My Shooting & Editing Process
When I first started photography, Photoshop was my best friend. I would add layers to create overlays and filters, experiment with colours and contrast, and play around with airbrushing techniques. That was back when I was 16, taking photographs for my sixth form class. Since then, I’ve refined my technique a lot.
I have to give credit where credit’s due, however. At university we were told that shooting on automatic mode was strictly forbidden, and that we had to use manual to begin with to get to grips with the technicalities of photography. Once we’d mastered that, we were allowed to use shutter priority or aperture priority modes – but never automatic. My fiancé Luke Cass is also a photographer, and has been for longer than me. His photographic ethos is that everything, where possible, should be captured in-camera, with minimal need for editing or ‘shopping. With these two influences, I slowly got to grips with shooting in a way that requires very little adjustment in post-processing.
Generally speaking, when I’m shooting wedding or fashions in natural light, I use shutter priority or aperture priority depending on what suits the situation better. For portraits, aperture priority is great because you’re unlikely to need to capture fast motion; for ceremonies and speeches at weddings, or at fashion shows, shutter priority is the key to ensuring you don’t miss any vital shots. If I don’t agree with the way my camera is automatically calculating the other elements, however, I’ll switch to manual. Likewise, I always use the manual setting when I’m using my off-camera flash, because I know from experience that my camera is probably going to get the settings wrong. If I’m in a rush but want to shoot manually, I’ll take a quick shot in automatic, check what the settings were, and adjust them in manual mode to suit the mood and tone I’m aiming for.
There is a lot more to taking photographs than selecting the right setting for the situation. I’ve spent years perfecting my technique, and am super proud to say that – particularly over the last year – I’m gradually getting closer to producing photos that are near-perfect in-camera. There are of course times when I’ve slipped up, but that is mainly when the light source suddenly changes and I haven’t adjusted the settings quickly enough.
You might have noticed, though, that this blog post is about my shooting AND editing process, and that’s because there will always be the need for some editing – however minor it may be. My camera’s back screen, for example, displays photographs brighter and more contrasted than how they appear on my computer, so I usually adjust them to match. I use Photoshop’s Camera Raw to edit my photographs, instead of Lightroom or any other editing software. It’s reliable, accurate and does exactly what I need.
So what else do I edit? Aside from brightness and contrast, I will always ensure that my white balance is correct. Many of the photographs from my summer weddings came out slightly too blue for my liking, so I adjusted them to make them appear a bit warmer. Similarly, shooting in tungsten or fluorescent light will always create problems, so I manually change the colour settings in post-production. When editing, I also check my histogram for bright whites and deep blacks. While a little bit of bright sunshine or dramatic black will look good, I don’t want to lose any details, so I generally tend to play around with the shadows and highlights until I’m happy. I also use the lens correction tool to correct any vignetting or distortion caused my lens, to ensure the images look true-to-life. The last things I do with my images are increase the sharpness, and, if necessary, add some noise reduction.
And that’s it! I don’t use filters or presets or anything like that to edit my images. If I want a stylised effect, I’ll achieve it myself in Camera Raw, use a specific lens to create the look in-camera, or experiment with lighting and coloured gels. Instead of being sucked in by trends that will seriously date my photographs (such as Instagram’s faded exposure look that is so in vogue right now), I’d rather produce timeless and non-stylised images that will still look good in ten, twenty, or fifty year’s time.
What do you prefer? Natural and clean-looking photographs or stylised, filtered photographs? Let me know in the comments below.