Then and now and how (my editing style has changed).


While in the process of sorting through some of my favorite images of all time and reviewing my blog and portfolio, I find myself cringing at some of the images I’ve edited and delivered in the 5 years I’ve called myself a professional. Initially attracted to heavy saturation, warmth, and contrast to “pop” the images, I cranked out some crazy colors that were reflective of some of the current trends many of us early photographers like to use.  As I fell out of the beautiful light tree and smacked every “do it better” limb on the way down, I now make an effort in my final pass of images that encourages me to show it how it really was, with much more subtle enhancements.  I’m also thankful that the software I use has made incredible improvements as I spend most of the investment my clients make enhancing delicately.

To show the drastic improvement I think I’ve made, here I share a few examples of what I’ve done and now do.  Below are three examples of each image in different scenarios.   The first is how it was gathered straight out of camera.  The second is how I delivered it to the client.   The third is how I gently enhance my images now.  I’ll explain a bit about each.

This first image I love because the couple didn’t know I was there.  As they walked up above the wine cave entrance to toss the boquet into the party below, they paused at the edge to watch see the crowd dancing their tails off.  Seconds later, the spotlight focused on them, and the attention came their way.   It may not be the most action packed or telling image, but I can assure you it was one of the most romantic and memorable moments of the wedding (and my favorites to catch).  Nabbed in 2011 with a 5DII at 50mm  ISO 3200 f/1.8 at 1/45th of a second, I faced darkness against a powerful spotlight that made the bride squint and I chose to document it from behind because I liked the bounced light illuminating her roses and I thought it would make a great composition for the toss.  Here it is straight out of camera:

Upon the first delivered edit, I wanted to show the container of the party below, the contrast against the night sky, and a bit more detail.  I brightened it up and sent it away to the client.

Upon reviewing this image, I’m bothered by the noise and lack of detail I know I can adjust now that I’m just a bit better at editing than I was two years ago when I made it.  See how I’ve smoothed out the artifacts while keeping the subjects sharp.  Also note how I’ve recovered the details in the dress and edge of the wall that were blown out by the spotlight.

This next image was made in the midday sun in 2010 with my 5DI at 148mm ISO 320 at f4.5 for 1/400th of a second on a walk after the couple said their vows.  I gave them plenty of space to enjoy their first few moments as husband and wife and chose not to direct them, but instead capture their private delight.  Here it is straight out of camera:

My first edit found a crop, and saturated the colors a bit.   In 2010,  I just didn’t have the skill or technology to recover the lost highlights on his face.

Now I do.   

This image has probably gone the furthest.  Made in 2008 with my 5DI at 50mm,  ISO 160,  f1.4 for 1/200th of a second, I loved the connection so much I made it into a business card (or rather 5000 business cards).   Straight out of camera it is dull (like most images are), but it had great potential.      Here it is straight out of camera:

So I saturated the bejeezus out of it and printed it.   Orange skin didn’t matter at the time.   Anybody know what I can do with 4200 business cards that show what happens when you eat too many carrots?  I’ve cropped out the faces in all versions I’ve ever shown, but left them here for this example.    

Now I can color correct way better, and this is how my (square) business card would look if I had it printed again.

This image below is also from 2008 and was made with my trusty 5D at 40mm,  ISO 200, f/9 at 1/160th of a second.   Despite the rules, I still love shooting into the sun and like many of my images, I trade the squint for less light on the face.   The best moment of this post ceremony walk was him picking her up, and I chose to get closer instead of the wider environmental shot. Here it is straight out of camera:

Like my typical delivery in 2008-2010, I heavily saturated the image and put it in an album that had black borders.    I have to admit I also put some sepia images in there (and don’t do anymore).  Be thankful I didn’t do any spot coloring.

If I were to deliver it again, I’d still keep the image bright, warmer, and popping, but will aim to keep it a bit more truthful and let you add the yellow filter in Instagram.    

For more examples, please compare my featured weddings (seen by clicking on my logo at the top of the page) to the blog posts they’re in.   You can also head way back to the beginning of my blogging to explore my first few years and compare me to my most recent works.

As I head into 2013, I’m sure I’m heading toward a more truthful style.    I’ll have to admit I’m in love with some of my new techniques in making images reminiscent of film, but the colors you will see will not be as daring as they have in the past.   Thanks for reading.