No two people can take the same photograph, and the same can be said about the way they interpret it. Editing is unique to a person's style, to the way they decide to bring a story to life.
Last fall, I conducted a small editing experiment by asking 4 photographers to edit one of my unedited Raw photos. The results were so interesting that I decided to do conduct the experiment again with a different image. This time, I reached out to 7 different, local photographers and asked them to edit the photo below as they pleased, to sum up their style in a few words and to tell me about their editing process. The image of choice? One of my favorites from 2016: an image taken in a less than ideal setting but that captured a moment of pure summertime joy.
Let's see what happened!
The original unedited RAW photo
MELANIE of Melanie Mathieu Photography
Clean, Simple & High Contrast
"Editing is one of my favourite aspects of photography. For me, it is like unwrapping a gift after each session - I can't wait to see what I captured and how to bring it to life. I don't typically like to be too heavy on the editing. I like to keep it simple to bring out the subject and to let the photo speak for itself. While I may use batch editing (applying the same effect to several photos) for some adjustments like white balance, I usually edit one image at a time because I feel like I need to see each one individually and make the judgment on how it should look. It may take longer but I can't help it! I use a lot of black and white because I feel like it simplifies and pares everything down so that you can really see emotion and the play of light.
For this image, what struck me was the movement of the water and the water droplets. I wanted to bring those out and for me it became the subject of the image. I chose to convert to black and white and added contrast so that the darks were deeper and the water droplets became even more noticeable against the black. I also like how the black and white enhanced the textures of the boys' hair and the surface of the water in the pool. I cropped the image a bit tighter to really use the lines of the railing to frame the two boys and the lines allow the eye to move around the image."
MARIE-ANNE of Painted Turtle Photography
Vintage, Emotive & Simple
"I wanted to give this image a vintage-feel with a focus on leading the eye to the almost mirror image of the two boys. I first played with the crop in order to have the viewer really focus on all of those details of summer: the wet hair, the popsicles, the water splashing, the perfect chubby hands and feet- I wanted the eye to lead from one child to the other, and I loved that you can see some of the orange suit reflected in the bar on the right. My process involves some work with the curves and tones in Lightroom, and then some sharpening and a bit of healing brush in Photoshop, to really make the hair pop and eliminate a few details that were pulling the eye away from the subject. I finished by adding some grain to give it a 70's feel, because I felt it was great for a summer picture, that might take the viewer back to these times."
JUSTINE of J.mcneely photography
Soft, Warm & Intense
"I approach editing with a 'less is more' mindset. I often like to add light where images seem flat and create a little drama. I try not to make every photo black and white. :p"
Clean, Composition & Film-inspired
"I'm a bit of a minimalist when it comes to composition, so my first instinct was to tighten the crop and cut out any distracting bits from the background. While cropping, I rotated the photo slightly to get the major vertical and horizontal lines of the railing parallel with the edges of the photo - even the smallest degrees of rotation can strength a photo's composition. Here I zoomed right into the boys and strengthened the frame-within-a-frame that Myriam originally captured.
Next I turned down the exposure in order to bring back some blown out details (particular in the splashing water) and warm up the image. I also pushed up the contrast slider slightly and created a gentle S-shape on the tone curve to establish just the right contrast.
I'm currently trying to wean myself off VSCO presets, but sometimes they really do give images that little something extra. I used the Kodak Gold+ preset for a bit of extra warmth and contrast, and then tweaked the new settings slightly, trusting my eye and my instincts and making sure to turn the faux-grain all the way down to zero (the preset adjusts it to +20, and this crisp photo didn't need any grain at all). As with my overall aesthetic, I tried to keep the tones natural and hopefully not too obviously preset."
MELISSA of Melissa Toye Photography
Warm, Whimsical & Bright
"I like to bring out the hidden details in an image. This includes all of those beautiful colours hidden in the sky, or in this case the water. I love photos that are bright and colourful with out being to saturated. I also love to play with colours; for example I may change the greens from a yellow green to a blue minty green, and blues from a navy blue to a teal blue. I like to have fun with editing, while trying to keep them consistent through out."
JENN of MJ Photography
Light, Airy & Colourful
"I enjoy adding vignettes to bring the viewer's attention to the main focus of the image…family member faces, their reactions & the emotion of the image. I love changing images to black & white…in my opinion this processing really bring the emotion/feel of the image to light & also shows details that might get lost in colour images. I really loved how these two brothers were splashing each other while holding their popsicles on a bight sunny afternoon by the pool. Black & white processing really helps to soften the effects of harsh light along with darkening those faded shadows, bringing to light the details in all the elements of the image.”
CHARLIE of Charlie Barnett Photography
Bright, Light and Airy.
"To edit an image, I start by looking at the composition of the image and cropping it to ensure the subjects are the first focus of the image. I then apply a preset that I created which increases the contrast, lightens the shadows and adjusts the tone curve. My next move is to adjust the colour to get more accurate skin tones and white balance. Finally I make the final small adjustments, lowering the highlights when required, and adjusting the split toning to get more vibrant skin tones. For this image, I also toned down the orange in the shirt slightly."
My version - MYRIAM of Farah Photography
Moody, Clean and Storytelling
"I love editing- being able to transform an image and make it shine. When I shoot, I try to always be aware of my surroundings while using them to lead the viewer's eye to the heroes of the story being told. I want my editing to bring out the emotion felt, by putting an emphasis on important details while removing distractions. In this case, I didn't crop the image too much because I wanted the the boys to be framed by the banister and the shadows surrounding them. Although Black & White is often my favorite, I liked the balance created by the complementary orange-blue colours. Summer days are bright, joyful and fleeting. That is the story I wanted to tell."
I hope you enjoyed this editing experiment. A big thank you to all the talented photographers that participated! :)
If you have any questions, don't be shy to post them in the comments.
Have a great time telling your stories!
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