Before and After – The Power of Editing
Back in the days before digital photography, photos had to be taken on film. Film is still used by some photographers who love the medium, who enjoy the nostalgia of film, or who like the challenge. Film photographers have a few different ways they can influence the final look of their photos. Different color film stocks, like Kodak Portra 800, Agfa Vista 400, or Fuji Pro 400H for example, each have different tones and qualities that affect the way images turned out.
In the darkroom, film can be developed in different ways to influence the photo’s aesthetic. It’s a real process to develop photos in a darkroom. Even famous photographers, like Ansel Adams, used editing techniques to enhance their photos. Good photographers just want their photos to be the best they can be.
Editing digital photos can be just as extensive, if not more, than film. Software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are essential to achieve professional results. When I edit my photos, I start in Lightroom and apply global adjustments first. First, I apply my custom preset on all of the photos to give them my signature colors and tones. Then I go through one by one to adjust exposure, white balance. At the same time I straighten and crop.
I always expose my photos for the highlights. That means I make sure all the data in the important highlights (skin, clothing, sky, etc.) is still available when I go to edit the photo. My cameras allow me to see a histogram- a graph that shows all the data in the image based on tonal value. So I can see if the data in the highlights is available, or if it’s pushed too far and has disappeared. Once the data is gone, there’s no getting it back.
Sometimes, like when the light is coming from behind a subject, I need to underexpose quite a lot to retain the data in the highlights. But my cameras can handle underexposure very well. As long as my ISO isn’t too high, I can bring back the shadows in an image with almost no consequences.
Some photos require more than just a global edit. They have spots that need brightening or darkening. Or some spots that need to be sharpened or smoothed out. Editing photos is truly an art, and it’s up to the artist to decide what adjustments they can make to enhance and perfect their photos.
Some photos require retouching- the art of polishing a photo in a more extensive way. Retouching photos, especially skin, takes skill and talent. I include standard retouching with all of my work, like removing skin blemishes and distracting elements. I prefer my photos to look natural, true-to-life. So you can’t really tell I did anything to them. I’m not a fan of plastic-looking skin or perfectly smooth hair. Most of the retouching I do is done within Photoshop. It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it!
I see my work as art, therefore when I deliver it, I want it to be as good as it possibly can be. I wouldn’t ever want to deliver an unfinished artwork. So each of my photos is edited and retouched before I deliver it. That way I know when the world sees it, it’s going to be amazing.
Want to learn more about how I edit my photos? I offer 1:1 Mentoring for photographers! I’d love to show you my editing workflow, how to use Lightroom presets, and how you can develop your own signature style. Find out more here.
Lume Photography is a fine art elopement and wedding photographer based in Michigan, travelling worldwide. Behind the camera you’ll find me (Andrea)- a girl who loves animals, the wilderness, and love stories. I believe in magic, soulmates, and the hidden forces of energy that connect everything and everyone in the universe. My favorite places are the woods, the mountains, and the ocean. My passion is documenting the moments, emotions and connection between two souls in love, in wild places. I travel to Arizona, Colorado, California, Scotland, and beyond to photograph wild elopements and small destination weddings.