Occassionally it’s fun to look back on older images and compare how much things and skills have changed over the years. Today I had a really awesome one-on-one mentoring session with Leann Hadgis of Leeann Hadgis Photography and we took a look at this image. Some mentoring clients choose to send their images to work on during sessions and some sessions we work on my images. She had mentioned this one specifically, of a senior I had shot in the fall of 2009. We worked through the edit online. I always get a kick out of seeing how different an image can look just with different editing applied. My workflow and editing process has improved and evolved over the years to become very straightforward and consistent. I think consistency in workflow is what many photographers lack and it’s what leads to a lot of frustration in post production and long hours spent at the computer. My workflow is something I could do in my sleep… and often do when I can’t shut my brain off from work. =)
Here’s the progress of the image we worked on today in mentoring.
1. RAW image SOOC with Lightroom’s import settings of increased blacks, medium contrast tone curve, increased contrast and brightness and sharpening. I like to clear a lot of that out of my images BEFORE editing in PS.
2. This is the image after toning a lot of that “oomph” down in Lightroom. This is what the image looked like before taking it into Photoshop.
3. Here’s the edit we achieved today. It’s warm and rich and vibrant without being eye-searingly saturated. It’s a little bit dramatic and artistic, without being completely over the top. For me, I want to process my images into art pieces that convey to the viewer that a professional artist created them. I want them to have a look that is signature to me. Finding a signature style is a great way to build a brand. You know you’ve created something special when people can look at your work and see YOU and your style in the final piece. Whether that’s found in your compositions, lighting or editing, having a “look” is a key aspect of your brand. Having said that, styles will evolve and skills will develop over time that may change your signature look. I know I’m in that place right now with transitioning my style to a softer more matte finish. It can be hard to make those transitions after clients get used to seeing your style a certain way. You know what I say to that…. do what feels right for YOU. If you have a look that doesn’t feed your creative soul anymore, shift it. Move in new directions. Experiment, grow, change. Be the kind of photographer YOU want to be. Produce the kind of images you feel strongly about. When your heart is in your work and you feel passionate about your process and look, your images will reflect that. I don’t think we should be afraid to morph as artists. If we don’t, we stand a good chance of getting stagnant and resenting our predictable look and consequently, our work reflects that.
There are so many styles out there that are specific to different photographers. This image below just happens to be the *updated* signature style that’s suited me for several years. Some people may like extremely saturated, hyper-sharpened looks. Some prefer very raw and natural images. While others have a style somewhere in the middle. And you know what? That’s awesome. There’s a style for every taste and preference. The longer I do editing, the less saturated and sharp I want my images to look. I want *depth* of color, but not bright poppy saturation necessarily. My editing process as of late has reflected that. I’m retreating a bit… re-evaluating and morphing my style to suit my creative spirit as a photographer. I still desire drama sometimes, but I want it toned with a warmth and softness that doesn’t scream for attention, but rather let’s the subject have more of the spotlight. With that in mind, the edit below is the kinder, gentler version of my former edit from 2 years ago.
4. And this last image is the edit I originally did 2 years ago. I still like it, but you can surely feel the sharp clarity poking at you. Again, I find myself backpedaling from the ultra crispy look into something much softer and more restrained. Using my HeARTy actions, you can experiment with the HAZE actions, specifically Matte Overlay or some of the DELICATE actions or TONE actions to give a softer feel to your images. Sometimes it’s better to let the richness of color or lighting speak louder than the crispy texture in an image…. all of course, in my humble opinion!!
Developing a consistent workflow to get your images into the computer, catalog and organize them, do base edits/cleanup, edit in PS, crop, save, post or print is really crucial to productivity. We cover this a lot in mentoring. Many photographers are struggling to find this flow and do things in a consistent and sensical fashion. All of my images start and finish in Lightroom. It’s my main squeeze when it comes to my workflow. I never found Bridge to be very intuitive, nor did it have a clean interface that appealed to me. I love the fact that Lightroom is like Bridge and Camera RAW rolled into one tight program that talks sweetly with Photoshop. It makes my life so much easier, my time spent at the computer editing less and my workflow, well… flow. If you’re not currently using Lightroom, but have considered it, don’t hesitate to download a free 30 day trial and test it out. I’m considering putting together a few group mentoring sessions that will be specific to Lightroom… an introduction to the interface, how to set it up, organize and use the program to it’s full capacity when it comes to editing. I will tell you, I do not use the Slideshow or Web modules, so those wouldn’t be covered topics. You can really get away with just the Library and Develop modules when it comes to creating a workflow that rocks.
Please leave a comment below or email me directly if you would be interested in participating in a Lightroom group online session. If there’s enough interest, we’ll move forward this summer. And, that leads me to this….
There is no availability for one-on-one mentoring sessions at this time. Online mentoring should begin opening back up in August. I may be offering a few group sessions that will be either the Lightroom specific sessions as mentioned above or HeARTy Photoshop action specific for learning editing processes using my HeARTy actions. More information will be posted here and on Facebook as details on those sessions become available.
ETA: I wanted to reiterated a reply to a comment that I received below. Grace said that she didn’t see anything wrong with any of the photos, even the SOOC one. My reply was this:
I too wouldn’t say there’s anything “wrong” with any of them. Editing and style is all about artistry. It’s about creating a look that’s not necessarily “better,” just different. I hope people understand that I truly feel that way about editing. It’s not that one look is better than a natural image with little to no editing. Editing is simply enhancing for an artistic look. No better, no worse, just different. Cheers!