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

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!


Round Objects…

Square Crops…


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?!

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 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.