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?)

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