FAQ: Photography Edition, Part IV!

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LOVE TAZA PHOTO TIPS BJTK

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:

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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:

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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.

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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. ;)

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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).

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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:

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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.

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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!

  1. sydnee

    Love all the before and after photos as they help explain your process. Your pics always look so good!

    x S | Design by Sydnee 💗

  2. Grace

    Cannot wait for your next post! Was going to comment asking you how to organize your photos – right now they are uploaded to iPhoto and then I edit them in Lightroom and am not sure how to go from there! Looking forward to your next offering :) Thanks so much for sharing these tips!!

  3. Carly

    Wow! The before and after pictures are amazing. I had no idea so much went into editing your photos. They always look amazing! Thanks for the tips.

    I’ve been debating getting lightroom to use for my blog, but I can’t decide if it’s worth the monthly cost since they went to their monthly membership option.

    If only VSCO would make their presets work with a free photo editor….

    Carly from http://www.AModernMomBlog.com

  4. Danielle

    This is absolutely amazing. We can’t thank you enough. We’ve been working on mastering our editing process and have looked to you often for inspiration. Thank you for your honesty.

    much love,

    Danielle

    Momwifefoodie.com

  5. Ida

    Interesting post, thank you for explaining! Were you going for greek numbers with the IIII in the title? ;)

  6. Jena

    I would love to see a video tutorial of you editing a couple of photos in this way! So so helpful!

    Thanks!

  7. Ashley

    This is so generous of you to share! Wow I had no idea how much editing changes the whole vibe of a photo, the colors really create a mood. Thanks for sharing this, it’s fun to see the behind the scenes of the process :)

  8. Natalie

    I’d love to know exactly what vsco settings you typically use on your photos!! As you showed with the adobe Lightroom above!

  9. Dani Hallows

    I know you’re a busy woman with lots of new children coming, but if you made your own presets, I would buy them. I hate the dark photos that are popular in the Utah preset world – bright colors forever.

  10. Laura Ortiz

    Thank you Taza for sharing your editing tips, I will certainly try them, your photos always look incredible, I specially like the ones in the snow.

  11. Thanks! I love that you keep it simple. Don’t need to do to much to tell a story with your images!

  12. I love this! Thanks for sharing! I love seeing how other people edit their photos. I totally agree that editing is a creative outlet. I love that your edits reflect your colorful personality!

  13. Alyssa Brown

    Are you able to share which VSCO filter you typically start with? There are so many I’m overwhelmed. I love your editing style! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Lisette

    Thank you for your tips! without knowing I myself use one or two before uploading a picture too. But I had an issue recently with a picture of my hubby and me with a sunset on the back: we were laughing out loud so when I bring the highlights and the vibrance up a little his face becomes a tomato! What can I do to prevent this from happening?

    Xo.

  15. Olivia

    Please share a link to the VSCO filters. I’m overwhelmed with the options online. Would love a recommendation!

    This post and series overall is fantastic. Thank you so much!

  16. Lian

    So so helpful! I’ve always struggled with taking photos of my nieces indoors with awful lighting, and your tips are great! Thank you so much for taking the time to share!!

  17. Kat

    I love these photo posts so so much! And I agree with the comment above, I can’t wait for your next post on organizing your photos. I have soooo many and have failed miserably at organizing :( some questions for that future post: do you organize by camera photos vs phone photos? do you use tags? If you’re working on a photo project (example: Conrad) how do you go about finding your favorite photos of him? Or do you keep a folder with favorites? Since you and your husband both take photos, how do you share photos? Do you have a shared folder? What about videos, do you download them along with the photos? Do you move them to separate folders? Can you do all this in Lightroom? And how do you look at your photos and videos? My kids are obsessed with family photos! We use photos on Apple TV to show them along with videos, lately we use the memories feature and they LOVE the videos!! But since you use Lightroom, how do you actually watch photos other than printing (we print tons but could never print all!!) ok, I’ve NEVER written such a long comment lol but since you asked and are so nice and willing to help us lost souls, I’m so grateful!! THANK YOU again so so much!!

  18. Michelle

    I love this series, it is so helpful! Thank you for sharing all of your tips and tricks! Is there a certain hard drive you would recommend using? I’m looking forward to hearing about how you organize your photos! I found it so helpful when you shared the Legacy Box to scan and preserve old photos! My goal this year is to scan all my photos onto something that I can preserve in a safety deposit box in case of fire or anything. Photos hold so many memories and I would be crushed if I ever lost them! Thank you again for this series, it’s so helpful! :)

  19. Janaan

    Great info! One question, After you import your RAW photos into Lightroom and edit, do you save the final version as a JPG?

  20. Em

    It still seems like you’re leaving something out of your editing process. If we were to follow your tips we still wouldn’t get that greenish hue that ALL of your photos have. Can you clarify what steps you take in Adobe Lightroom to achieve the almost “matted” greenish color you have on all your photos? Almost like a green fade.

  21. Miranda

    Wonderful tips! I love how bright and colourful your pictures are!
    You mentioned the philips hue lightbulbs, but I somehow seemed to have missed those earlier posts about them… Would you mind adding a link in the text above? Thanks! xxx

  22. Sofia

    Thank you for sharing so generously! 🙏🏼✨😊

  23. Olivia

    This is like a restaurant giving away its recipes…Thx!!!

  24. Abie

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I think this has to be “ONE” of the many reasons I love following you!! You are not selfish with what you know or helping others!!! 💙💙💙 these are all SO helpful!

  25. Jessica

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write a technical post about your process. As a photographer I love learning what other people do in the editing process to try new things and expand possibilities. I’m not a natural color lover but I’m excited to play around with your ideas. Thank you thank you!

  26. This is seriously so helpful! I just barely got a new DSLR, and I’m desperate to really learn the features and starting taking (and editing) pictures the right way. Thank you!

  27. Eloa

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips! Great way to show it and to see how you do it! Honestly your photos are the most beautiful I have seen. Love the way you edit your photos but you stay true to it. It makes the most precious memories ever! We french people love your photos, très jolies, bises de France!!

  28. such a good post. thanks naomi.

  29. Hi Josh and Naomi
    I was wondering which adobe light room plan is good for my blog? I’m stuck between buying light room cc and light room photography, Which do you guys use?

  30. kate

    This was a great post! I loved seeing the originals. Your photos are always really great- candid and pure. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Kate

    http://www.mwdgaf.com

  31. Marie

    I really love this series! One of the things I love and admire most are the photos you share! There is just so much of a story behind each picture. I used to take so many pics of my kids but lost touch of it once they were in school. Time to break out the DSLR again. Thanks for the inspiration!

  32. Loved this mini tutorial! I love using lightroom, so I’m going to try your tips the next time I have a batch of pics to edit!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  33. Whitney

    This series is THE BEST. Thank you! I’m playing around with my Lightroom settings already.

    What size do you save your photo as so that the vertical pictures all show up on the computer screen? My blog is optimized for 1500 pixels width but all my vertical pictures are huge when I do that. I’ve been playing around with different sizes for a while but was wondering if you had found the sweet spot. Obviously I have a lot to learn.

    Love your photos as always. And seriously, THANK YOU!

  34. Whitney

    Also now I’m curious- how does Josh like photos edited?

  35. sirma

    This is soooo helpful.
    Thank you for sharing.
    I need to up my editting game;)

  36. Megan

    I loved this post so much! All of your images are so beautiful!

  37. Kelsi

    Ok, so now you have to share what Josh’s editing preferences are! I’m so curious what he prefers compared to you since you mentioned he isn’t a fan of your current editing style!

  38. You have happiness family. Hope i have too.
    Congrat to you

  39. Emilie

    I love how bright and happy your photos look!

  40. This is *so* helpful. So many times I have tossed photos because they were backlit… I am going to give them a chance next time!

  41. Zhia

    Hey Naomi!

    Thank you for the great photo tips! i love taking photos too! my family gets tired of me at the end of the day. and that post on being in the photo is so true. i have to be more brave to ask strangers to take ours now..

    i have tried taking RAW images but have so much trouble uploading and editing with that ginormous file!! how do you store or upload or even edit with such files?

    love your posts always!

  42. The afters are so much better!

  43. I think your love of color and timelessness would really jive with Mastin Labs presets. Thanks for sharing, as always.

  44. You are the best thing on the internet.

  45. Katie

    Really helpful post. I also love the look of raising shadows/blacks and lowering highlights. I tend to raise the luminance on reds, oranges and yellows… I like the effect on skin tones. I also have this habit of sharpening my images and then reducing the noise (raising Luminance and Color). I feel like there is a fine line between a nice smooth image and looking unnatural. What do you think? Do you reduce noise if you sharpen?

    Also… I would be curious what computer you use… desktop or laptop… mac or pc? Thanks… as always :)

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