5 Steps to Nail Down Your Editing Style

As artists, our editing style is always changing. To be honest, that’s why I love photography. There is always something new to learn and then comes the challenge of determining how that new editing tool fits into your work.

STEP ONE: Shoot with intention.
Yes, this tutorial is all about editing… but what would we edit if we didn’t shoot?! Philosophical question of the day
I always shoot with an end vision in mind. My photographs are typically underexposed because I like a moody edit. The way I shoot influences the way I edit. Like many others, I will often create a preset for each shoot, based on how I photographed that session. At the end of this tutorial, you will learn how it is possible to create new presets for each shoot while still staying true to your style.

STEP TWO: Educate yourself on your available tools & experiment!
I have taken a few courses on how to use Lightroom through CM and CreativeLive, yet almost every day, I learn something new from browsing the forums. The amazing people here surprise me every day with so many different tricks they’ve learned and are willing to share. Here is an article about 30 Photoshop terms and tools to get you started.

All of the CM courses have really helped me define myself. If any CM courses are calling your name, I recommend taking them! The skills you learn will bring you closer to defining your style.

You need to experiment, and you can do this with new images, or you can re-edit older ones. I love to experiment with images from the past because I don’t feel I have to share the work if it doesn’t represent me. I’ve probably already shared it as it represented me in the past, so the image is now something I can play around with, no commitment.

1 year ago

Today

The more tools and information you have at your disposal, the better choices you can make when editing. This will be a big transition period and a time that might be difficult to embrace as you incorporate your newfound skills into your work. As artists, we will probably go through this several times over! The next steps will help make this transition easier…

STEP THREE: What story are you trying to tell?
Open up your portfolio. Go ahead, open it up! If you don’t have one, make one now. Take 10 images you’ve shot in the past year and, after asking yourself the following questions, come up with a list of 3 words that define your work.

  • What recurring elements do you see? Do you use lots of leading lines? Do you capture lots of movement?
  • What techniques do you use? Is there more natural or artificial light? Are you shooting lots of Golden Spirals? Do you frequently shoot at f1.8 or f16?
  • What emotions are present? Is there a consistent mood portrayed?
  • How do you see light? How do you see your subjects?
  • Ask a friend: What three words come to mind when you see my work? Do these words make sense with the ones you’ve chosen for yourself?

When you apply your words to a variety of subject matter, you will still have a recognisable style. It’s important to me to be able to flex my style based on my mood, subjects, and environment, so my words keep me grounded. Can you guess what they are?

There are so many questions we can ask about our work. Set aside an hour this week to review your portfolio and see if there is a story behind your work. No matter where you are in your artistic journey, it’s good to perform this exercise as an evaluation tool every now and then.

STEP FOUR: Evaluate your editing style.
Now, here’s where you’re at. You shoot with a final vision in mind. You’ve learned new skills and have been applying them to your editing. You’ve figured out what you’re trying to say…

… but your old presets and actions no longer jive with the style you’re going for! How do you incorporate your style into your editing?

Choose three presets that you love and apply them to the same image, preferably an image that defines your shooting style. If you don’t have any presets and edit each image by hand, pull up a few images to compare. Note: Don’t be afraid to create your own presets!

Blissful Maven: Magic

Afga Vista 100–

Blissful Maven: Spirit

What is it about each of your selected presets that draws you in? For me, it is the muted highlights, skin tones, the contrast and clarity in the black and white, and just a touch of grain. I love these presets, but I would change them all to adapt to my style.

Do your presets match the story you’re telling (Step Three)? If not, you may have to tweak them or repeat Step Two to see if there are other ways you can incorporate your style.


STEP FIVE: Repeat!

This process is never ending, of course! It’s one of the best things about being an artist. We are continuously learning and growing

13 Dynamic Composition Elements to Inspire Your Photography

Are you looking for variety in your work? Have you noticed a tendency towards shooting Rule of Thirds or centre compositions? It’s so easy to get attached to a composition that we’re used to shooting or seeing. Me? I get stuck on Rule of Thirds, top right To help you add more variety to your portfolio, I’ve compiled some of my favourite compositional elements.

The Golden Spiral
This has always been my favorite composition. It’s often found in nature, which is probably why I am so in love with it. There are many interpretations of the Golden Spiral, but I like to take it literally. By simply placing your subject at the end of the spiral, your composition can be misinterpreted for an off-point rule of thirds.

To make the image true to the intent of the spiral, make sure there is a sweeping motion that draws your eye to the subject. In the first image, the curvature of the frame follows the spiral from end to end, creating depth and interest in the image.

The second is a placement of the subject at the end of the spiral. The framing still mimics the curve of the spiral, so it has a slightly different, yet still fascinating effect.
Play around with this fun composition to see how it feels in your work. What seems visually pleasing is really up to you!

 

The Golden Triangle
I was introduced to the Golden Triangle during my very first class with CM: Composition and Creativity. I have to admit, it completely blew my mind! And not in a good way… I didn’t understand it. Not. One. Bit. So if you are confused by any of these, don’t worry! As with anything, practice makes perfect, and eventually, it will sink in. What you’re looking for is a central diagonal and points of interest where the angles are formed.

 

 

Center Composition
There are a few different ways to add a little sum’m-sum’m to your centre comps. Here are 5 different ways you can mix them up!

Symmetry…

Round Objects…

Square Crops…

Patterns…

Leading Lines
Whether physical or implied, leading lines are another way to improve your typical Rule of Thirds composition. They add depth to the environment and the story. Leading lines are everywhere. You can find them everywhere you go! With practice, adding them to your images will become second nature!

The first image uses the physical environment to pull your eye towards the subject and frame them simultaneously. In the second, a story is developed when the viewer notices the girl watching the couple dancing. Aren’t they the most in love couple you’ve ever seen?!

Framing
Challenge yourself to use your surroundings and light in unexpected ways. This is another way to shoot that will become second nature because there are endless opportunities to frame your subjects. You can use compositional elements such as leading lines and balance to achieve a frame, and you can also use foreground elements or even creative lighting in the same way.

Diagonals
Diagonals are a bit different from the Golden Triangle because they are meant to create visual tension. This is definitely another favorite of mine! They might make you think, “Which way is up?!” and the definitely draw the viewer in with their depth and complexity. Being a nature lover, it’s a little harder for me to spot these, but when I do, I jump at the chance!

Fill the Frame
Okay, I have to admit… this is something I need to work on! I don’t have a lot of examples for filling the frame. Hey, we all have our strengths and opportunities for improvement!

Negative Space
This is one of my favorite ways to isolate my subject. Negative space creates a sense of serenity, which is great because I feel like most of my images (and life!) are surrounded by chaos!

Rule of Thirds
The next time you use Rule of Thirds, consider what other compositional elements you can add to the frame to improve the visual interest. Balance the frame, use diagonals and leading lines to draw the eye, fill the frame, or take advantage of negative space. The world is your oyster! Don’t get comfortable, get creative!


Which of these elements do you shoot, in-camera, without even thinking? Which ones are you most attracted to? Do you shoot any too much, or too little? Try experimenting with one that is missing from your portfolio. If you’ve got them all covered, challenge yourself by combining as many as possible!

“If you always do what you can do, you’ll never be better than what you are” ~ Master Shifu, Kung Fu Panda.

10 Easy Steps for Better Colour in Your Pictures

Have you ever had a vision for a colour image fall flat and you couldn’t figure out why?

Has it taken you hours, or even days, to figure out how to accomplish that vision?

I’ve had this happen to me so many times, and over the years I’ve collected a few tips on how to create beautiful colour images that draw you in. These steps cover everything from shooting to corrective and creative post-processing.

Shooting

1. Look for colour behind your subject

This is one of my favourite creative tools because it’s so easy to get caught up in the colours of your main subject. Colour behind your subject can change the mood of your image, adding a beautiful and intriguing background.



2. Use negative space

Not only can you isolate your subject visually, but you can also use colour to stimulate the senses. In this image, the white of the jasmine plays on the purity and newness of the wedding day, represented by the rings. Since the viewer has less to process visually, the calming white of the jasmine lets them relax and imagine the fragrance of the flowers.

3. Fill the frame

The opposite of negative space! A little bit of drama goes a long way when you use colour to draw the subject’s eye into the image. Using one colour can really define the intent of your image. Red, for example, can create a feeling of love, passion, and power in an image like this.

4. Use complimentary tones

Colours can be the strongest form of communication in your images, due to our biological and psychological responses to them. While the subjects in this image have fallen, the deep earthy tones of this photograph give us a sense of nurturing and hope for regrowth.

Corrective Post Processing

5. Remove distractions

Have you ever taken the best photo, pulled it into post processing, and suddenly noticed a red sign in the background? An orange car? A bystander’s blue shirt? Remove these distractions in post processing to keep the focus on your subject.

6. Remove Chromatic Aberration (CA)

I really do love my Nikon 85mm f/1.8, but it does produce a lot of CA. This is an easy fix in Lightroom, by selecting “Remove Chromatic Aberration” under the Colour tab in Lens Corrections. Play with the sliders to defringe – it really makes a difference!

Creative Post Processing

7. Add pockets of colour to create depth

I love using the colour brush in Lightroom. There is so much you can do with a brush, and my favourite trick is to use triadic colours into the background of an image to make it pop. Choose 3 colours that are equally apart on the colour wheel, like blue, magenta, and gold.

8. Add a pop of colour!

Don’t be afraid of Vibrance, Luminance, and Saturation. They’re easy to play around with, and they can really make or break the vision you have for your colour images. This image would have been pretty bland without it. The orange plays against the blues of the rocks and adds intrigue to the overall image.

9. Artificial Sunflare

Some say it’s tacky, but I love a little artificial sun flare! Sometimes you just have to bring a little imagination to an image, and this is a great way to do it. I added this sun flare in post processing because I love how the neon colours brighten up the overall mood of the image.

Printing and Sharing

10. Check your Gamut

Just as you would check if your blacks are clipped or your highlights are blown, checking your gamut ensures that you won’t lose any information in your colours.

By Soft Proofing in Lightroom, you can see where the colours in this image are too saturated and colour information will be lost. In just a few seconds, I dropped the saturation in the reds to fix the problem.

Colour is such a beautiful way to express yourself. Using some of these tools in your work will allow your vision to come to life!

7 Tips for Capturing Weddings

I’ve spent some time analysing my weddings and wanted to share a few tips from last year. I changed things up a bit and decided to shoot a lot of weddings alone (even though I thrive in a team environment) and switched from zoom to prime lenses. I used all of these tips to make this change as smooth as possible for myself!

Before the Wedding…

  • Practice Shooting in Unfavourable Conditions… If the wedding is in a church and you’re not allowed to use flash, you still have to shoot it. If it’s outdoors at high noon and the bride is facing the sun and squinting through the ceremony, you still have to shoot it. For this wedding, I purposely left my flash behind so that I could focus on natural light and challenge myself to produce some beautiful and emotive reception shots.

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  • Create a Vision Board… Browse Pinterest for beautiful light, inspirational compositions, poses, and silly group shot ideas. Flip through them in the weeks leading up to the wedding so that on the Big Day, you’ll have a little toolbox of ideas ready for your Creatives. Speaking of Pinterest, I only get asked to replicate “that shot I saw on Pinterest!” if there’s a lull in my flow. If I have a strong sense of which direction I want to take, the less chance there is for this to happen. At the same time, they can be pretty fun, like the shot below!

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Visualise the Creative Session

  • Infuse Your Passion… I place a strong value on connection photography, but weddings are so fast-paced and prescribed. The creative session is my favourite part because I get a chance to slow things down, allow the couple to enjoy the shoot (and realise they just got married!), and really get the shots I’m passionate about.

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  • Set the Tone… By now, you have probably gotten to know your couple and have a sense of their relationship. Some couples are goofy and fun, others are passionate or mysterious. Instead of posing them unnaturally, focus on creating a feeling that will resonate with them during the session. You want to create images that demonstrate the unique love they have for one another.

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Telling the Story

  • Ask a Bridesmaid for Help… We all know that asking a bridesmaid to help wrangle family for group shots is essential. They are often eager to help with other issues as well. This summer, I had help from a bridesmaid when the Groom’s father was trying to photograph every moment, and even bumped into me in the aisle while trying to photograph the B&G’s first kiss! Once dad realised I was there so that he could enjoy himself, I managed to get this shot of him dancing with the flower girls…

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  • Detail Shots… tell the part of the story that the B&G probably didn’t get a chance to appreciate during the wedding. Sometimes, these are personal touches from family and friends that tell a larger story than just “what it looked like” on the wedding day. They can really accentuate the story with deeper relationship connections and are, of course, great for wedding and parent albums.

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Be Yourself

The wedding industry is intense and there are a lot of outside pressures telling you what kind of photographer you need to be. The thing is, there is a place for everyone. I strive to shoot only outdoor weddings and to one day specialize in elopements, so that is the photographer I am trying to create. Who do you want to be?

As a girl from a small town who lives the simple life, I do what most people would consider crazy and photograph weddings using the most minimal gear:

  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D600
  • Sigma 35 1.4 ART
  • Nikon 85 1.8
  • Tokina 100 2.8
  • A wackton of Lexar Professional Memory Cards
  • Spare batteries
  • A Spiderholster (essential to life)

Since I’ve chosen this setup, I’ve felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders and have been able to focus more on creativity than anything else. I might add a Sigma 24 to the mix one day, but I’m pretty happy with this setup. If everything broke and I only had one body and one lens, I would confidently capture a wedding beautifully. I’m just not the kind of person who thrives with too many choices

4 Times Patience Paid Off During a Wedding

Every time I go to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year museum exhibit, I am amazed at the patience required to take my favorite photographs. The photographers wait days and sometimes weeks in anticipation of a single moment, lasting only milliseconds. Anticipation. When you really start to feel the moment you’re in, you can deeply connect and anticipate beautiful moments.

During a wedding, photographers can get caught up in the action and stress of the day and suffer from some serious FOMO. But, there are times during a wedding day when certain ‘characters’ in the wedding story can be highlighted. This allows you to drown out the noise and focus on those characters, patiently waiting for the perfect moment to unfold.

I like to capture a photograph of witnesses signing after the ceremony, but I kept an eye on the B&G so that I wouldn’t miss this sweet “omg, we’re married” moment.

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It was tempting to capture the candid giggles of the bridesmaids in the background. But I waited for a bridesmaid to make a joke, which got mom laughing while tying up her daughter’s dress. Had I focused on the bridesmaids who made the joke, I would have missed this priceless mother-daughter moment.

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This bride had a private moment in her dressing room with her mother. I waited outside the door in the hope of capturing movement in a dress shot when she came out. Little did I know, she would be adjusting her garter and holding her “something blue”.

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After capturing a first look with her father, I went outside to photograph her leaving for the ceremony. I could have easily stayed to capture some fun candids of her and her bridesmaids, but I took a risk! I found a tree that provided framing and sat for several minutes before she opened the door.

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