In light of the fact that last week's topic was such a heavy one, I thought I would lighten it up a little on this Monday! I thought I would shed some light on something that seems so mysterious to anyone who is not a photographer...and for the first time, I'm sharing a picture that I haven't edited one bit! So...this one is a little scary for me :)
It is true that, for those of us who don't outsource it, a lot of a photographer's time is spent editing pictures after they are taken. This is the reason why sometimes it seems like sessions that may only last an hour or two cost a lot...because there's far more work that goes on behind the scenes, both before and after, than actually photographing the event! Today I want to talk about what exactly we do to edit a picture and how long it really takes.
How long does it take to edit pictures? To be honest, this will vary widely from one event and one photographer to another. For me, editing a single picture generally does not take too long, and I am able to finish editing a full 8-10 hour wedding day in 4 weeks at the most...but oftentimes even sooner than that!
Editing also depends heavily on the workload of that current season. In February and March I am able to process everything a lot faster than I can in the middle of June's crazy wedding season! Sometimes, even if it only takes a few hours to edit a session, there is such a huge amount of other work that it can't be the only thing I do the next day, and it may take a bit just to open it up and begin. However, to give a little perspective, I am almost always able to edit and post a sneak peek of any session or wedding the same day it is finished, so a solitary picture is not terribly time consuming for photographers with my style.
What exactly do you do? Ok, so here's where the magic is...or lack thereof! The Honest Truth is that my goal is editing a picture as little as possible because it's almost perfect as soon as I take it. I will adjust my settings so one picture to the next is consistent and bright enough, and I don't change these unless the light changes. For this reason I am often able to select several pictures at once and edit them simultaneously since they will generally need similar retouches.
The most common edits I make are: white balance (making sure skin tones look like skin tones!), exposure (brightness), preserving highlights (the brightest spots in the picture), and straightening the image if it's crooked. For more complicated edits I may change other settings like chromatic aberration (that's when there's a weird colored outline on contrasting elements like tree branches against a sky), distortion (if the picture is bowed inward or outward), and sometimes I will 'spot' edit an area when the rest of the image looks good but there is one particular place that needs some extra attention.
So...without further ado...here is a before and after edit as I explain my process! Keep in mind that everyone edits differently and I'm sure I have a lot to learn, but what I do know is the style that my couples love and expect, and that's what I adhere to while I edit. Enjoy!
In the left image, the main things wrong are that the color balance is off and is far too blue and it is a little crooked (sometimes I could swear one of my legs is shorter than the other...). I used the sweater's white to balance it out, warming up the image a little bit, and used the straightener tool to make sure the bridge was straight in the image. I also pulled back the highlights just a touch so they weren't too bright in the background.
This one required a bit more editing. The color balance was off and the image was a little dark, so I brightened and warmed it up a little bit. I also desaturated the diamond and added some clarity to it so it would pop. Finally, I removed some of the most distracting imperfections on the blade of grass.
So there you have it...the editing process revealed! And that, friends, is The Honest Truth about Editing. Happy Monday!
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