I had a client meeting last night in Cranbrook, Exeter and they asked 'what is editing, what do you actually do?' I found it difficult to explain everything that goes into it, so I thought today's blog should be a further attempt to delve into wedding photography editing and what it actually entails.
I will first briefly touch on two different ways of capturing photos.
1. Jpeg - If you don't edit photos, the chances are you are shooting Jpeg. Basically, this is when you take a picture and then your device (phone or camera) will use computer algorithms to make the image look good. Technology has come a long way and these algorithms are so advanced that even photos taken with a camera that isn't that good (like a phones camera) means the images still look brilliant. For when you're viewing the pictures on your phone at least. Pictures taken with a phone or basic point and shoot cameras will lose their quality when they're printed or viewed on a bigger screen. The main downside of Jpeg is that the images get compressed and therefore lose detail and the ability to truly edit the photos. And because a computer decides what the image should like you lose the ability to use your own artistic skills. Yes, you can apply filters over the image to give it a certain look, but the actual intricacies of editing are gone.
2. RAW - As a professional wedding photographer I always shoot RAW images. Essentially this is where the camera captures the image but applies no algorithm to make the image look 'pretty' like on Jpeg images. The camera simply captures the data when the shutter button is pressed and stores that data without any compression or effects taking place. If you were to then use these images without doing any editing on them then they would look terrible. But because there is no compression and a huge amount of data within the RAW file it allows me to use software on a powerful computer to truly bring out every detail, whereas on Jpeg images that data is gone as it is a compressed file.
In summary if you're not a professional photographer, have no interest in editing and just want to shoot images and look at them instantly afterwards, use Jpeg. If you want the best quality possible, are willing to put in the time to edit your photos and are a professional photographer, use RAW. I live in Exeter and although I’m primarily a wedding photographer, I do love to shoot landscape pictures as well. There is so much beauty to be had in our countryside around Devon that it is essential to edit my own images to really make them shine and I would advise everyone to do the same.
Now that we’ve established that I shoot in RAW format this is what a summary of my editing workflow would be. First, I take a seat in my office here in Exeter, ready for the long process of what is to follow. Second, I would import the images from my camera to my computer. If it’s a wedding I’m importing then that’s a lot of images (think 2000). Next, I will select which images I actually want to use, this is called culling. After selecting the appropriate images (this usually takes about 2-3 hours by the way), I will import these images into Lightroom (my editing software). Then I will straight away back-up these images on an external hard-drive, just in case. Now I can actually begin editing.
Starting with the first image I will ensure correct exposure (brightness), correct white balance (measured in kelvin), apply a few of my own secret settings which makes my photos look universally like my own, add contrast, vibrance, clarity, ensure there is sufficient detail in the highlights and shadows, make sure the image is cropped and straightened correctly and this is the basic stuff.
Next, I will look at what colours are in the photo, if there’s a purple flower I will want to slightly boost purple saturation and maybe reduce the luminance of it at the same time. Different colours mean the same thing applies. Next, ensure the image is sufficiently sharp and that the noise levels are minimal.
Then, using selective tools I will brush out unwanted spots on someone’s face, a distracting piece of trash that might be in the background is removed, the gradient tool used to make sure the highlights in the sky are in detail and not blown out white.
There are a couple of other steps as well which I won’t disclose so as not to give away my entire editing workflow. Oh, this is just image one. Now onto the next one, then the next and on it goes… Total editing time for a full day wedding? Somewhere around 30 – 40 hours. It doesn’t stop after the editing is done. It then involves backing up the photos so they are preserved for years to come. Want a photobook? I have a process within Lightroom for creating these as well. Add on about 3 hours to do this. Upon completion I’ll let out a huge sigh, stare out of my window at surrounding Exeter and imagine the pleased looks on my clients faces. That for me makes it all worth it.
Summary – Editing is long and arduous, but totally worth it. I would always choose to shoot in RAW, if I make a mistake with my camera settings while taking a photo, the uncompressed format of RAW will allow me to recover any lost details. That and I can put my own artistic mark on my photos making sure they look natural with a subtle amount of pop! I will in the future put up a video of my editing workflow and you will see the dedication that goes into. I wouldn’t change it, I love capturing memories and then crafting them into beautiful photographs ready to be gifted into the waiting hands of my clients.
Next topic for my blog – My Fujifilm (Fuji) Photography Kit).
Prime Photos - Exeter, Devon & South-West Wedding Photographer.
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