My wedding photography editing process

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Most clients ask if I will edit my photos and my answer is always: absolutely. Back in the days of film photography (and for many film never went away!) photographers were able to achieve slightly different looks to their photos by tweaking their development process. Digital photography has made it much easier to play around with filters, exposures and the like. Expensive chemicals, gear, film and paper aren't needed to experiment when dealing with digital photography: Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop, good to go.

Let’s not forget though that without well captured photos to begin with, edits will only go so far. Natural light and/or a good grasp of flash photography, coupled with high-quality glass (lenses) and an understanding of composition are what lead to great shots.

What is most important to me when it comes to editing photos is that I stay true to the day. It’s all part of being a wedding photographer with a photojournalistic approach. I don’t have a cookie cutter filter that I apply to all of my wedding photos so that my Instagram looks uniform. If I am shooting an outdoor, rustic barn wedding in Prince Edward County in the fall, I want the yellows, reds and oranges of the leaves to come through, because those elements are magnificent at that time of year and I want my clients to look back and remember how lovely the trees looked. If I am photographing an indoor wedding at an elegant wedding venue in Toronto, I may reduce saturation to bring out the architectural elements of the space. Your vision for the day plus the colours, weather and feel for the spaces at the wedding contribute greatly to my editing process.

Before I start editing, I always backup my clients’ photos on multiple devices. Those are precious memories on my SD cards and I strive for overkill when it comes to ensuring that nothing happens to them! Once they are safely backed up, I load them into Adobe Lightroom to see how they look as RAW files. From there I make sure that the exposure of all photos is moreless where it should be before I do a first sort. I am looking to remove photos with people blinking, awkward smiles, strange faces, etc. Some clients shudder at the idea of never seeing these photos, to which I respond: trust my professional judgment. These are the obvious rejects. I am not getting rid of photos that are essentially the same, but the type of smiles are slightly different. You get to choose your favourite smile for the photo you post on Facebook, Instagram or to have printed. If I have captured multiple versions of the same photo and there is nothing wrong with them, you will see them!

Once the sort has been completed, I start to play with contrast and saturation in order to try and find the levels that reflect your day in its truest form. This can take a while and often has me editing a few photos and revisiting them a few times over the course of a few days. Once I am happy with how those few photos look, I will apply those settings across all of the photos. Then I go through, one by one, and tweak the levels slightly, especially when it comes to exposure.

At this point I look for pimples, pieces of garbage on the grass, hair through the eye, etc. and spot heal them. Lightroom makes it easy to edit these things out, but should there be an element that is a bit more challenging, I may move the photo to Photoshop to really dig in and use more advanced tools.

Photoshop is also excellent in cases where the photo as a whole looks amazing, but the bride or the groom has been captured with a funny facial expression. I will crop the face out of another photo and literally replace the face with one that is smiling and that suits the photo. How often does this happen? On average one photo per set. I can guarantee you won’t even know which photo it was!

Once I have edited the whole set, I put it away for a week. I want to come back to it one last time with fresh eyes before sending it off to clients. It becomes easier to spot things when you step away from the photos for a while. When they are ready to be shared, I upload them to a private gallery on my website and then I share a link with you!

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