is just where I want it. I usually lift the exposure to where the skin is just about to be overexposed. That hides a lot of imperfections in the skin and gives it a glowing affect.
Then I check the overall color of the image. I usually shoot in auto white balance. Typically, I warm the image a little, but try to make the skintones look as natural as possible.
Then I increase the contrast by increasing the density of the blacks, and the contrast.
The last step is to add a bit of a vignette to darken the edges and set off the subject. The vignette shouldn’t be noticeable as a dark circle around the edges. It should be subtle enough that you can’t tell it’s there unless you compare a before and after.
The final step is to open the image in Photoshop and do any retouching necessary.
There are 4 steps in my process…
1. I use the healing brush tool to remove any stray hairs, blemishes, or distracting items from the background.
2. I use the clone stamp tool with a 15% flow to gently brush out any red spots or deep shadows on the skin. I don’t remove wrinkles, but I do lighten the shadows that make us notice them.
3. I use the dodge tool to brighten the eyes and add that “little sparkle.”
4. I make the final crop, if I feel that I missed it when I was cropping in camera.
Here’s an example with a different image in a different lighting situation. The last image was shot into the backlight. This image was taken in the shade at the top of the bleachers. Both images were shot on a very sunny day. This is the image straight out of camera.
With the RAW dialog box corrections…
With the final retouching done in Photoshop…

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