today’s blog post is all about how we edit photos. i’m sharing the basics of what i do to the photos taken with our bigger camera when i edit them on my computer, but these tips can be helpful to everyone since you can mimic a lot of it in any sort of editing program, even with photo editing apps on your phone or in instagram!
i know so many of you have been asking for this one, so i hope this is helpful and answers as many questions on the topic as possible. i love taking photos so much! but i think my absolute favorite part of the process is the editing part that comes next. i think one of the reasons this part is so much fun for me is because i don’t think there is any wrong way to do it, and it’s fun to see how everyone expresses themselves through their own editing process. for example, some people really love muted tones and taking away all the color, others favor saturation or a specific preset filter… the aesthetic is completely up to what your eye prefers and desires, and i think it’s something that really sets everyone’s photos apart and can make one person’s batch unique from the rest.
after taking photos on our camera, we use adobe lightroom to edit them. you can buy prepackaged presets by a number of companies or photographers to use within the program. i own some by VSCO (which is my favorite app for editing photos on my phone). this past year or so, i’ve basically created my own sort of preset filters built off of one i liked from VSCO, which i finessed many times, tweaking every little bar and level, until i came up with something new i really loved and was happy with. one of the perks to using lightroom is that after you edit one photo exactly how you want it, you can sync an entire batch of photos to that same photo edit. while this is a great tool that makes editing a much quicker process, i still go through each of my photos after syncing them altogether and tweak each one individually a bit more to my liking.
here is a BEFORE and AFTER photo showing what i usually start with and where i finish:
i don’t like doing a ton of stuff to the original photo, but i am a huge sucker for color and the biggest thing for me is making the photo pop more with more vibrance or saturation.
even if you don’t use adobe lightroom, i wanted to share the basics of what i do to the photos in the program, since you can mimic a lot of it in any sort of editing program. the main things i work with, are lifting the blacks and the shadows in the image, bringing down the highlights (it brings back so much detail into the photo), using a little bit of contrast and bringing up the vibrance. you can also try to find a way to work with each hue of color individually if you’d like, which most photo editing programs allow you to do (i do this most with my reds and oranges, to help skin tones not feel flat).
below is an example of where i often move the bars when i’m editing a photo to give it the colors i like:
something else worth noting is that josh and i always shoot our photos in RAW (vs JPEG). the quality is always so much higher, because none of your photo information is compressed, which also gives you a lot more room to edit afterwards since you have all the info there to work with and nothing was tampered with when it may have been compressed.
we also shoot all of our images manually, which is another thing that really helps the image in the first place. we are both self taught, and while it can feel a little overwhelming at first when you have your camera set to manual, it’s all about just getting out and taking photos through trial and error until you feel confident shooting in manual.
here is another example of where bringing back in color, specifically warmer tones, with a little bit of contrast, really helped the photo to pop more.
the next few photos are examples of how small tweaks like lifting the blacks and shadows, bringing down the highlights, and also adding some contrast, can help a photo feel a little more alive. again, it’s all about your preference. to be completely honest, josh doesn’t love the way i edit my photos right now and we are constantly going back and forth about it. ;)
you can really bring back the detail in the sky when shooting outdoors by playing with the highlights in the photos! bringing exposure down a bit can help as well, but i really don’t do that too often because i love when the photo is more bright and light than feeling dark and moody (and we usually do a good job of not overexposing our photos).
the other big thing is dealing with yellow light when shooting indoors. josh has put philips hue lightbulbs into most of our light fixtures and lamps (we’ve talked a lot about this before because we love them so much!), which is amazing because we can change the light settings in each room on our phone with their app, so they are dim or bright, so it’s a white light or a more yellow light. this helps with creating the right mood and energy for what you’re doing at different times of day and night, and it also helps significantly when we are shooting indoors to mimic the natural light outside coming through windows and to get rid of the yellow hues.
sometimes though, you can’t really get away from the yellow tones and this is when i play with temperature during the editing process. i’ll bring my temperature setting down into cooler tones, which takes out all the yellow light bulb color. i’ll then restore as much color back into the photo by lifting the vibrance, and working with the red, yellow and orange hues and luminance individually. see the photos below as an example:
i wanted to share this last photo below as an example of when sometimes your settings are totally wrong and you might be bummed afterwards, thinking the shot is ruined. this happens a lot if you are backlit (josh is always so good at finding the light when we shoot! i am always asking him as i take the camera…) or if you don’t realize your settings have changed while you’ve been shooting. we had big bulky gloves on while playing in the snow on this day and i think i kept accidentally sliding the dial on the back of my camera around. we were also losing all the natural light outside as the sun was setting, so a few things were working against us.
but don’t ever feel discouraged if you realize your favorite photo from the bunch was taken on the wrong setting. while it’s not perfect or as ideal as getting the photo the first time with correct settings, there is a lot you can still do afterwards to help a photo that is backlit, by bringing in a more natural light during the editing process. it’s all about lifting some of that dark out of there, and bringing back in as much detail into the color as you can. you can do it through the steps i already talked about, the shadows and highlights, the vibrancy and temperatures. it’s possible! so don’t get worried if something you love looks too dark or grainy at first.
a few other simple quick fixes that i often perform on my photos is straightening them. i prefer all of my lines to be as straight as possible, so that’s a big one for me. i don’t really crop photos after taking them, because we usually work to crop the image how we want it when we shoot it. occasionally i might sharpen an image slightly, but i really don’t do much else beyond that.
when uploading our photos from the camera, we have a hard drive plugged in, and upload the images directly into a folder in adobe lightroom which lives on the hard dive. but i’ll share more about photo organizing and photo storage in my next photography post.
let me know if there’s anything i might have missed! i hope this helps! it’s really just about opening up a photo editing program on your computer or phone with a photo you love and playing with it a bit until it’s something you love. once you’ve figured out exactly what that might be, it’s incredible how quick editing can be!
PS. if you want to learn more about our camera equipment (what camera bodies and lenses we use), see THIS POST.
and i wrote all about getting candid photos (especially of kids!) in THIS POST!
and HERE IS A BLOG POST all about getting everyone in the shot when you’re away from home, without hauling a heavy tripod around!