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April 16, 2014

Lessons Learned | Why I Edit the Way I Do

Let me start out by saying that every photographer is different and every photographer has their own way of doing things.  We each start out differently and sometimes it takes us a while to find our way and figure out what we want our style to be and what we want our images to look like.  The best part about this though is that with so many different kinds of creative photographers out there, there’s one to fit every kind of style for every kind of bride, family, and high school senior.

I’ve been taking pictures for a long time.  The first time I really started to care about them though was on my first trip to Europe in high school.  But even past that, I didn’t start paying any kind of attention to photography and what it was “supposed” to be like until around 2006-ish.  Which turned out to be a good thing because it gave me a chance to play, try different edits, styles, ways of shooting, and it helped me figure out what I like and what I prefer to deliver to my clients.

And trust me, I’ve done about everything out there in terms of photo edits!  Including the turn-an-image-black-and-white-except-for-her-eyes/bouquet/dress/you-name-it.  (It seems like a right of passage that every photographer learn how to do this, then realize a little while down the road that it isn’t a lasting style. And you can see one such image on my old blog here.)  When I first downloaded LightRoom, I was all about the preset that made photos look a little washed out and a tad old time-y.  But as I used that, blogged those images, and moved on with life, I would come back to see them a year or so later and not love them quite as much.

What I DID still love were the classic black and white images (not too dark/light or with too much contrast) and the simple color photographs that have a slight boost in contrast, saturation, and vibrance.  And that’s really it.  If you look at my blog posts from the last couple of years, that’s all you will see.  Color and black & white images.  And I’ve come to realize that I like it because these are classic and never go out of style. (As a side note, any image you see on my blog in black & white, I deliver to my clients in color also.  I used to just do black & white for some images but clients would often come back to me asking for the same image in color.  So, a client’s entire gallery will contain all of their images in color and a handful of those will be in black & white.)

So does this mean I never play around with presets and things?  No way!  If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that I quite often use the VSCO edit on those photos.  Because I still really like that look!  And I know several photographers that use that look – that’s closer to the look of film than anything – or actually shoot with film and their images are beautiful.  But for where I am right now, today, in 2014… my style and my brand are clean and classic edits.

This first image is from a friend’s wedding a few years ago and I still really like this shot.  And you can see that I so badly wanted that faded and washed out look!


But if I took the same image today, I probably would have moved my position, framed the photo so that her hands and feet were a little more to the right, and I would have opened the windows in the room to let in some more natural light.  And I probably would have blogged the black and white image, but given her the color one also.


This side by side actually makes me a little sad.  Only because I’m now looking at it through eyes that have had more experience at shooting weddings and details!  This bathroom was GORGEOUS.  And at the time I definitely saw the potential, but I just didn’t know how to capture it all or how to utilize it.  The edit on the left is what I took a few years ago and again, I wanted it to have that old/faded look.  So my new edit, on the right, helps a little, but it also shows you that edits in post processing can’t always make things better.

So if I had my current experience a few year ago when this wedding took place, I would have done several things… first, I would have turned out the light above the mirror and opened the huge windows behind me to let in all the natural light I could.  Second, I would have straightened up the counter top once the bride was finished getting ready (and even taken a few things off of it) and used it and/or the drawers for many of my detail shots – rings, jewelry, program, bouquet, etc.  And finally, I would have gotten a few photos of the bride here – looking at me, off to the side, leaning against the vanity, and I probably would have also changed my angle to get her profile while she looked into the mirror to touch up her makeup.  I did actually get an image like that, but not exactly as I would have gotten it today.


And finally, the crooked photo (as well as the faded edits!).  Goodness, it was like I didn’t know how to hold my camera straight for a few years!  I think it was the wedding season the year I took this photo that I found myself straightening every photo I took while editing so I finally realized that taking photos straight to begin with would save me a ton of time afterwards!

Lots of brides are now choosing to wear something a little more different than your classic white pump.  And I LOVE that!  It’s so fun to see what kind of shoes they find and how they use them to match or accent the theme or colors of their wedding.  And I actually don’t mind this photo with the contrast of her new white dress and awesome orange shoes (Maybe?? I can’t remember and can’t tell what color they actually are from the edit!) against the rustic grates of the stage.  But, if I had the chance to do this again, I would have kept it as close to the original color as possible, straightened the image, and possibly even stepped back to get more of her dress and probably even her hands holding the dress in the frame.


In fact, it would probably be a little more similar to this one below (minus the groom since the above was a bridal session and the one below was from a wedding day)!  You can see the true color of her shoes, you get more detail of the dress since it’s not washed out from the edit or preset, and it adds some more personality to it because you can see her hands.


As I said at the beginning of this post, this is just how I do things and what I’ve found fits me and my style.  If you ask the next photographer you see their opinion on the matter, you may get an entirely different answer!  Which is totally fine!  If all of us out there shot and edited our images the same way, there wouldn’t be much of a point in so many of us doing this photography thing :-)

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

  1. Nora says:

    Sabrina, isn’t it funny how you can look back at your work from only a few years ago and see all kinds of things that you would have done differently? Glad I am not the only one. But I love my pictures exactly how you did them. :) you are so talented. (And my shoes were coral, so almost orange. ;))

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