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Thursday, April 21, 2011

a few thoughts about editing

My class has been discussing the topic of editing in our Flickr group and I recently got an email asking for more on this subject so I thought I'd write a post about it here and get some feedback from y'all.

First of all let me say that I'm no editing genius - not even close. Not even close to close. I can provide feedback on edits - I think I know what works and what doesn't and occasionally I'll stumble upon a really beautiful edit - but mostly I suck at it.

I just started using Photoshop Elements 7 in August - before that I was using my photo card creator's editing software, which is kind of a joke. I have to say I'm not a huge fan of Elements - it's awesome to finally be able to apply actions - but a lot of the actions I want to use come only in Photoshop format (and I'm totally daydreaming about Lightroom) and it's a little bit more difficult to use than the trial version of Photoshop that I'd used before - which has a lot more features. Maybe Elements 9 is easier to use - I don't know. But it took m an hour just to figure out how to install the actions I bought. SO frustrating. Especially when I know that photoshop has this sweet little button called "install actions" - but the price gap really does make PSE appealing. There are also other programs out there such as Paintshop Pro - which is decent software but most actions aren't compatible with it, so I'm not a fan.  I guess buying photo editing software is a lot like buying your first SLR camera. That simpler model at the lower price-point really does look appealing, but you'll end up wishing you'd bought the more expensive version and saved yourself the hassle of upgrading a year (or less) down the road, and yes - you could go with an off-brand, but why? There's going to be less support/information and not as many available accessories. Yeah - editing software is a lot like buying a camera.

But that's not what you really wanted this post to be about, it it? Okay - now that I've got that out of the way onto the good stuff:

First of all let me cover a couple basic "don'ts" of editing.

Don't over-edit.

Rachel 30
in this example I've over-saturated and added too much contrast
Rachel 23
this is a little bit better - still too much vignette but better

Emma all dressed up
Here is my unedited shot Strait Out Of Camera (or SOOC) 
Glitter Queen
Here is my edited shot - I mostly just adjusted the hue and the light levels.
Every once in a while I'll do a heavy edit that I love - but that is quite rare. Here is one that I love. 


This edit took hours to do in Paint Shop Pro. I messed with lighting levels, saturation, depth of field/blur and hand painted the vignette. The only problem with this edit is that it only really looked good printed up to 5x7. I printed an 8x10 for this client about five times and still wasn't happy with the results. 

Don't over-do your texture


simple summer joy
a good amount of editing
a snap shot of happiness

yep, I bought this just so I could photograph it.
tried this texture
bad example of texture

I'm in love
better example of texture
Here are some really embarrassing photos that I took and edited from a couple years ago - these are super-awful-terrible-ugly-gross-examples of HOW NOT TO EDIT:

texture is WAY too heavy

over de-saturated and too much texture

how NOT to use selective color

I'm not saying that all texture is bad. Sometimes adding a texture really improves the shot:
tree during a storm or waiting to be texturized
with texture

Learn to take photos that look better strait out of camera
Emma June 18
the focus is a bit soft and this is underexposed
Mommy & Emma date
this one is much better: the focus is sharp the lighting is nice
One of the best things you can do for your photography is to learn how to take better photographs strait out of camera. Don't rely only on editing to make your photos look good. The first step to improving your photography as a whole is to take photos that require less editing in the first place.

Learn how to do a clean edit
high key jellybeans
a "clean edit" just adjusted the light, contrast and used a high-pass filter
The first thing to know how to do is a "clean edit" nothing too fancy or stylized - just a little tweaking. 

Learn how to apply actions minimally 
01 04 11
with an action from Paint the Moon
One of the most common mistakes I've made as I've been learning how to edit is applying actions too heavily. 99% of the time if you apply and action you'll need to adjust the levels.

Learn how to use your clone tool
This edit took me at least an hour - cloning out the background and evening out the white is not as easy as it looks. If I was going to re-edit this I wouldn't have reduced the saturation so much. I'm not really sure why I did that - but this is still one of my all-time favorite edits.

A couple more favorite edits

a slightly brigher edit
Want to read more about editing? Head over to Paper Heart Camera and read this wonderful article by Mandy of a sorta fairytale on the power of actions. It's very nicely written and her example photos are beautiful.

Here are some more resources:
Mandy's mentoring sessions - her photography and editing are just amazing!
Ashley's editing link-up - these are so informative and helpful (and free!)
Paper Heart Camera touch-up Tuesday - a great way to practice, learn new styles and get inspired
Kim Klassen - she offers lots of tutorials &  freebies as well as classes

Editing Programs:
Picknik (try out the FREE version) 
(pssst - what photo editing software do you use? what do you love/hate about it?)


Courtney K. said...

One major aspect of editing is personal style. It's a matter of preference. Some of the most highly acclaimed Children's Photographers (like Skye Johansen and Skye Hardwick) are known for their high contrast and bright color popping photos. Personally, I prefer their style over dark, under exposed and somewhat dull photos. They give a photo life and excitement. :) But like I said, I guess it's all a matter of preference.

Abbie said...

Right now I use the paid version of Picnik. I actually have paintshop Pro 7 I got years ago but honestly have no idea how to use it for pictures. The few times I have tried to use it I get so frustrated I give up and go back to Picnik. I am trying hard to take better pictures from the start but its hard with my point and shoot at times. Indoors are the worst for color. I am learning a lot since I started following blogs like yours and I hope to take one of your classes in the future and have a SLR on my Christmas wish list.

I really like Picnik it is pretty easy to use and the results come out pretty nice. I do get annoyed when it comes to some color effects I want to try like only coloring one thing which is not as easy with that program. I bet I could in Paintshop Pro 7 but again don't know how.

Anonymous said...

This was a great entry!! I really hope I win Jess' giveaway over on her blog for your class, I feel like I have so much to learn!

The Sweetest Life

Ashley Sisk said...

Really great write-up Faith. I don't think I've ever gone through good and bad editing in this much depth but you've nailed it.

Flower Photography said...

Great post!! I use picnik and I have Aperture - learning how to use it but don't think I can do texture on it? I would love something better :-)

Anne U said...

I only use picnik to edit, it's free and I can't really afford to buy CS5 or anything. Want to buy Elements 9 but will I regret it a year from now? Thanks for the useful info.

Jamie said...

A great post! I think we all have those over edited photos - it takes time and practice to figure out the right amount for each of us.

Faith said...

Courtney: I TOTALLY agree and I may do a follow-up post to clarify that point. Editing is all about personal taste and developing your own style... :)

Anonymous said...

great post! always great to hear from NON experts, its not a bad thing but when starting out with photography and editing the instructions and the lingo can be heard to follow. You were spot on, and all your examples were awesome.!! thanks!

Anonymous said...

These are great ... and I can honestly say that while I love the edited versions of the faves above, a few I truly love the original even better. I think one thing I try to do too much is over-edit, for sure. I keep trying and trying to do something fun and then I go back to the original and find that it's perfect. It's exactly the moment I captured and love it.

Stephani said...

I had a professional tell me once that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder when it comes to the art of photography, but it is in the eye of the artist. I agree with this philosophy. If we are creating then whatever the artist likes and finds beautiful is what is beautiful. It is just like the paintings we see at a museum, some of them we love and some of them we hate, but the artist I'm sure loved them all. When you are editing portraits for pay I know it is important to consider the client and what they expect, but photography as art is purely the photographers creation. Many of the edits you didn't like above, I actually liked. So, I would agree that it is personal preference and about free creativity. ~ Lots of beautiful photos in this post!


wow! so this....

that very last shot/ the it.


oh i use cs5...i have lightroom but have yet to use it!

alicia said...

Great post. I agree sometimes you can overdo edits. But I love that it is subjective. What may be beautiful to me may not be to you, and vise versa. That is art. Also, I LOVE elements. I have found plenty of actions I love. I have 3,7, and 8. lol.

Trish ~ ♥ ~ said...

I've been using Elements 9. I really like it but have been trying for 2 days to install an action, with no success ~ so frustating

Lisa said...

Thanks for this post Faith. I'm a total newbie to PSE9. I've done a few very basic edits and like what I've done so far but have so much more to learn. I just wish it wasn't so dang confusing.

I discovered something last night that's kinda neat for beginners. I ran MCP's Mini Fusion on a photo and I then opened a similar photo and used the layer palette from the first photo to act as a guide to edit the second photo.

My problem is knowing what to do aside from a levels adjustment. Doing the edit above really helped me see what other things I could be doing. For example I discovered what a warming filter is and how to use it just by doing this side by side edit.

It's a long slow process for sure.

A Rosy Note said...

I love your tips and advice. I haven't been taking photos for too long so I'm always looking to see what everyone else's thoughts and ideas are. It is funny though how much of editing is personal preference. Myself, I kind of like things to have an over exposed look.


AlyGatr said...

I'm still learning, but I think blundered edits have helped me a) learn that it's really about getting better shots SOOC and b) learning to really use Photoshop and PSE. I have both and to be honest, I still prefer PSE. There are things that Photoshop can do that PSE can't, which I use to my advantage, but in the end, I still like my PSE 9. I think how you edit really becomes your own personal style and is really the artistic part of what you do. I have blundered around learning what texture will do to enhance or destroy a shot!

Raw.Potatoes said...

Ooo Very Informative. Thnx. I'm a "hobbyist" and I agree, it is all about personal preference. I've had PPS, PS, and PS Elements in the past. Honestly, I haven't been using any programs recently, but I need to get my hands on a newer Ps. . . Thanks for jarring my memory ;)

Branson @ Reflection of Something said...

So many great examples, Faith! I think you highlighted some of the major mistakes we all make in the beginning (and I still do sometimes!) In many ways, editing is all about style. I instantly think of one particular photoblogger I know who had many loyal fans and really is talented, but her style of editing is dramatic and doesn't appeal to my taste. And it is not a bad thing that there is that variety, because when we are talking about photography as a precision there will be clients who go nuts for one style and not another. When I first started photoblogging years ago, editing was a sign of weakness... It was all about sooc. It is funny how mainstream opinions change, but as in all art forms, being true to your creative style is what is important :)