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


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

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